By Gina Spadafori
June 6, 2007
Super piece in the New York Times by Selena Roberts on why pit bulls hold such appeal for pro athletes. Unfortunately, it’s behind the “paid content” wall of Times Select, but if there’s any way to get there, it’s worth a read:
The N.F.L. scene has become the puppy mill for pit-bull lore.
As the trendiest of bad-boy accessories, the pit bull is the new gun for some players. As a replacement for tired soldier analogies, players are turning to the most mythologized of muscle dogs to define their masculinity.
â€œThe pit bull is seen as the epitome of the athlete in the animal kingdom,â€ said Rhonda Evans, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, who has written extensively on dog fighting. â€œThey fight to the death. None of them would turn away from the fight unless the owner calls it. Turning away is considered the response of a cur, a coward. The definition of stopping is a cur. They fight until the owner calls the fight or they die.â€
It does not take a Pavlovian leap to see why football players who push themselves beyond pain thresholds until the whistle blows, who play broken and bloodied until discarded, would identify with the vision of a relentless icon.
Brutality has never left the N.F.L. queasy before. The leagueâ€™s pet problem is the unseemly ties of gambling and gang symbols with the dog-fighting ethos. Amid a chronology of canine reflection, the past 12 months have signaled the year of the pit bull for Commissioner Roger Goodellâ€™s money machine.
â€œThe problem is the glamorization of dog fighting, particularly in the gangster rap culture,â€ said John Goodwin, an animal-fighting expert and investigator with the Humane Society of the United States. â€œSome athletes are simply taking it with them to the N.F.L.â€
A dog once bred for rural dog fighting in the South has morphed into a street figure with every story in the news media about an attack, with every state that lists dog fighting as a felony, with every local ordinance that seeks to ban the pit bull, with every tough guy who walks one using a logging chain as a leash.
I hate Times Select. I realize they’re trying to make you pay for their best content — and I do! — but sometimes the stuff really needs to be shared. This is one of those times.