When I clicked the link to the article in the New York Times and the title of the article was "Should You Watch Football?" I thought: Is this a trick question?
Should I watch football? Does that question mean to point out that shouldn't I be doing laundry or writing that article that is due next week? Shouldn't I be out building habitats for humanity? Yeah, probably, but that isn't what Michael Sokolove was asking.
Sokolove is asking if we are irresponsible for supporting a sport that is so violent.
Let me back up for a second. This is kind of weird, but I am going to quote myself. This was from a post I wrote a week and a half ago when the NFL announced it was changing some of its rules.
After the brutality of week 5 – James Harrison knocked out two Browns, Dunta Robinson lead with his head and knocked himself out and he took DeSean Jackson out with him, and Brian Meriweather knocked the crap out of Todd Heap – the NFL decided that this cannot go on. It is too dangerous.
The word on the street (and by “the street” I mean ESPN) is that tomorrow the NFL will announce that effective immediately, even first-time offenders face suspension for “devastating hits” and “head shots,” or so says Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations.
That week was bad. Beside the incidents I mentioned above, a college football player was paralyzed form the neck down when he was making a tackle. Nobody wants that, and the NFL is making huge strides to make the game safer.
Football is a dangerous game. There is no avoiding that fact. Knocking people down is part of every single play. Critics think that people should just stop playing football - that it is too dangerous. Concussions can cause brain damage, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and depression. Spinal injuries can cause paralysis. These same critics are opposed to boxing.
I understand that. I guess. The thing is, football and boxing are voluntary. Nobody has to play football. Every man in the NFL knows the risks.
The critics don't like it at all. But what about the fans?
Momma Rollett has this all worked out:
There seem to be three basic positions on the issue:
1. Those who feel that the violence IS the game, and that any attempt to make the game safer (or "wussify" it, as some would have it) changes its basic character in an unacceptable manner;
2. Those that don't want to see the game toned down, but don't like to see head hits; and
3. Those who think that avoiding head injuries is more important than preserving the "historical character" of the game.
I think I fall somewhere between 2 and 3. I want people to be safe, but part of the reason I like football so much is the physicality of it. It taps into something primal in me.
I've been watching football for a long time, and I think the NFL is doing an admirable job trying to keep their players as safe as possible. Almost every season there are new rules implemented that are intended to protect the athletes. I applaud the new guidelines.
Should we stop watching football because it is too violent? Not if we are going to keep watching Oliver Stone films and the 5:00 news.
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