Now that Minnesota governor Mark Dayton has climbed fully into bed with the Vikings, by aggressively supporting efforts to build a new stadium for the franchise in Minneapolis, Dayton finds himself justifying the allegedly bad behavior of the men who play for the team.
In a Tuesday interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Dayton blamed the Vikings’ 10 arrests since 2011 on players having too much time on their hands.
“Idle time is the devil’s play,” Dayton said, via Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Dayton also offered up a broad — and arguably unfair — generalization regarding the mindset of a football player.
“It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o’clock [in the morning] and having problems. It doesn’t excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it,” Dayton said.
“Shake one of their hands and you know that this is someone who is not your ordinary citizen. They’re heavily armored, heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It’s, basically, slightly civilized war. . . . Then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they’ve been in combat or the edge of it and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. And that’s part of the reality. That’s not to say it’s good and it shouldn’t be improved. It should.”
We agree that it should be improved, but we disagree that football somehow morphs the men who play it into a gang of marauding goons who aren’t able to obey the laws of society without the intervention of cattle prods. Plenty of players never get in trouble. The few that do create bad publicity for all of them.
But the guys who stay out of trouble haven’t managed to overcome some showdown for their souls. They simply aren’t guys who get into trouble, despite the fact that they play an inherently physical game for a living.
Dayton’s explanation, even with the obvious and predictable caveats, makes it too easy for players and teams to hide behind the notion that “boys will be boys.” But NFL players are grown men with access to the kind of resources that will help them avoid trouble, whether through the programs made available to them or the money that they earn. They should be held even more accountable than someone who isn’t a pro athlete, and no one should be making excuses for the few who make the many look bad.