The dying game: football

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Jonathan Kay forsaking his bizarre anti-Palestinian rants he indulges in for the National Post,  wrote a thoughtful column on the coming extinction of football. He began his article with the  growing revelations of the damage done to NFL football players. He then morphed into Rush Limbaugh’s wacky “left wing plot” theory. You know the  rant.The left wants to kill everything that made America great—like football!

Look where football is still huge —in all those Republican states where education funding is the lowest. Canadians would shudder at the brainless football culture in Texas and the Midwest. It even permeates elementary schools-12 year old kids bulking up to get into football factories and the like.  It is a sad residue of another time—like boxing and cock fighting. It is however deep in the culture, though many parents are finally asking questions about its pervasiveness..I am convinced it has much to do with a faux idea of manhood, legalized violence and a big part of the war culture.

Kay continues:

The removal of football as a mass-market sport would be especially traumatic to the country, for it is difficult to overstate how existentially important the game is to Americans, especially in the South and Midwest. A United States without high-school football on Friday night, college gridiron on Saturday and NFL on Sunday will be like Canada without any level of hockey — virtually unimaginable.

 And yet it will happen. That’s because, however invincible football may be as a cultural force in America, it is smashing up against the immovable object of childhood safety. The result will be a whole generation of children growing up with the knowledge that football is not an ordinary sport like basketball or soccer. Simply put, it exceeds the engineering design limits of the human body. And the carnage comes, not just in the form of broken bones, but also broken brains. There are ways to make hockey and soccer safer. But there is no helmet technology in the world that can get us around the fact that a human skull decelerating from full sprint to dead stop in a tiny fraction of a second — an event that comprises the very essence of “good,” “hard-hitting” football; and not just a penalized aberration, as in other sports — cannot protect the mushy contents therein.

 This is the reason I stopped coaching football 40 years ago. I could  no longer bear the violence and the potential for serious injury.

In 1979 I wrote an article stating that Catholic schools should immediately ban the game. Part of my reasoning, maybe the major part, was on philosophical  and theological grounds—anti-violence,anti a Jesus ethic, power over love, the image of God in humans smashed. Then there was the cost, the rising tide of feminism demanding equal  funding in school sports.

Since I wrote the article, football has greatly diminished in  popularity and sponsorship. Phys ed programs have expanded the teaching of  lifelong sports as healthy recreations. For teenagers soccer as a fall game, indeed a more universal one is a healthy substitute. Maybe even rugby where the murderous helmet is absent could be justified. Still the dinosaurs hang on largely jocks of another era.

But the game is surely dying. Not soon enough for me and the thousands of kids who will be spared serious injuries

As a sidebar this week the great bishop of Richmond, Va Walter Sullivan died. Three years after my article appeared in 1979,  Sullivan banned the game in Catholic schools. That surely was  a brave thing to do in the US culture.

 

 

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    wmgrace Says:

    “But there is no helmet technology in the world that can get us around the fact that a human skull decelerating from full sprint to dead stop in a tiny fraction of a second — an event that comprises the very essence of “good,” “hard-hitting” football; and not just a penalized aberration, as in other sports — cannot protect the mushy contents therein.”

    Why airbrush hockey? Hockey players do their best to “decelerate” their opponents motion as often as they can – and the more rapid the deceleration the better, as far as the players and the fans are concerned. That’s the way Canada has always wanted to play it. Lets face it, European hockey has never appealed to the Canadian hockey establishment because it is less about hitting and more about speed and finesse – two things that quite frankly we still lack in Canadian hockey. Playing on the pee-wee sized ice surface of Canadian rinks just doesn’t require great wheels.

    Getting back to the point, check out the statistics on concussions and that should convince you that hard-hitting in hockey is not a “penalized aberration” but rather an un-penalized reality. There always were some devastating hitters in the league but now every team has a few of them and they are highly prized – just like football. Whenever you talk about pro hockey (or almost any other level of hockey) you come face to face with the fact that fighting is an acceptable part of the game – otherwise the leagues would ban it. The penalties for fighting are still relatively minor. I can’t think of any other sport in the world that has incorporated fighting between the players as an integral part of the game, but that is the reality of Canadian hockey. We all know the related horror stories.


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