In an interview with The New Republic, President Obama stated the following: ‘I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.
I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies. You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.’
I’ve thought for a while now that football may be in a long-term death spiral; it’s just that nobody has told it yet. I assume that virtually all lineman are or have used some kind of growth drug; it just doesn’t make sense that a college or NFL lineman would naturally weigh 300-350 pounds and still be able to run 40 yards in under 5 seconds. It doesn’t make sense that these guys, who when they’re 18, are in the top .1% of physical conditioning, die 20 years before the rest of us…and get to spend their last few decades in intense physical pain, not even considering the brain damage.
A couple of examples:
• Recently, a coach played his quarterback while everyone could see that the player had something wrong with his legs. After the game, when the player had been carried off the field, the coach was taken aback that anyone actually cared about the player’s health consequences. Why should he care? The players are just meat.
• Most of the NFL players are from what used to be known as the ‘underclass’. If they didn’t play in the sport, a hefty number of them would be in prison, I’d guess. The player last month that killed his baby mama and then drove to the stadium to kill himself, had been pulled over the night before for drunken driving, but was given an unofficial ‘warning’ by the cops so as to not adversely affect the team.
• I was watching another game (I think it was Dallas), where the announcer briefly discussed the troubles with the law that a receiver had incurred, including problems with substance abuse and domestic violence. Then, the announcer added, in the last few WEEKS, he seems to have turned his life around.
• I don’t think that there is another sport where a player gives another a concussion, then while his opponent is still prone, raises his hands to the heavens, as if God had something to do with it.
Finally, an aside. When I was young, my brother and I would watch Friday Night Fights with our dad. He was a Golden Gloves boxer of some repute when he was young. He graduated from high school, joined the Army to fight in WW2, when he returned, he married our mom. I asked if he would teach me to box. He replied, ‘If I did, your mother would kill me, then I would kill you. If you have extra energy, plow the field.’
Boxing was placed into the garbage bin of sports not long after. The only people in America who box now are incredibly poor. It, in the term used by sociologists, is dirty work. Football is one on-field death away from being looked at the same way.