Saturday, September 1, 2012

football culture

Today is "game day" in Lubbock, and I'm aware that a large amount of cultural energy is wrapped up in the football industry. The Will Rogers statue is red; there is a "Raider Walk," some people will be doing serious tailgating all day, etc.

At the same time a body of research is showing how bad football really is. To put it bluntly, rattling your brain repeatedly tends to wreck it. I used to think that the main thing wrong with football was that you can only run in one direction, and your knees can only bend in one direction, but they come at you from all directions. No, the worst part of it is that your brain turns to mush after a while. In short, football is killing people. This article is a gateway to lots of the recent information about it.

So at this point you might be furious at me for bringing it up, or overjoyed that somebody is saying it bluntly. Either way, we live in a polarized world, and this issue may polarize us more. But actually, I'd like to be objective about it. Is there a way to save football? Or, will it be like smoking: We find out it's deadly; some of us reject it outright and teach our kids to do so; eventually most people reject it, because the culture gets smarter.

Football (American football) grew up with television; its primary advantage is that it's fun to watch, especially from above where you can see the whole pattern. But to the people down in the thick of it, its most notable characteristics include how easily it rattles your whole body, and how easily you can break knees, elbows, etc. I played it a little when I was growing up and had fun, especially when we played it on mud. There was a touch version that was especially fun to play though I can see how people prefer the hard version. The tricky part, for those of us who love the game itself, is going to be how to save it. Can we make helmets better without sacrificing movement, or vision? Can we make it so parents don't have to feel like they're sacrificing their boys to the great god of American entertainment? I'm not sure.

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