A mathematician comes home from a day of mathematical immersement, and they can’t help themselves. They almost immediately plunk themselves down, and start doodling numbers on a scratch pad. This is maybe an annoyance – discarded mathematical scratch pad doodles all over the place, family members perhaps under-attended to. But overall, as the great and greatly missed basketball announcer Chick Hearn used to say, “No harm, no foul.”
A comedy writer comes home after a pressure-packed day at the office, and they can’t turn it off. The jokes keep coming. Again, it’s not terrible, if it’s not forced or overdone. A house filled with laughter? A person can live with that.
A rabbi, priest or some other person who does religion for a living returns home after of day of dispensing unqualified acceptance, kindness and love and they can’t stop themselves. The “goodness” keeps pouring out of them. And what’s the harm there? You don’t hear,
“Seamus, I have had it up to here with your uncritical acceptance, kindness and love. Will you just please knock it off!”
(I just gave a priest a wife, which is doctrinarially inaccurate. But you get what I’m talking about.)
The point attempted to be made here?
Two points, actually, provided in the opposite order of importance.
The things you bring home from work can vary from annoying to harmless to acceptable to fun.
You always bring something home.
So. (With the preceding as build-up…)
You’re a professional football player…
And you know where that’s going.
You play a game that is savage, brutal, physical and aggressive. You hit people for a living. And the better you do it, the more successful you become.
You come home from work…
And what do you expect?
They leave the mayhem on the playing field, and they’re a pussycat off the job?
“You always bring something home.”
(An article in this morning’s Sports Section reveals reports not just of the current story in the headlines but of a total of four known recent physical attacks on spouses, fiancees or girlfriends inflicted by current professional football players. Making this more than an “isolated event.”)
My original thoughts concerning this matter arose not about football but when I heard about the alarming number of mistreatments of women taking place in the military. Along with my inevitable responses of outrage and empathy, an insistent inner voice demanding to be heard exclaimed,
“What do you expect? Soldiers are drilled to be intense, cold and dispassionate. You want them to start caring about people when they’re not on the clock?” (Suggested Reading on the Subject: The Great Santini)
Now let me be clear here. My proposed expanded perspective should in no way be perceived as an exoneration of unacceptable behavior. Or even a rationalization a defense attorney might present in the name of mitigating circumstances, mandating lighter sentencing.
Bad is bad, and wrong is wrong. I do not know what Ray Rice’s (then) fiancée said or did. And I don’t care.
Nobody deserves “unconscious.”
All I am saying is:
Do not close your eyes to the context.
Football. The military. (Throw in cutthroat corporate combat.) What is the prevailing environment? What are the participants programmed to do?
Although, free will, individual responsibility and self restraint must and should be the determinative words on this matter, when people come home, and they engage in the same behavior that would earn them a medal or the “Game Ball” (or the corner office) at work…
Should we really be surprised?
You come home from work – whatever work that is – and you inevitably bring some inherent element of that work home with you.
That work – as it, to date, has been – should not be entirely excluded from the conversation.