In highschool my friend called Football Players modern day Gladiators. I vehemently argued with him at the time. Now, I’m not so sure.
Many of these players grew up with little, and their physical prowess and talent for this sport offers them a path out of poverty, not just for them but for their whole family and circle of friends. With the money they can make playing pro football at a high level they could potentially support dozens of loved ones for life.
This is the same incentive that poor Germans had to join Hitler’s army. While I cannot compare the NFL to the Holocaust, I do wonder what the NFL’s body count actually is…
One important piece of information that I’ve learned is that it is not the concussions that destroy player’s brains. It’s the hundreds or thousands of “car crash-like” collisions, or sub-concussions, every single player experiences over the course of their career. Every time they tackle/are tackled their brains are shaken inside their skulls. If every game has around 100ish plays (low-balling here), and a player is only in the game for 50% of those plays, that’s still 50 car crashes every.damn.game. And that doesn’t even include practice, 4-5 days a week, sometimes twice a day.
I love watching football. I enjoy seeing what the human body can achieve. The amazing catches, the tricky plays that result in touchdown, and yes, the hits. It makes me ill to think that I am being entertained while these amazing humans are destroying their brains.
And I can’t do it anymore. In my house, I am the football fan. There are no obstacles to quitting, except my own love of the game. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote this post, and I’ve studiously avoided checking up on NFL news, I deleted the app from my phone, I scroll past the Sports section on my news site.
We’ll see how I do when pre-season begins. Till then, some links for you.
Nathan Bransford, Is It Ethical to Watch Football?
Yes, the players are there willingly. Yes, they’re well-compensated (at least the pros). Yes, the NFL has taken steps to punish helmet to helmet hits, which mollified me some. But should we really be supporting a system that incentivizes people to destroy their brains for our pleasure?
I can imagine how difficult it would be to turn down a million dollars today to do something that may or may not destroy my brain in 20 years time…
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junior Seau is Dead
I now know that I have to go. I have known it for a while now. But I have yet to walk away. For me, the hardest portion is living apart–destroying something that binds me to friends and family. With people whom I would not pass another words, I can debate the greatest running back of all time. It’s like losing a language.
I’m not here to dictate other people’s morality. I’m certainly not here to call for banning of the risky activities of consenting adults. And my moral calculus is my own. Surely it is a man’s right to endanger his body, and just as it is my right to decline to watch.
Football has unlocked many relationships in my life, with my dad, with my guy friends in highschool and college, with co-workers and clients. I thank my lucky stars that PapaMakes is on the same page.
Malcolm Gladwell, Football, dogfighting and brain damage
““Lately, I’ve tried to break it down,” Turley said. “I remember, every season, multiple occasions where I’d hit someone so hard that my eyes went cross-eyed, and they wouldn’t come uncrossed for a full series of plays. You are just out there, trying to hit the guy in the middle, because there are three of them. You don’t remember much. There are the cases where you hit a guy and you’d get into a collision where everything goes off. You’re dazed. And there are the others where you are involved in a big, long drive. You start on your own five-yard line, and drive all the way down the field—fifteen, eighteen plays in a row sometimes. Every play: collision, collision, collision. By the time you get to the other end of the field, you’re seeing spots. You feel like you are going to black out. Literally, these white explosions—boom, boom, boom—lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter…”
“That’s football. You’re told either that you’re hurt or that you’re injured. There is no middle ground. If you are hurt, you can play. If you are injured, you can’t, and the line is whether you can walk and if you can put on a helmet and pads.”
McKee … has now examined the brains of sixteen ex-athletes, most of them ex-football players. Some had long careers and some played only in college. Some died of dementia. Some died of unrelated causes. Some were old. Some were young. Most were linemen or linebackers, although there was one wide receiver. In one case, a man who had been a linebacker for sixteen years, you could see, without the aid of magnification, that there was trouble: there was a shiny tan layer of scar tissue, right on the surface of the frontal lobe, where the brain had repeatedly slammed into the skull. It was the kind of scar you’d get only if you used your head as a battering ram. You could also see that some of the openings in the brain were larger than you’d expect, as if the surrounding tissue had died and shrunk away.
…a ten-year N.F.L. veteran, when you bring in his college and high-school playing days, could well have been hit in the head eighteen thousand times: that’s thousands of jarring blows that shake the brain from front to back and side to side, stretching and weakening and tearing the connections among nerve cells, and making the brain increasingly vulnerable to long-term damage.
*I should just re-post the whole thing, I want to pull so many bits from it. Just head over and read the whole thing yourself. Don’t do it near an open window, though. Flies will end up in your mouth because your jaw will be on the floor…
There is no evidence that Ray Easterling ever did anything during his NFL career beyond the simple demands of his job as a defensive back. In the course of his employment, the eventual destruction of his ability to reason was an inevitable consequence of that employment. Ray Easterling’s eventual dementia was as inevitable a result of the work he did for a living as black lung is for coal miners, or mesothelioma is for the people who work with asbestos. That this simple fact is obscured by an affection the country has for its football is a symptom of a country that has let that affection compromise its moral bearings.
We ought not to allow people to be destroyed — either all at once, or one concussion at a time — for our amusement. Doing so makes us amoral. Hell, it makes us vampires.
Grantland, What Would the End of Football Look Like?
If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure colleges and high schools against football-related lawsuits. Coaches, team physicians, and referees would become increasingly nervous about their financial exposure in our litigious society. If you are coaching a high school football team, or refereeing a game as a volunteer, it is sobering to think that you could be hit with a $2 million lawsuit at any point in time. A lot of people will see it as easier to just stay away.
The end of football might be closer than we think…
NBC Sports, Mega-Lawsuit says NFL hid brain injury links
A concussion-related lawsuit bringing together scores of cases has been filed in federal court, accusing the NFL of hiding information that linked football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries.
Lawyers for former players say more than 80 pending lawsuits are consolidated in the “master complaint” filed Thursday in Philadelphia.
Plaintiffs hope to hold the NFL responsible for the care of players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions. Other former players remain asymptomatic, but worry about the future and want medical monitoring. The helmet-maker Riddell, Inc. also is named as a defendant.
“The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result,” the complaint charges.
“Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem.”
The NFL provides a series of medical benefits to former NFL players to help them after football, including joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program.
One of the programs, the 88 Plan, named after Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, provides funding to treat dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. Players do not need to demonstrate that the condition was caused by their participation in the NFL.
The league says that in partnership with the NFLPA it has spent more than a billion dollars on pensions, medical and disability benefits for retired players.
*Are you a football fan? Why or why not? Will you be watching this season?