The Legend of Steve Atwater

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The folks at Deadspin and Slate were nice enough to invite me into this week's football conversation. You can see the entries from Josh Levin, and Tommy Craggs at the links above. 


My contribution, this week, deals with (what else) understanding the place of violence in football, and in my life. My text is Steve Atwater's now legendary hit on Christian Okoye:

It feels wrong saying that--but, as a kid, the violence was always part of what attracted me. I remember when Steve Atwater reversed the Nigerian Nightmare. This was not merely a hit, but a moment that rose to myth among my friends. Kenny Easley, Joey Browner, and, of course, Ronnie Lott--these were our gods. We loved seeing Atwater lay out Okoye, in the same way we loved Tyson destroying fools before we could really get comfortable on mom's couch. 

The violence spoke to something about our lives, about how we wanted to go through the world, about how we saw ourselves in our most absurd fantasy. It also reflected something very real. Our world was violent, and learning to negotiate it was just something we did. Atwater seemed to not just negotiate it, but to conquer it, to wield it with a total lack of fear. There's a danger of making this a race/class thing. I don't want to do that, because I strongly suspect that plenty of white males, across the class spectrum, know exactly what I mean.

In other news, The Nigerian Nightmare is perhaps the greatest football nickname ever. I still think  Ron "The Intellectual Assassin" Mix takes the cake.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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