Here’s a place to draw together a few ideas for general consideration. Football is a dangerous game. Obviously. And probably unconscionably so. I never gave my eldest son permission to play organized football because I had played for many years myself––from junior high through high school. Plenty of good memories––I am thankful I can still remember them––but as I got away from playing I had a growing and intuitive awareness that pounding your head into a brick wall is not a good idea. And undoubtedly will come with deleterious effects. Now it’s documented, but it didn’t need to be for me to come to that conclusion.
And yet I am still a fan of the sport. As though I cannot help myself. I read about my favorite team, download a podcast, occasionally stream some sports radio when out and about on errands. I am not above it. That doesn’t make me feel super proud. It’s a guilty pleasure.
So, yesterday I’m listening to the radio and lo comes the announcement that a few players chose to retire––some would say “prematurely”––from football rather than run the risk of permanent brain damage. And rather than respect the decision, two of the three radio personalities chose to mock it. One minimized the significance of the decision––”not meaningful at all.” The other equated the decision to play football to the work of a soldier or police officer or firefighter. Seriously. As if the work of people doing the most dangerous and necessary work for the safety of a community or country were comparable to entertainment. Am I wrong in believing that if we thought we would lose 1/3 of our army, police, or firefighting force in the course of normal duty, we would be apoplectic? And yet by their own admission, one in three football players will suffer lingering effects of brain trauma. And not to save anyone’s life or property but to entertain me. It puts football squarely in the camp of cockfighting or dogfighting or gladiatorial matches (with I’m guessing higher casualty rates than actual gladiatorial matches). My god, one of the guys starting talking about how much the equipment has improved in 2015––as though any equipment could prevent a brain from sloshing back and forth inside the skull when it’s struck.
So today the guilty pleasure is just guilty.