Because I keep hearing the same objections to my “Football is Irredeemably Depraved” thesis, I figured I would write a FAQ. This seems doubly timely given the recent revelations of a sexual torture regime at the “storied” Sayreville, NJ high school football program, which many are predictably explaining away by invoking the failed “a few bad apples” thesis. (Also, I learned yesterday that my VICE article calling for a boycott of the NFL spurred an op-ed in the New York Times! Weird. You’d think someone would’ve notified me about that…?)
It’s just a few bad apples! So what if those seven dudes on the Sayreville High School “Bombers” team engaged in serial sexual torture! That shouldn’t indict everyone who plays football!
You’re misunderstanding my point. I obviously don’t indict literally every person who has ever played football as some kind of amoral monster. As I have written, I personally played organized tackle football as a youth. My point is that on a more broad-based level, football *culture* inexorably leads to the endless scandals, violence, authoritarianism, domestic abuse, torture, corruption, and so forth that we now see reported in the news on almost a daily basis.
There are some people who have probably prospered due to certain elements of football culture. Good for them! But that doesn’t negate the overall societal impact, which I assert is profoundly damaging.
You’re crazy! Football will never be abolished. Get real, bro.
I bet at the time, most residents of Rome did not believe that the abolition of Gladiator fighting was a realistic possibility. It was so firmly ingrained in their culture that they could not see how that hellish ritual might ever go away. Same with football, I think. Of course, given its ubiquity in modern-day American culture, we have a difficult time conceiving of life without football constantly suffusing everything. But that conceptual difficulty is no argument against boycotting football; it’s actually a further argument for why football ought to be immediately abolished.
Hey, what about hockey and wrestling! You’re ignoring other stuff that also is Bad!
OK, this is an obvious logical fallacy. I’m not talking about hockey and/or wrestling. You’re changing the subject, rather than addressing my points about football.
But fine: with respect to hockey, it clearly has nowhere near the cultural prowess that football does, at least in American society. Maybe if I were Canadian, my antipathy would be more directed at hockey. I’m not sure; I haven’t studied or followed hockey as closely. My impression is that while it’s also probably Bad, it’s not even in the same realm of Badness as football.
This might surprise some readers, but I actually don’t have much of a problem with wrestling, MMA, and similar pursuits. For one, the risks associated with these pursuits are well-known and generally not concealed by greedy corporate old white guys who want to preserve their billions in annual revenue. (Joe Rogan, likely the most prominent spokesperson for the UFC, routinely speaks honestly of the risks it entails, including brain injury.) Whereas, the NFL has repeatedly been shown to have lied about the risks entailed by professional football.
From an aesthetic standpoint, UFC also seems to require a large degree of precision, grace, and deliberate use of very narrowly-tailored force, whereas by comparison the NFL is basically just indiscriminate savagery. Figuring out the precise arm-bar required to get your opponent to tap out is actually a kind of science, whereas in the NFL, you just have to knock your opponent out by slamming into him real hard.
Hey, you jerk! These guys knew what they were getting into! They knew the health risks!
If you’re talking about the NFL — no, those guys didn’t know the health risks. Please read this New York Times article dated September 12, 2014, which reveals that the league actively concealed evidence of indescribably horrible health risks to players. That’s why so many players are now shown to have gotten permanent brain damage as a result of their participation in this “sport.” (By the way, I no longer call football a “sport” — I call it a “death cult.”)
(Did you know Chris Henry, a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died in 2009 at age 26, was shown by autopsy to have had degenerative brain disease? Yes, at age 26.)
Furthermore, if a kid is instilled with “Football Values” from age 7, and then goes on to play football in middle school, then high school, then college, and then the NFL, he never really made a free decision to play football. It was imposed on him and he was forcibly acculturated into it.
And last, the information concealed by the NFL and revealed last month does NOT include potential damage caused by “sub-concussive” hits, meaning the routine hits that every player (except kickers, usually) endures over the course of a normal football game. Successive, sustained sub-concussive hits over the course of a career is probably just as harmful as the massive blowout concussive hits that everyone now seems to agree are Bad. But again, we don’t have full data on this yet. So no, it’s not possible for a 18-year-old dude to make a fully-informed decision about the potential risks of playing football.
I know the REAL reason you don’t like football! It’s because you never liked football in the first place, and as a child you were non-athletic.
OK, first of all, this is a line of objection that I’ve heard disturbingly frequently, and it’s usually deployed by bullies. But whatever. Not that it really matters, but I genuinely DID like football for the longest time, and was known as a NY Jets fan. You can consult old high school friends and/or my brother for verification of this. I attended many football games at all levels.
And yeah, as a child I wasn’t particularly athletic, but I wasn’t ABYSMAL. I actually have an OK long-range basketball shot, can play tennis somewhat passably, and so forth. I played a bunch of backyard football as a kid, and could do so semi-competently. I also played baseball, and could field reasonably enough, but was pathetically horrible at hitting. When I played football in 4th grade, I was a defensive end, and famously caused one fumble, and also made one glorious sack on the opposing quarterback.