Guardian Columnist Makes Case For Banning ‘Immoral’ American Football
Concussions: they suck. Not only do they hurt (duh), but they lead to more serious complications down the road that can and do turn people into depressed, angry, confused shells of their former selves. I'm no expert, but living with a brain stricken with CTE probably feels like being locked away in solitary confinement and tortured for a crime you didn't commit. It is an inescapable, inexplicable pain.
Knowing this, we still tune in every Saturday and Sunday between the August and February to watch the world's largest athletes smash their heads together. Why? Because we love it. American football is awesome. You know what other sport is massively popular despite the mounting evidence that its participants suffer from repeated head trauma? The other football. You just won't see any Guardian columnist calling soccer immoral -- because on the surface, American football looks way more like the savage gladiatorial game civilization has shunned for more humane forms of entertainment. Soccer looks refined. Soccer looks civilized. Soccer is the perfect game, right?
Alas, Dave Bry thinks society has a moral imperative to put an end to American football's existence because it entices our youth to put their health on the line for our entertainment.
[Guardian] It’s not the players who I am calling immoral. The onus is on us, the fans (and, more directly, the team owners) who pay the players to hurt themselves for our enjoyment. Huge amounts of money, let-your-parents-retire-and-set-up-the-next-generation-of-your-family-to-go-to-college money, “make him an offer he can’t refuse” money. The money is there, so if one 20-year-old does muster up the sense to say no, there’ll be 20 others waiting in line to say yes. Football fans are like Roman citizens cheering as gladiators fight to the death in the Colosseum. NFL team owners, who make money from the spectacle, are more on a level with Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained.
Mandingo fighting? Wow -- this guy is really digging deep to make his case. Oh, and speaking of movies: how about when actors chain-smoke cigarettes or gain massive amounts of weight for a role? Should we ban movies because there are risks in portraying unhealthy characters?
The fact remains that life ends up being about more than just eliminating traditions instead of mitigating their negative side effects. As simplistic as this may sound, one day we're tossing out American football, the next it's soccer, then porn, then fast food, then paintball, then violent video games (something Bry finds acceptable) and before you know it we'll all be living joyless, 200-year-long lives, being fed intravenously while floating in a tank. Hooray for that future!
Bry also seems to think that our enjoyment of American football derives mostly from the violence it affords us as spectators. While that's certainly true to some extent -- big hits can be impressive -- but it's hardly a major reason why the vast majority of us watch.
But many football fans avoid confronting this central aspect of the game. They’ll say they enjoy it more for the strategic acumen displayed by the best coaches (try to find the name of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick written anywhere without the precedent descriptor “genius”. It’s not easy.) Or they’ll mention its display of core American values like teamwork, discipline and individual sacrifice for a greater good. For how a well-thought-out, well-executed gameplan can neutralize a physical advantage one team holds over another, and how on “any given Sunday” an underdog can buck the odds and win. It’s a metaphor for war, it’s a metaphor for life, etc, like all sports we like to watch. I’m all right with that. I love a good metaphor like the way I love my own mom.
There are a million ways to tackle his argument, and Bry does a good job of addressing dissenting views, but it's hard to see someone suggest something so outrageous and not call them a complete buzz kill. Are we being hard-headed about this? Does Bry have a point? Are the risks involved in violent entertainment a necessary evil? Are they cathartic? Do they encourage violence?
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