It’s been a bad week for the NFL. Injuries, scandals and even arrests are nothing new for the multi-billion dollar sports/entertainment business, but this particular week seemed to tip the scales and, in our home, broke one little boy’s heart.
The news of Adrian Peterson’s arrest on charges of child abuse rocked our youngest son hard. His fascination with “AP” has become almost a private joke among family and friends. Certainly he’s withstood his fair share of jeers and comments about wearing #28’s jersey, or the giant AP Fathead above his bed. He even has an AP pillow.
We had no choice but to tell him the facts, at least as much as we know. The news is crawling across every station. We wanted him to hear from us and be able to ask questions. My husband held him close as our little boy absorbed the story of a man he admired beating a child with a tree branch. It’s truly terrible. Later our son went up to his bed and just stared at Peterson’s image, tears in his eyes.
I know there are people out there thinking “Shame on you” for letting a child idolize a sports star. (I know this because I philosophically agree.) It’s just not that simple. Of course we try to keep it in perspective. We’re always talking about the irony that guys playing with balls are making millions of dollars while teachers and police and paramedics struggle to earn a fair wage. We don’t call athletes heroes. We talk honestly about cheaters and drug users and the culture of sports entertainment.
But have you ever tried to dissuade a child from his passion? I don’t care if it’s dinosaurs or animals or spaceships or football, when a boy has an obsession, it’s tamper-proof. Years ago, our son watched AP run, and smile, and do his dance, and he decided on his favorite athlete. He has since waited through injury and withstood the haters to cheer on AP week after week.
Now he’s crushed. And he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s in his own head and his own heart grappling with disappointment.
I’ll leave it to others to write about the culture of violence surrounding football, the illusion of impenetrability that accompanies celebrity, and the potentially deeper/darker issues plaguing Adrian Peterson. The best I can do is go and offer open, loving arms to my hurting baby boy.