In 1979 I wrote a long article in The Reporter a Catholic teacher’s magazine. It was entitled Catholic schools in Football: Time to Get Out. It caused quite a stir at the time as football was still popular as the autumn sport. I argued on philosophical and ethical grounds that the game was based on violence and to support it in schools sworn to promote the nonviolent ethic of Jesus, the time to quit was now. Almost 40 years later, I am happy to say that football for many other reasons has gone the way of the dodo in Catholic schools. As the modern cliche says, it’s all good. Less than handful are still suiting up. Why?
Today we simply know more about the devastating effects of ,”that detested sport which owes its pleasure to another’s pain” as William Cowper called it in the late 18th century.
The New york Times wrote an editorial on October 15th on this issue—one that should be read in those reactionary parts of the US where football is still king Texas, Alabama etc.
The National Football League began its season last month with a pledge of another $100 million for more research and safer equipment to deal with the traumatic head injuries that have caused premature deaths among retired players and raised threats to the long-term viability of one of America’s favorite, and riskiest, sports.
Not coincidentally, the Pop Warner youth league banned kickoffs for its 5- to 10-year-olds this season to reduce head-snapping collisions among youngsters racing down the field in emulation of professional players.
Fans are now familiar with sad stories of retired pro players suffering from dementia, memory loss and suicidal depression as the aftereffects of hits absorbed on the gridiron. At the other end of the spectrum, parental concern has led to a sharp decline in the number of players in youth leagues for 6- to 14-year olds, from three million in 2010 to about 2.2 million last year. The largest of the youth programs, the Pop Warner league, is facing a class-action suit by parents whose sons were found to have brain degeneration after their playing days.
Amazingly parents are still allowing their most precious charges to play this violent game.
The NFL after paying out millions in a class action suit in 2013 are still ponying up more than $100 million for scientific and equipment research.
No amount of research or equipment change can gainsay the obvious: the game is legalized savagery and for teenage boys still developing with huge weight differentials on the field the game is more like Russian roulette. When the irresistible force meets the unmovable object something’s gotta give…arms, legs, brittle bones and most dangerous of all brains rattling around in skulls.
Listen to the wisdom of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “There’s risks to sitting on the couch,” How inane.
President Obama was much more cautious “It is up to parents to “think long and hard,” about letting their youngsters play the game.”
Why given what we know today would parents take such chances on the most precious and vulnerable people in their families?