5.1.18

IS IT FAREWELL TO FOOTBALL?

Yes, I've lost interest in the playoffs with the Green Bay Packers eliminated.  The articles I'm commenting on today, though, went on-line before that amazing rally in Dallas had visions of Super Bowls dancing in people's heads.  (The rally was necessary because the defense was already questionable, but I digress.)

What ought be dancing in people's heads are visions of strong men taking too many hits to the head.  The American Conservative's David Gornoski puts it this way.  "Our reckoning with violence will cause the NFL to go the way of the circus."  The circus analogy is probably wrong, as elephants are for kids to ride, they're not whipped during their acts, and anyway, as long as there are jugglers and acrobats, there will be circus.

In football, though, bigger, faster, stronger turn into more injuries.  Mr Gornoski suggests it's time to get beyond the human sacrifices of Rome, even in metaphor.
[T]he state, in collusion with powerful corporate allies, uses spectacles like football to distract and pacify the people. Instead of the violent slaughtering of Roman games, our Christianized culture sends players into simulated, padded warfare. We pick teams to unite our personal lives under and forget about the state’s socio- and economic abuses just outside our doorsteps. Studies even suggest that violent crime drops during major televised sporting events.

But now, Trump and his liberal mirror rivals have pierced the veil by injecting the NFL with the profanity of politics: the realm where real factions use real violence of the state to punish their rivals through regulations, mandates, and taxes. When Trump said “fire them” about the protesting players, invoking the specter of both the penal and paternal side of government, forcing people to take sides and not over the gridiron but at either side of the water cooler and dinner table, it did the game no favors.

Eventually, it took a church monk named Telemachus challenging the violent sacrifice of the Roman gladiatorial games to end their carnage. He climbed into the arena and protested until he was summarily slaughtered. His self-sacrifice for the defense of victims led to the public’s loss of appetite for the violence.The last known Roman gladiatorial event was in 404 AD, less than two decades after Telemachus’s death.
Yes, in fifteen centuries, we might have learned a few things.
Today, myriad scandals serve as a persistent Telemachus threatening to bring the NFL down. Mothers and fathers all around the country are pulling their sons out of football due to the increased revelations of concussions and resulting brain damage caused by the sport. Whereas Roman citizens demanded their fighters stripped of armor to maximize carnage, increased paddings will end up making players look like Michelin men with bobble head-sized helmets.

In Rome, no one cared how gladiators treated their lovers. Today, growing public disgust with widespread reports of spousal abuse is souring the NFL’s mystique.

In college, the NCAA’s state-protected profiteering off of unpaid players’ physical sacrifice is increasingly criticized as well.

Meanwhile, diehard fans once thrilled by simulated violence are losing interest with ever constrained penalty rules and concussion concerns. The suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the game is waning: talks of brain damage, flags no longer able to unify people around soldiers’ sacrificial deaths, spousal abuse, and racial undertones are all exposing football as just a silly game to appease desires for tribalism and aggression—and make fat cat owners fatter. Not worth all the drama.

We should be proud that we do not send hungry lions into arenas with naked prisoners anymore. We have made progress because of Christianity’s leavening of the collective’s history-long abuse against the misfit person. Yet absent such gladiatorial games, our culture must confront our sacrifices of the innocent and nonviolent to appease our love for aggression as the means of keeping peace.
Victor Hanson also thinks along the lines of injuries, and the antiquities. Perhaps, though, the football establishment isn't thinking clearly about its audience.
In truth, the NFL's hard-core fan base is not comprised of bicoastal hipsters. Rather, the league's fan base is formed mostly by red-state Americans -- and many of them are becoming increasingly turned off by the culture of professional football.

Professional athletes are frequently viewed as role models. Yet since 2000, more than 850 NFL players have been arrested, some of them convicted of heinous crimes and abuse against women.

The old idea of quiet sportsmanship -- downplaying one's own achievements while crediting the accomplishments of others -- is being overshadowed by individual showboating.

Players are now bigger, faster and harder-hitting than in the past. Research has revealed a possible epidemic of traumatic brain injuries and other crippling injuries among NFL players. Such harm threatens to reduce the pool of future NFL players.

There is a growing public perception that the NFL is less a reflection of the kind of athleticism seen in basketball or baseball, and more a reflection of the violence of Mixed Martial Arts -- or of gladiators in the ancient Roman Colosseum.
We may know that football is finished when a city government says no to the extortion.
Over the last two decades, the American public has shelled out more than $7 billion to build or renovate NFL stadiums. Billionaire owners are able to blackmail the public to pay to keep a franchise or else lose it to a city that offers bigger stadium subsidies.
We'll be watching.

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