Jonathan Chait, one of America’s foremost trolls, and hence one of America’s most influential political analysts, has written a widely-recommended apologia about football. Chait played as a young man, you see, and can speak from personal experience about football’s virtues. According to Chait, football provides boys with a means by which to channel their masculine rage. “In Defense of Male Aggression” is a pretty good troll headline, and I’m sure it earned New York Magazine an impressive number of clicks, but Chait’s article doesn’t do very much at all in the way of justifying the culture of male aggression that football promotes.
Chait recalls an instance from his football days wherein a big brute of a player knocked him flat on his behind, to the point that Chait began involuntarily crying, not out of any kind of emotional reaction, but out of sheer physical revulsion to the hit’s ferocity. Missing from Chait’s analysis is any consideration of the actual impact that this hit likely had on the well-being of his brain.
Data continuously show that the routine incurrence of “sub-concussive” hits — i.e., the standard hits virtually every football player is subjected to over the course of a typical game — are likely to pose major health risks. Chait recalls how he worked up the gumption to quit this activity upon realizing that he did not really want to be physically attacked by behemoth Football Warriors on a daily basis, but other boys in a similar position fail to reach the same conclusion, and therefore are inflicted with irreparable brain damage.
Now, Chait justifies this infliction of irreparable brain damage by praising the sincerely-felt glory experienced by football players in the heat of a game. He concedes that the corollary commonly drawn between football and war is apt: “shooting is precisely the problem with war. War minus the shooting is actually pretty great.” Indeed, football is “actually pretty great” enough that the massive societal harm it brings about ought to be glossed over, and “liberals” fussing over the game’s ills ought to just get over themselves.
Chait adds: “Nothing else pumped so much adrenaline through me that I couldn’t feel my feet underneath me as I ran and could barely remember my name, or made me weep or scream uncontrollably.”
OK, this is a deeply creepy statement, reminiscent of the religious ecstasy that true believers report when they feel themselves to be in direct communication with the divine. First, are such moments of uncontrollable adrenaline-rush desirable? Are they something we’d like to foster among adolescent boys? Probably not, I’d wager, especially if such moments occur in the context of a violent pseudo-sport that by its very nature encourages wanton aggression. I’d further wager that on balance, this is not a socially beneficial impulse to kindle.
Another faulty premise built into Chait’s argument is that young males would have no other method by which to expel their pent-up passions but for football. This is ridiculous. Of course there are other methods by which to accomplish that (worthy) goal. For one, meditation. Yeah, that seems like another prissy “liberal” suggestion, but I’m completely serious. Maybe if meditation were taught in school to children from a young age — as is increasingly the trend, thanks be to God — there wouldn’t be so much aggression flying around.
But for real — even among boys who must find a way to control their uninhibited rages, football is far from the go-to activity. You can slam a ball really hard playing tennis. Basketball can allow for super rough physical contact, although such contact is incidental to the sport, not the entire point of it. Other kids can expend their passions by playing Counter-Strike, or by exploring the woods, or even by reading a book. Football is only considered to be a reasonable avenue for aggression-expulsion because it exists, has undue cultural authority, is an official school-sanctioned endeavor, and parents love it just as much as their progeny.
Hilariously, Chait provides a few anecdotal examples of how football-playing youths such as himself didn’t turn out so bad. One old friend ultimately “started a highly successful private-equity firm” and is therefore a Good, Successful Person despite having bashed dudes in the head everyday after school for a couple years. Another is “married with a beautiful family in San Diego” and therefore also Good. Then there’s Chait himself — well, yeah…
I half-doubt that Chait really believes much of what he’s written here, because the piece is obviously deliberately-timed given the current national “discussion” surrounding football and the constant onslaught of scandals that plague this death cult. (No, it’s not a “sport,” it’s a “death cult.”)
Let’s say he believes a third of it. Does it surprise you, therefore, that Chait also supported the Iraq War? It’s not hard to draw the logical connections.
Whatever. Football is horrible and should be abolished at all levels, immediately. President Obama should issue an executive fiat to that effect. If he can bomb Syria illegally, he might as well also get rid of football.