Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Way We Were

I saw a snippet of a program on the impact of alcohol at NFL games and what the NFL is doing about it, and I was struck by how misguided the response efforts are. Designated driver programs, barring obviously inebriated fans at the door, alcoholism awareness info (which reminds me of the hilarious "Do you have a gambling problem? Be responsible!" stickers posted on the ATMs (the ATMs!) in casinos) - it's all like slapping a Band-Aid on a tumor.

The people behaving badly at football games may well be drunk, but alcohol is not the fundamental problem. There's always been drinking at football games and there have always been a few sloppy drunks. But the bounds of decent public behavior once stopped even drunks from grouping on stairways and screaming at women to show their breasts (a recent lowlight at the Meadowlands) or shouting no-holds-barred profanities at players or flinging drinks at fans for the other team.

People in my grandparents' or even, I suspect, my parents' generations seemed to believe in a social contract that no longer exists
relative to public behavior. Yelling out the car window or flipping someone the bird in traffic, cutting in front of people in line, talking too loudly in restaurants or theaters - for that matter, being sloppily drunk in public in the first place - were simply not done. Language was far more refined, too. People did not consider acceptable for everyday use the F and C words that HBO would have us believe are routinely used in every avenue of society, past and present. (I watched Deadwood once; somehow I doubt the language actually used in the Old West was so juicily Chaucerian. I can also confirm from personal experience that, with the exception of law firms when no clients are present, the language in business is still far more refined than Hollywood would have us believe.)

And it wasn't just a matter of manners. I don't think people in the past merely held themselves in check better. I think they really believed certain
behavior and language were impolite, inappropriate, and not characteristic of decent people. Even at sporting events, peer pressure operated to quell rather than to permit or even spur really egregious behavior.

I'm not quite old enough yet to favor a return to the attitudes of the past. Given how restrictively sexist those attitudes were, I'll probably never be old enough to favor any sort of wholesale return. But I do wish we still had a widely-believed code of decent social behavior and individual responsibility. Instead, we have only the usual misguided palliatives. They won't stop the bad behavior at football games or anywhere else; they'll only make life even more annoying for the rest of us as we wait in yet another long line to get in.

1 comment:

Annie said...

we want more posts :)