Oh, NOW Football Is Too Violent?

Kurt Streeter, the New York Times’ uber-woke, progressive sports columnist, had the nerve to post a column this week headlined, “We’re All Complicit in the N.F.L.’s Violent Spectacle.” Uh-uh, no sir, not me, baby. I have always found pro football repulsive and barbaric, and for many years have worked here and elsewhere to ensure that the NFL is accountable for crippling and killing its players for profit, which is what it does. A single player for unknown reasons goes into cardiac arrest mid-game this week, and suddenly people are discovering what a sick,  unethical sport professional football is? “My prayer, aside from seeing Hamlin leave that Cincinnati hospital able to live a fruitful, productive life, is that we never watch a single snap of an N.F.L. game the same way again,” Streeter intones. Oh Kurt, you’re so sensitive. You won’t watch it the “same way,” but you’ll keep earning money covering it, won’t you?The question of when an NFL player would be killed in a game has only been a matter of time and luck. Players have been paralyzed for life on the field. We know that many players, probably most, maybe even all sustain brain damage from the repeated hits to the head the game necessarily entails. It is a violent sport played by violent men: The NFL leads all sports in the number of murders, assaults, rapes and violent crimes committed by its players both before and after their careers. Domestic abuse is epidemic. The NFL has done as little as possible to stem the violence in its product, because its fans love the violence.

At this point we don’t even know if Damar Hamlin’s horrifying episode was even caused by football: maybe he had an undiscovered heart defect; maybe he had a bad reaction to something he ate—we don’t know. The problem with football isn’t illustrated by Hamlin’s fate, whatever it ultimately is. The problem is revealed in letters like this one to the Times in response to Streeter:

To those of us who watch and enjoy football and all the spectacles surrounding it, the injury to Damar Hamlin brings some hard truths into focus. The football business is huge. An N.F.L. game brings major dollars and jobs to the cities that host games and opportunities to the rare players, coaches and staff who make it to the elite levels of college football and the pros. We are not going to ban the game.

But we don’t need the expanded schedules, which have gone from 14 to 16 and now 17 games. We don’t need the expanded playoffs, which give some mediocre teams an extra weekend or two before they go home. Amazon would survive the loss of Thursday Night Football, and so would the viewers. A player who has survived a Sunday game needs more than three days to recover before subjecting himself to the same jarring violence all over again.

The sports gambling industry has brought a whole new intensity to the fans but helps dehumanize the players who are the subjects of the bets. Please make it illegal again.

Yes, players make millions, but that doesn’t substitute for the risks of life and limb that their short careers and long post-football lives will need to thrive. Keep football, but give some thoughts to the players who make it all work.

Perfect! Let’s pretend to do something to make the football alarmists back off, but basically do nothing because people enjoy watching the game and the business of football “is huge.” Whatever leveled Hamlin, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t having to play 17 games instead of 15 in a season. I’m also certain that football betting didn’t cause his heart to stop.

This is a brutal enterprise run by businessmen who don’t care what carnage it wreaks on its players as long as the game itself remains marketable, enabled by fans who couldn’t care less if today’s hero becomes tomorrow’s shambling, drooling, suicidal invalid. Hamlin’s misfortune, whatever its cause, is just an excuse to feign concern long enough for the play-offs to start

4 thoughts on “Oh, NOW Football Is Too Violent?

  1. Agreed, Jack. I gave up on football at any level about 25 years ago because of its brutality. The only thing I miss about it is watching highlight films in slo-mo, where you can see how agile and graceful these athletes truly are. But that beauty is not worth players’ lives and brains, no matter how much they’re paid. It was also a fun game to play until adolescence (especially flag football). But no more. Alas, the game is here to stay, for all the reasons you mention. It all reminds of a favorite NYer cartoon from the late 80’s, where, in the Colosseum, a Christian and a lion are standing behind debate lecterns; one Roman Senator says to another in the stands: “somehow I liked the old format better.”

  2. Well argued, Jack. I happen to be a football fan, but there is no doubt it is dangerous and has caused much long-term damage. Should I feel ashamed? Perhaps. Then there’s hockey (not a fan) which has the most concussions every year. Then there’s basketball which has the largest volume of injuries each year. And soccer, with large numbers of emergency room treatment and concussions. Oh, yeah, large number of injuries and concussions from high school cheerleading. Lacrosse? Don’t know if anyone has compiled the stats. Baseball? Loads of injuries although not the potentially life-altering head injuries (for the most part). Bicycling? Yeah, many injuries and deaths. Motorcycling? ‘Nuff said about that one. Skiing? And the “sport” of every day car-driving. (And I won’t even mention boxing and extreme sports). Let’s ban ‘em all. Or might it be better to recognize that they are not going to be — and perhaps even shouldn’t be? — banned, and make them as safe as we can with rules, safety gear, technology?

    • Putting reasonable safety measures in place and letting the market decide is fine with me. Baseball has banned intentionally throwing at batters, which was sometimes entertaining. The take-out slides at second base were often spectacular, but they ruined infielder’s careers (Manny Machado’s cheat hit on Dustin Pedroia, for example), so they were banned. Pete Rose-Ray Fosse-style collisions at home plate were banned for CTE reasons (among others). The old school fans resented it, and the game’s action was injured (a bit) but it was the responsible thing to do. Footballs’ problem is that it is all-violence all the time. Take the danger away, and it’s hard to see the sport thriving.

      • And hockey? And boxing (which I believe should be ended as the object is to inflict damage) ? And skiing? (Inherently dangerous). Bicycling (Dangerous due to idiots in bikes and driving cars).
        Thanks for the reply. As usual, logical and appreciated.

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