Victory is nigh. We can feel the NFL giving up ground, becoming more feminized by the day. Stick a salad fork in it.
All that's left is choosing the skirt styles. Pleated for quarterbacks, A-line for the big guys, stretch minis for everyone else?
The Miami Dolphins fast-tracked the cultural revolution this week. The discussions of locker-room bullying generated by Jonathan Martin's voluntary and Richie Icognito's involuntary departures from the team teased out a larger truth about the league. When defining manhood, a lot of today's players and recent retirees are most definitely not on the same page. They're not even using the same dictionary.
There was the coalition unscathed by the 21st century, insisting that Martin had violated locker-room ethic by quitting on his team and allowing someone in his camp to turn over a threatening, racist voice mail from Incognito to management as he walked away.
Then there were the guys we have in our politically correct, well-manicured clutches. Ex-Jet Bart Scott, ever the prim soul, led the crew by pointing out that the Dolphins were lucky Martin didn't bring a gun to work. "Thank God that he just walked away," Scott said on ESPN Radio.
Some of the online comments sounded like retreads. Martin was called "she" and "soft" and scolded for not "manning up.'' The wussification of football was bemoaned, in less sanitized language. (And, of course, it's scrubbed down here, because that's just what we do.)
They see us coming, threatening to turn their beloved sport into a yoga demonstration, and they don't know want to do. Some of us are even men. In fact, a lot are. Men who hate football tend to despise it far more than women do. Exposed to the sport as teenagers, they rebelled against authoritarian coaches and disdained players who wore their toughness as a fashion piece while docilely submitting to group-think.
Those guys, the football apostates, might as well be women, too. We've converted all of them. We're that powerful.
We're closer than ever to killing the Washington franchise's nickname. Yes, that struggle is about sensitivity to Native Americans, but whenever sensitivity guides the discussion, clearly, it's because estrogen rules. The same holds for all the new concerns about safety. The bounty case in New Orleans? Women made Roger Goodell do it. The defensive rules intended to reduce head injuries? A feminist plot. The entire concern about head trauma? Come on.
One of the leading scientists is a woman, Boston University's Ann McKee. One of the authors of "League of Denial," the book that lays out a case that the NFL is a second-generation Big Tobacco, hyphenated his last name with his wife's -- Mark Fainaru-Wada. And mothers, we keep hearing, will bring the sport down with their hysteria -- based as it is on scientific evidence from another woman.
Fathers, by this reasoning, remain unconcerned about their sons' welfare, more interested in their games and oblivious or apathetic to the concussion research.
The feminization has been on a tear of late. Think of all the players who've stepped away from football since the brain-damage reports started circulating, since PBS ran the "Frontline'' documentary based on "League of Denial.'' You can barely turn on ESPN without seeing another of those early-retirement press conferences. Any day now, some franchise won't have enough bodies to play a game. That's how alarmed they all are.
Either that, or they don't want to play in stretch miniskirts.
The reaction to the bullying story has been similar. There's been a flood of players bemoaning their own hazings and detailing the amount of money their elders shook out of them as rookies. Thanks to the cultural revolution, they're not afraid of sharing these stories. They haven't actually come out in public yet and let you feel their pain -- they're fighting it out to see who gets to talk to Oprah. Frankly, it's the most physical they've been in months.
Victory really is that close.
We've been working on this longer than most people realize. The infiltration began over 30 years ago, with Bill Walsh. Look at what he did. He made the game more beautiful with the perfection of the timing route. He encouraged the development of African-American coaches. He banned hazing all the way back then, even though he became the 49ers' head coach only a year after the release of "Animal House.''
"The way Bill saw it, if you hazed rookies you might get them so scared they couldn't focus on the game,'' Roger Craig says in 100 Things 49ers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, by Dan Brown. "You might destroy their confidence. So Bill didn't allow that.''
Yeah, we really had our hooks in him. And we didn't let go.
When Walsh coached at Stanford in 1994 and two of his football players were charged with vandalizing a statue on campus called "Gay Liberation,'' he wrote a letter of apology to the entire campus and paid a visit to the center for gay, lesbian and bisexual students.
It's a wonder football survived such an influence. It might even thrive after the cultural revolution. As we move toward victory, we can promise only one thing: We will not dance in the end zone. That's a guy thing.