I hate football

football

Photo via Wikipedia.

There. I’ve said it. Call me abnormal, even un-American.

If the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) still existed, I’d probably be subpoenaed to answer “why, when, how” I became a card-carrying subversive football-hater, clearly undermining essential American values.

When my son was an adolescent, at the top of my prayers for his well-being were that he be safe while in cars with other teenagers and a fervent hope that he’d never ask for football gear. It was bad enough that he lost a tooth in a pick-up game of hockey.

I remember when football moved past baseball as the American past-time, leaving the slower, less lucrative and pretty much blood-free older sport in the dust of the diamond.

I like sports. Well, some sports. I follow baseball, basketball, soccer, summer and winter Olympic competition. It’s not that I totally avoid all sports. I have simply always found football too violent and boring (yes, boring). Probably if I knew more about the strategy of the game, it would seem less dull to me, but no matter how much one knows about football, the violence is still there.

Your brain on football--CTE manifest. Photo: Frontline

Your brain on football–CTE manifest. Photo: Frontline

And, these days, part of what is increasingly known–documented and proven–is the impact of all that impact on players’ brains. Professionals are at risk, of course, but so are college, high school and even younger players.

It’s the middle of the football season and I just watched the Frontline documentary, “League of Denial,” about the evidence that is piling up–in spite of the NFL’s best efforts to suppress the research. If you have youngsters playing the game, I urge you to get the program and watch it…at least as a start to reconsidering the extent of gridiron danger to our children and professional players.

What prompted me this morning to open a conversation about football? Hearing Scott Simon on “Weekend Edition” chatting amiably about football I wondered if 50 years from now we’ll look back at the post-World War II explosion of the sport and be shocked by our cavalier acceptance of the collateral damage of this multi-multi-multi-million dollar entertainment.

Now, I imagine, like suspected communists in the ’50s, you’re thinking, “Hating football is un-American. Why don’t you go back where you came from?” Tackle away–no helmet required to debate the issue.

18 Responses to “I hate football”

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  1. Anne Paulson says:

    Ellen, I entirely agree with you! And the Frontline documentary you mention just gave me more reasons to dislike this particular sport. Like you, I follow some sports, and recently have enjoyed being able to watch international soccer. However, sports where violence plays an accepted and expected part (football, boxing, ice hockey brawls) hold no interest for me. Of course, living where I do (Adirondacks) where sport is king (and queen), I have to stay pretty quiet about any dislike of any sport.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    My favorites are football and hockey. I hate basketball.
    And three cheers for Michigan State beating Ohio State.

  3. jill vaughan says:

    I have always been confused by football- the violence, barbaric tactics. I know people truly do like it- but it’s impossible for me to watch someone getting hurt, or to admire the strength and training that makes it possible to play that game. We regulate and protect the most mundane of childhood activities- but allow sports where repetitive stress injuries and concussions are routine. I know- I am curmudgeonly. I believe the only way to become non-violent is to not encourage violence. I can feel the eye rolls.

  4. People laugh when I say I’m a soccer fan but I find football boring. But I do. Football is essentially 10-12 minutes of actual action stretched out to 3 1/2 hours. I don’t begrudge people who enjoy it but it’s not my bag.

  5. That noted baseball fan (and political scribe) George Will famously described football as “the quintessentially American sport: scenes of unimaginable violence followed by committee meetings.”

  6. Jon says:

    Hey Ellen –

    You should check out these:

    http://deadspin.com/report-nfl-pressured-espn-to-back-out-of-concussion-do-1187895031

    http://deadspin.com/espn-pulls-out-of-frontline-concussion-investigation-1185320690

    I love football, and I totally agree that it is an inherently violent sport, but so is boxing, auto-racing at 200 + mph per hour, and I am sure a bunch of others are dangerous by nature as well.

    What they need to do in the NFL which they won’t because of what else, money, is invest in new helmet technology to protect the brain better. There was a story a few years ago that an independent company made “safer” helmets but the NFL wouldn’t let teams use them because of the licensing deal they have with Riddell as the “Official” NFL helmet.

  7. Ken Hall says:

    Playing sports is one thing; watching and discussing sports ad nauseam and affiliating oneself with particular teams as “my team” is ludicrous. Of course if one considers the usefulness of sports to TPTB to prepare and brainwash the masses for participation in their next War/Battle, such as: WWI-Somme, WWII-Stalingrad, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, ., ., . and the multitudes of lesser skirmishes constantly engaged in around the Earth, one can easily comprehend the usefulness of sports affiliations to engender patriotic sentimentality.

  8. Mervel says:

    I like football I watch it. I am not a zealot though.

    The game can be made safer, it bothers me that they don’t do some of the things to make it safer or do it dragging their feet. The fact is the fans don’t care, the polls I have seen on football fans is that a good portion of them don’t want any changes to make the game safer.

    The NFL is more profitable and more successful than it has ever been, and big time college football is now essentially pro-football, particularly given the million dollar salaries within the athletic departments of big programs.

    I think Hockey is just as violent though, so we have to be careful about our regional biases.

  9. Jim says:

    “Playing sports is one thing; watching and discussing sports ad nauseam and affiliating oneself with particular teams as “my team” is ludicrous.” And I might add; juvenile.

    Different strikes for different folks, but I wouldn’t waste a God given minute as a spectator of any of these sporting “events”.

  10. Jon says:

    @Mervel – It is difficult to say if the game could be made safer. The NFL has taken steps to do just that in the last few years by making helmet to helmet contact for defenders illegal, Quarterbacks can hardly be hit without a penalty and other rule changes as well. However, in a game that is at it’s core one large, strong and physical man trying to move another against his will, injuries are inevitable.

    @Jim – Why is it juvenile to show allegiance to a singular sports team? Yes there are individuals who take being a fan (derived from Fanatic, makes sense) to the extreme but the vast majority of fans have pride in their team often as a pull to their home region. Being from the New York metro area, teams like the Yankees, Jets, Knicks, etc … make me proud to root for my home team (even when they play terrible). What is juvenile about that? As you said “different strikes (strokes?) for different folks.” What some consider entertainment others consider dull, who are any of us to demean others preferences.

  11. Mervel says:

    Jon,

    Yes I realize they have made those changes on paper. Do you see how they have been implemented? From what I can tell the implementation is not happening with any seriousness. They have to make fundamental changes that will at some level change how the game is played. Injuries are going to happen you are correct. However I think we could really look at being serious about long term concussion damage. The concussions are occurring in the line, both defense and offense, yet they seem to be mainly worried about the more extreme hits on the QB or wide receivers. The hits that are really causing this long term damage are the play by play hits that these guys are suffering that we don’t see.

    So limit play exposure. Don’t let our Centers, guards and tackles play more than two quarters a game for example. Put monitoring devices in their helmets and take them out when they reach some basic threshold. There is much more they could do.

    In the end pro-football should be careful, boxing was once very popular also.

  12. Jon says:

    @Mervel – As an avid follower of the game, YES I have absolutely see that the penalties called have increased to prevent the big hits which you are correct are there to “protect” the players more apt to instant head trauma such as wide receivers. You are also correct that the guys in the trenches are greatly affected as well, as highlighted in the Frontline documentary with “Iron” Mike Webster.

    I stand by the fact that football is a violent game as Ellen alluded to, and even with all those measures that could be taken, freak occurrences are more likely to happen. A perfect example this last weekend when Rob Gronkowski, Tight End for the Patriots was tackled low by a defender, because they can’t hit high now and Gronkowski torn ligaments in his knee and he ALSO was concuss on the play. You can’t hit high to prevent head injuries and hitting low poses it’s own threats including head injuries.

    To limit players time on the field will not solve any issues of injury to NFL players, the game itself is 100% dangerous. Now with that being said, if a person is educated in the risks and chooses to play anyway, how do we guarantee safety in an unsafe sport?

    Boxing is still a sport, should we outlaw it, or Mixed Martial Arts? How about auto-racing at speeds of 200+ mph? Extreme sports like Moto X and others have caused serious injuries and even death, where do we stand on them? If the athlete is willing to play and does so well enough to make the professional ranks, only a dream for about 99% of those who have ever played, why should we stop that?

  13. Pete Klein says:

    One of the things you need to understand about any sport is the motivation of those who play the sport.
    Bottom line is enjoyment. The players like to play the sport. Some sports are safer that others. Most people who play a sport, pick the sport on the basis of how well they think they can play it, not on how safe it is. Even gymnastics can be dangerous.
    I think about the dumbest and least safe sport if you can even call it a sport is climbing Mnt. Everest. How would you make that safer?
    One of the unique things about football is that it takes brains as well as brawn. Players need to learn plays and be able to adjust as the play develops. Size helps but skill can beat size every day. Size (height) also makes a difference in basketball but skill can still beat height.
    No matter the sport, what is always appreciated is the skill and grace of those who are best at it. This is true of the fly fisherman all the way through to the football and hockey player.

  14. Jon says:

    @Pete – I totally agree with you, enjoyment is bottom line for an individual in athletics the same as in any successful career. But how does someone define another person’s enjoyment? Is it monetary, for the love of the game, for the glory and fame? The only ones who know are the athletes themselves.

    You also make a fair point that size is not the only thing that matters in football, or basketball, etc … but for 50% of the players on the field at any given time (the defense) their clear objective and purpose of being is to stop the ball-carrier with force. This goes back to the indisputable fact that football is inherently violent and how do you lessen the affects of what is guaranteed? The simple answer is you can’t.

  15. Mervel says:

    Well I am not saying ban it or stop it or outlaw it, I would be against those things. I do think we will see how the legal side of this plays out, you have a lot of people permanently injured who never did make very much in pro-sports but are now paying the price.

    But if we go down a path of it being so dangerous that middle income educated people are going to actively discourage their kids from playing due to the serious, permanent and realistic head injury risk, you will see it devolve over time into a boxing situation.

    There ARE things which should be banned, we would ban fights to the death for example as a spectator sport, we would ban gladiator type games that the Romans utilized. The fact is those would be very popular in the US. I guess I am just saying I like football and I hope it can take this seriously and do some things to reduce the risk.

    I would be in favor of limiting the size of football players for example, they need to think outside of the box. Maybe 390 pounds is too big, many sports have weight and size limits. Boxing does not let a 250 lb heavyweight fight a lightweight boxer, yet football allows 300 plus pound guys to hit 190 lb guys.

  16. Jon says:

    @Mervel – I appreciate your concerns in the context that you want the sport to thrive and would like to see steps taken to do so safely but there are a couple of points I would make in response.

    As far as the legal aspect, there has already in the last few months been a settlement “Of the settlement, $675 million will go directly to the former players and their families, $75 million to medical exams, and the rest for research. The money will be paid in installments over 20 years, with half coming in the first three years.”

    http://deadspin.com/nfl-settles-concussion-lawsuit-from-former-players-1222092777

    Broken down – $600 million to players, 1/2 in the first three years = $300 mil = $100 million a year, the remaining $300 million over the next 17 years. To an organization which makes $10 billion in revenue, these are drops of water in the bucket in the next 20 years that will make $200 billion dollars based on their current annual earning which is expected to grow, so probably more so as the years go on.

    As far as the weight issue, how can you not allow larger players? Two main flaws with this solution;

    The first being off the bat, you are discriminating against a population of players based on their size and the lawsuits over rights to work would be reason enough for them not to do this. Would you create an alternate size league?

    Second, players sizes gives them advantages to play their position, the way speed works for others. If this is for “safety sake,” then what about all of the numerous injuries caused by defensive backs and linebackers? If all injuries were from the trenches, if all were “Iron,” Mike, then you have a valid case, but the truth is, they are not.

    Again, inherently violent, not much can be done to change. We must either accept it as is knowing the risks of playing it, or try banning it altogether.

  17. I think the concussion issue is the only thing that might make a dent in football’s popularity… but probably not at least for another 20 years. Where you’re seeing it is that many parents are not letting their kids play football because it’s perceived to be too dangerous. They feel their boys (and obviously nearly all football players are male) can have just as much fun and any other positives sports provide in other sports with a far diminished risk. In my area, a number of varsity football teams had to forfeit games because they didn’t have the state-minimum number of players – 15 I believe – including in many traditionally football mad towns. Many other schools did not have enough numbers for a JV (mostly grades 9-10) team.

  18. Jon says:

    Brian, I have no doubts that there are many parents who worry about these things, but in a country of 315 million and growing, I have no doubt that 1,696 great athletes / football players (53 on a roster * 32 teams) will be willing an able to play the game. I also think in our region there may be a decline, but football is religion in most of the south, where schools will cancel classes the day before a game (mostly universities that is). It’s a culture we can’t understand up here.

    Additionally, Americans love violence, see other sports like NASCAR (yeah big crashes), hockey (yeah fighting), movies, video games, etc… I think if people believe the NFL will suffer from backlash of parents holding kids back, consider population.