Football Pain

From a Salon article called

The NFL: An indictment of America

by Ethan Sherwood Strauss –

True fans possess an enormous capacity to live through their football heroes, but they retain an even greater capacity to do so without empathy. Just last week, Bears quarterback Jay Culter was all but put in stocks for leaving a game due to a torn MCL. Fans burned his jersey as though Cutler “quit” out of feminine frailty, as though this professional QB had concocted some elaborate, cowardly, fan-jobbing conspiracy. The public violently, irrationally demands that a player play, even with knee ligaments dangling. No wonder so many of these athletes gobble painkillers in a manner that would trump a toilet-bound Elvis.

I’ve spent my life wondering what people saw in football. NFL football, I get that. That’s entertainment. What I don’t get is college or high school football. There’s this strange story line that football builds character and teamwork. I imagine there is some development there – “playing fields of Eton” and the other charming and nonsensical tales of our culture. But for almost all colleges, football loses money all the time every year. In high school it is at best a distraction from the real purpose of school and worse, a money drain diverting resources from other programs.

But the author here is right. It is the pain. It is the harm the sport does to the players. And the fans. There is some strangeness there. Many years ago I was in high school and the NFL players went on strike. My fellow students deprived of their television pacifier were outraged. My father subscribed to Sports Illustrated and I read about the strike. I discovered that the average life span of an NFL player was 58 years and the injury rate was 100%. That’s a lot to give up so that people can be entertained.

The author continues –

At a certain point, we are — in part — defined by this tendency. That America endorses the NFL’s pain party starts to say something about the country. Such as: American culture is replete with couch-jockeys who feel more masculine for having watched other people destroy themseves. Or: American culture is fine with perpetuating a system of destruction, so long as a few, mostly poor people are involved. In many ways, our attitudes towards fetishized athletes mirror our attitudes towards those glorious troops whom we only support with platitudes. This is not good.

I agree.

James Pilant

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