Culture Fail: Football Season

Football just isn’t the same anymore. Gone are the days when local men played the game to represent their home city. Gone are the days when being a professional athlete granted nothing more than local heroism and a small paycheck. Gone are the days when young boys dreamt of playing the game because it meant being part of something bigger than themselves.

Now, professional football represents levels of drama rivaled only by big screen productions classified as just that: drama. In addition to a radical increase in head injuries, especially among youths, football games are now characterized by questionable officiating, intoxicating advertising, and complete asininity.

The fans, usually peaceful, competent people, turn into raving lunatics who shriek obscenities at officials, spit on players from rival teams, and throw trash onto the field.

Players, in addition to incurring allegations involving drugs, sex, and alcohol, are dying at age 40 from brain damage sustained during the early parts of their careers.

Is this really something we should be encouraging our young children to get involved in? A sport that teaches them techniques designed to “lay out” opponents. A game of many players, that doesn’t lend itself well to adaptations for lower skill levels. An activity that leads the sports world in statistics related to head injuries.

Speaking of head injuries, here are some numbers to consider: a 2009 study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found former NFL players had rates of Alzheimer’s or other memory-related diseases 19 times higher than that of normal men between the ages of 30 and 49. A 2007 study surveying over 1,000 former NFL players found that 60 percent of them had suffered at least one concussion during their career; 26 percent reported three or more.

Even more frightening are statistics for children at the high school level and younger. In the last 15 years, at least 50 youths have died or sustained serious head injuries on the field.  2010 alone recorded five catastrophic spinal cord injuries. When considering the implications of such injuries on the developing brains of young players, it’s a wonder that participation is so venerated.

Football, like other sports, used to represent something important: commitment, skill, respect, and community. Now, football represents the consumption of crappy beer, the donning of ridiculous outfits, and the spending of copious amounts of money. While it’s hard to argue against encouraging athletics for youngsters, football season couples danger with drama and fails not only to set respectable goals for up and coming players, but fails to uphold its foundation of sportsmanship and respect. It does itself and those who so closely follow its season an outrageous disservice. And its fans love to let it.

By Lisa Tedder