Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Secular Sermon: Foolball

Leather football helmet with built-in glasses, 1930

It's time for my every other year football rant. Today's rant is courtesy of this fine article by Mark Whicker for the LA Daily News. It's the story of a young man brought down by years of brain trauma, and we all know it's been going on and continues going on and will continue to go on. The article was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine from college who happens to be Whicker's wife and also a fine sports journalist. A lot of my other friends on Facebook are posting pictures of their sons' newly buzz-cut heads as they prepare for another season of football at their respective high schools, heads that will be at a ridiculous high risk for concussion, if they haven't already had one.

I just don't understand -- on any level -- why football continues to draw tens of thousands of kids at ever younger ages when we know the chance of serious head injury is quite substantial. The amount of glory football players even in high schools continue to get boggles the mind. I imagine the same kids who play at these high schools would be thrown out of high school if they smoked one joint and were caught. Then again, smoking a joint is illegal, and playing football is evidently exhilarating, fun and wholesome, part of what it means to be an American. That's interesting to me and actually quite ironic, given marijuana's efficacy in helping football players with head injuries. Evidently, the NFL has a plan for victims with dementia, of which there are legion: $88,000 a year if you're hospitalized. Like so much else in American culture, prevention is not the key. We like to damage things first and pay up later. Bomb the hell out of a country and then award millions of dollars to contractors and corporations to build it back up. Call it hearts and minds. Pay tens of millions of dollars to fuel an industry that begins at age four or five years old, kneel in prayer before a game and then beat the shit out of the opposing team, later stand by as legions of middle-aged men become collateral, descend into madness, depression, alcoholism and dementia, pay them tens of thousands of dollars and then invest millions in businesses to make safer helmets.

Oh, and start investigating the efficacy of marijuana in healing brain injury, which I suppose has its upside. The NFL is probably a hell of a lot more influential in getting marijuana okayed by the Powers That Be than a bunch of parents with dying or epileptic kids.

Play ball!


  1. Whoa. You flattened me with this one.
    I will say that boys just seem to want to play contact sports. Or do crazy things like join the Marines. No matter how we raise them. I really do think it's in our DNA- the young boys went out to hunt down the mammoths and bring back the meat. They don't have that outlet anymore.
    I don't know, Elizabeth. I just know that you write so powerfully and get right to the blood and bone.

  2. I will just cosign Ms. Moon and say that your writing is beautiful, bold and powerful. Which is why I come to read your words. I won't go into much more than that on this subject. But I will say this: Something about the way you write makes me want to go knock on somebody's door and give them an earful about exactly what I think. I dig having people like that in my life.

  3. My son went out for football in 9th grade. He was scrawny and didn't make the team. I was glad. He was too.

  4. I agree, this is powerful. I am glad I don't have a son that I have to have such a conversation with as my answer would be, "no way!" And how sad that the football industry would make more progress on the marijuana issues then dying kids and epileptics. That's just fucked up.

  5. There's a percentage of boys and young men who go into football with the notion that...".Yeah, it's dangerous and I'm scared of it but what else can I do if all the other guys are doing it ?". And then there's an element of hopeful young men, and so very impressionable kids, who think the massive amounts of money and fame that may follow are well worth the risks. And then there's the issue of the constant head buts in soccer that give the same injury and baseball helmets - give me a break! This is 2015, a good society should be able to at least take the edges, at least the edges!, off that whole "built into them" thing.

    Both ways of thinking are wrong and the only thing that will probably ever change this thing is mother's, and father's even more so - especially FATHER'S - getting educated enough and involved enough and insistent enough to change the thinking. But there is a growing number of people like you Elizabeth, who are raising aware young men who think deeper and act more consciously. It's not an insignificant number.
    It will change, I really think it will, but not for a long time and not until there are legions of men, young and old, taken down. But it will never, ever be where we want it to be. Never. Very sad.

  6. As you know, this is a rant with which I totally agree. I have never understood the public fascination with football. At least we have largely moved away from boxing as a popular spectator sport.

    That picture is amazing. Look at that poor guy's distorted eyes.

  7. Lacrosse is behind only football in youth concussion. It's where one draws the line. Actually the special mouth guards used by some schools, (the pricey private ones) reduce the concussion risks to just about lacrosse level with the usual fare that most kids use, so those parents who have kids in mouth guard sports might want to invest in those. They are, about 20X the price and more than those plastic cheapies you boil.

    Parents are getting the message. There has been a sharp dip in youth football enrollment, notably in Pop Warner, where the stats show this clearly.

  8. Money money money money (think Pink Floyd). That's why. Just like most everything else in this country.

  9. I have said it before but you have such a way with words. I have thought all of these things about football but have never been able to articulate them.
    I wonder if the love of these violent sports is somehow linked to our link to survival of the fittest. It isn't politically correct to kill someone who is different but it is OK to pummel them into the ground. And of course you pray first! Makes me think we are not as evolved as everyone thinks.

  10. I love this post to pieces. My parents' sports hero was Arnold Palmer and, since they had all daughters, we grew up knowing nothing about football other than their unified party line, which was that it's a weird sport that can make players end up with brain damage. When I was first forced to watch a game, by a boyfriend, I just couldn't understand why people are rabid fans. Maybe it's like auto racing. At their cores, audiences are hoping someone will be injured and/or die.



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