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Concussion

Can’t in Good Conscience Watch the Super Bowl

I used to like football. I thought I wanted to play football in high school, but I was overruled by the adults in my life. But I played in the powder puff games in high school and played intramural flag football in during undergrad. It was fun.

Football was fun to watch . . . sometimes. The guys who play at the college and professional level are incredible athletes. And then I saw the movie, Concussion:

This film made me more aware of the dangers of repetitive head trauma facing football players. It can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that led to several players’ emotional downfall, and several committed suicide. I knew concussions were a risk in this sport, but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the film, estimates that 90% of NFL players have CTE. Unfortunately, this disease can only be diagnosed after death. What’s repulsive is the NFL seems to care more about the money than protecting players’ health and safety. I was pleased to see several players retire early after learning about the risks of CTE.

Knowing what I know, I can’t in good conscious support full-contact football. I can’t even attend a Super Bowl party because it’s based on supporting a sport that’s killing people.

I could support football again if they changed the rules to flag football. It would change the strategy of the game and what skills and abilities are valued in players. Baseball and basketball are comparatively low-contact sports and people enjoy them.

Goal Post 2 by Matt Denton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I asked my friends what they thought of the idea of changing all American football leagues (pop warner – professional) to flag football rules. Some of their reactions were disconcerting:

  • Millions of Americans would lose their favorite means of acting physically aggressive by proxy.
  • I honestly think the vast majority of football fans are like the casual hockey fan – they watch to see the “hits”.
  • There would be way fewer head injuries. Many rabid football fans would also cry about their sport being corrupted by liberal worrywarts, no doubt.
  • It would not be worth watching.

I don’t understand how anyone can endorse and enjoy a sport that is slowly and painfully killing its players. Thankfully some of the responses had a different perspective:

  • It would probably be considerably less popular. But it also might attain a following a “strategy” game.
  • It would stop being a professional sport in the U.S. but would still be a popular sport for kids. I’m thinking something like volleyball in the U.S.
  • The sport would die (and it’s about time it did).

If that’s the price for keeping people alive, I’m ok with that. So, what will Rosie and I be doing this Sunday?

Yes, I’ll be gleefully working on my taxes.
“Gleefully” may be overstating it, but I’ll be happy when they’re done.