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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Football: the perversion of the gridiron

NFL 2011: The Kansas City Chiefs' sad cavalcade of torn knee ligaments. (14) - By Tommy Craggs, Stefan Fatsis, Nate Jackson, Josh Levin, Drew Magary, Barry Petchesky, and Tom Scocca - Slate Magazine

OK, so an NFL star spits up blood from a hit to the head. And what do people talk about? Fantasy football. And the chances of the guy's team winning. Check out the link and read the comments. Only one that I saw mentioned that football might be changed as a result of all these concussions (and I take his comment as nostalgic for the "good ol' days" when men were men and could kill anyone as a sign of manliness).

The recent walk-out by the players included discussion of medical benefits. John Mackey's name was bandied about as a poster-child for what can happen to a player after he retires. There is a link between concussions and Alzheimer's like disease. The name for this is Pugilistic Dementia, named after the "sport" in which one tries to induce a concussion and brain damage on another. Of course I'm speaking of boxing, but I could just as easily be speaking of football.
(here is a link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1362290.stm)

Many have said over the years that boxing should be banned, along with its cousin, mixed martial arts. Football should be mentioned just as often. It sickens to know that millions watch this "sport" without a thought, without a care, for its players. Most football players retire after two or three years of playing. Yes, they get a good salary (league minimum salary in 1996 was $196,000), but that's not a whole lot if you consider that the players often retire disabled, with little health care. A team in a small market, like Green Bay, will have an average player earn less than $1,000,000 by the time he retires. That million has to last the rest of his life, oftentimes. If you are hobbling around on bad knees, bad hips, bad back, with dementia and no health care, a million won't get you far. The league owners did recently produce a plan for taking care of their wounded warriors, and in honor of Mackey it is called the "88" plan (Mackey wore the number 88). The plan offers up to $88,000 for nursing home care. Is that enough? Most likely, no. It's also kind of like saying, "Here you go, son, play football and get the b'jesus knocked out of you, 'cause we'll pay for your nursing room later on--you'll be needing that."

The argument for football goes this way: the players know all this going in and it is their choice. Well, I doubt they know all this. I doubt they ever met a player (probably the best tight end in football history) like John Mackey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mackey_(American_football)). I am betting they've been sold a pipe dream: become a star and earn tens of millions. You'll be famous, on TV, movies, interviews. That hardly ever happens. Usually a player is quite lucky to make it to the NFL. Most players in college get the injuries and get to be slaves to the college sports program, unpaid, and most under-educated.

When you watch this depravity on TV or at the stadium, maybe the human thing to do would be to wonder about the health of those players, their likely future, and also to look around you and say, Do I want to be the kind of person who just enjoys taking in the perversion of basic moral principles?

When you think of football you shouldn't be thinking of all the pipe-dream stuff, the glory of the gridiron all that crap. You should be thinking others, the players. They are people, just like you. Love your neighbor as thyself, and turn that perversion off. And if you happen to be a parent of a child playing in youth leagues, get them out of there and into some other sport. Or better yet, teach them to play the piano or guitar or something. Something useful, something human.

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