The end of football
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Up until a few years ago, I was a huge football fan. For most of my life I have been a huge sports fan, as participant, audience member, reader, and general consumer of the details of sports. One of my teachers in grade school predicted I would become a sportswriter. Didn't happen, though.
Maybe it's my age, but sports is no fun anymore. Let me count the ways.
Maybe you saw the Will Smith movie Concussion about CET, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, discovered in the movie by African Catholic pathologist Bennet Omalu in regard to a sudden epidemic among the Pittsburgh Steelers. The disease is caused by repeated concussions. It can only be detected in a particular kind of brain scan after the victim has died. It's a disease that, while the person is alive, causes all kinds of bizarre behavior, depression, hallucinations, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide. I'm talking about rapid decline and collapse.
When I watched football, for most of my life, I was disappointed when a player got a concussion because I knew he would have to come out of the game. Then I learned a concussion was a big deal. Then I saw players continuing to play despite having had two or three concussions. Then I began to worry about the players. I wanted to win, but I certainly didn't want anyone permanently injured. Trainers and team doctors and stubborn players all conspired to keep injured players on the field. While I was in awe of how a guy could play with a broken shoulder, I was dismayed by a player who continued to play after having three concussions. That's stupid and irresponsible on the part of so many people. At that point your judgment is impaired, and you really do need someone to tell you what to do. That never goes down well.
It's always been a violent game, but for years now it's been circling the drain. Guys are too big and fast. Helmets are made tougher, but the unintended consequence is that they are used battering rams. Players are criminals and thugs who get in trouble with the law before, during, and after their sports years. They get spoiled with favors and treated like gods. Many of them are simply genetic mutants. They cheat, lie, take illegal steroids, and lead selfish, indulgent lives. These are not nice guys, so don't feel too sorry for them. They are grown men who can make their own decisions.
Kids play too young, in full pads from too early an age when their bodies have hardly begun to develop. It's taken too seriously, like Little League when I was a kid. The fun has been replaced by a distorted sense of competition. It's about ego and money.
I don't need to say anything about the money and corruption, the lawbreaking and absence of morality. We all know those stories, esp regarding college sports. Schools have sold their souls for football.
High school has become just a training ground for college. For many guys, guys I knew, sports was the only way they could afford college. You might be surprised at how many of them were glad to be done with football. I know players, coaches, doctors, and fans. You might be surprised at the negative comments I've heard from people about pro sports over the past two decades. People are turning it off, guiding their kids maybe toward soccer and other kinds of activities. Hunting is considered preferable to football. Anything but football.
My time at pro games often left me disgusted at fans, who are crude, stupid, drunk, and boo their own teams, something I would never consider. I can't imagine being so stupid to pay a week or month's salary to sit in the nosebleed seats in a huge stadium. Let's not forget how these stadiums get built.
I love sports, but they have been wrecked. Sports was better when I was a kid. If you've heard that before, you shouldn't dismiss it. You should be curious about how it happened.
>1 barney67: I have always disliked football (and all national sports) for all the reasons you gave.
The only sporting event I watch is the Tour de France. When a cyclist is injured he is usually out for the rest of the tour. They can't take the rest of the day off and then rejoin the race. After Lance, they are all scrupulously watched for drug use. And besides, their arena is much more picturesque!
It certainly is picturesque, but we've known for a long time that cycling, too, is rife with cheating.
I expect every game to have cheaters. I didn't expect corruption to become commonplace and so widespread.
Barney, we disagree on a lot of things, but I'm with you on this one.
My small town anecdote: I remember one game on my sophomore team in high school when I had three teammates sent off the field for probable concussions. In those days, the diagnosis was pretty primitive, but our coach Rinaldi would say, "Count backwards from ten." Three guys were addled enough that they couldn't do it well. One was sent off because he couldn't remember the play between the huddle and the snap. He would ask in front of the opposing team, "which hole will it be?" And we had to point it out to him. Sort of ruined the element of surprise.
Of course, that was just one very bad day, but I shudder to think of the long-term consequences for people who play the game for many years. I can say for a fact, though, that a huge number of low-level high-schoolers fucked up their knees and required surgeries.
It's just not worth it.
Better for people to get their ass off the couch and go look at the fall leaves. Or toss around a ball and get up a friendly game on their own. The current professional version should go the way of cock-fighting.
I've never enjoyed football and resented how it stole America's heart from our original national sport, Baseball. Baseball's changed to, but it remains an interestingly-paced, thinking game, for both fans and players, not the endless race of soccer or the disgusting gladiator games of football.
According to a well-known football (calcio, soccer) coach in Italy, baseball games take eleven hours, the fans spend the whole game eating and drinking, and all the action occurs over about 15 minutes. I was told this tonight on the way to my son's baseball practice in Staranzano, Italy, where we have spent the best baseball year of his life so far, best coaching, best fans/parents, least grumbling, etc.
Addendum to above: On Sunday, speaking of cheating, my son's team (he is now 14 and plays in the Under 15 league) played Slovenia's national team (we live in Slovenia, but prefer the Italians and are close enough to choose), which fielded several players ages 15 and above. I warned our coaches, but they said 'We will beat them anyway.' Staranzano won 6-1.
>5 timspalding: Baseball's changed to, but it remains an interestingly-paced, thinking game
Sure, in the same sense that watching paint dry is interestingly-paced.
From Get Fuzzy:
Bucky the Cat: Cool, you're watching baseball. I love baseball.
Bucky's owner: What are you talking about? You can't stay awake through a single inning.
Bucky: Exactly. You can't buy naps like that.
>8 Carnophile: I guess chess is a lousy game as well. Why am I not surprised that Carnophile thinks baseball is dull? A game that encourages sentience...
I prefer baseball, too, but the longer commercial breaks and recent fashions about pitching changes etc. have made it a lot slower. I remember going to a game at Wrigley some time in the early 2000s and and during a break between innings, when the pitcher seemed to be taking an awful lot of warm-up throws, I naively remarked to my friend, "Why are they just standing around? Let's get it going." And he replied that they were waiting for the umpire's sign that the commercials were over and they could resume. Sigh.
One of my most enjoyable reads in the last couple years was David Halberstam's Summer of '49. Not just about a memorable season but about American culture. Definitely worth a look.
Now there's plenty of culture war talk about the baseball/football divide but it's not new--but somehow it flipped. Football went from the game played by rich Yale boys like Tom Buchanan to today's popular religion. You've probably already seen this routine, but George Carlin milked it for decades, in various versions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-638Vd6Hteg
It's all a question of what strikes one as intellectually challenging.
>11 krolik: Worse, 'they' are talking about the pace of play. And while it may be true that the advent of the battting glove has slowed the game, the rest is a matter of commerce. The idea of a pitch clock to speed up the game is uttery idiocy. And I have never read a single article about speeding up the game that has mentioned advertising.
>14 RickHarsch: "And I have never read a single article about speeding up the game that has mentioned advertising."
As Part Of MLB Pace Of Play, Manfred Willing To Look At Shorter TV Commercial Breaks
Rob Manfred says shorter commercial breaks could be MLB’s pace of play solution
Would Fewer Commercials Shorten the Intolerable Length of Baseball Games?
Rob Manfred is open to shortening commercial breaks during MLB games
The Glass House of the NFL
By Victor Davis Hanson
The National Football League is a glass house that was cracking well before Donald Trump's criticism of players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.
The NFL earned an estimated $14 billion last year. But 500-channel television, internet live streaming, video games and all sorts of other televised sports have combined to threaten the league's monopoly on weekend entertainment -- even before recent controversies.
It has become a fad for many players not to stand for the anthem. But it is also becoming a trend for irate fans not to watch the NFL at all.
Multimillionaire young players, mostly in their 20s, often cannot quite explain why they have become so furious at emblems of the country in which they are doing so well.
Their gripes at best seem episodic and are often without supporting data. Are they mad at supposedly inordinate police brutality toward black citizens, or racial disparity caused by bias, or the perceived vulgarity of President Donald Trump?
The result, fairly or not, is that a lot of viewers do not understand why so many young, rich players show such disrespect for their country -- and, by extension, insult their far poorer fans, whose loyal support has helped pay their salaries.
ESPN talking heads and network TV analysts do not help. They often pose as social justice warriors, but they are ill-equipped to offer sermons to fans on their ethical shortcomings that have nothing to do with football.
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.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has received more than $212 million in compensation since 2006, has been a big moneymaker for the owners. Yet otherwise, he has been a public relations disaster, due largely to his incompetent efforts to sound politically correct. Goodell often insists that trivial rules be observed to the letter. For instance, the league denied a request by Dallas Cowboys players to wear small decals honoring Dallas police officers killed in a 2016 shooting.
At other times, Goodell deliberately ignores widespread violations of important NFL regulations -- like the requirement that all players show respect for the American flag by solemnly standing during the national anthem.
The average value of an NFL franchise is estimated at $2.5 billion. The average player salary is nearly $2 million a year. Some of the league's superstars are making more than $20 million a year. Given such wealth, local governments are understandingly becoming miffed that they have to pony up public money to support new NFL stadiums. 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.
Meanwhile, the NFL has successfully lobbied for exemption from federal antitrust regulations. NFL owners are crony capitalists who want the state both to subsidize them and leave them alone.
Racial politics in the NFL have become increasingly problematic. The mega-wealthy franchise owners are almost all white businesspeople. Their multimillionaire players are about 70 percent African-American. So there is little diversity among the players, but even less among the owners.
I love watching test cricket. It's true that some of the action is slow (although a ball travelling at 90 mph is not so languid), but actually cricket has a lot in common with chess and is very much a game for thinkers. A test match lasts five days, and a lot changes during that period, including the weather, the light, the state of both the pitch and the balls, and the fitness and concentration of the players. Fascinating.
If not football then baseball, or soccer, cricket, rugby, boxing, nascar, or RollerBall.
Besides bread (nachos, hot dogs, beer, etc.) the hoi polloi must have circuses. The corporations will supply all and the hoi polloi will knowingly or unknowingly underwrite it all.
Those of us in some intellectual ivory tower can point and laugh but the masses don't notice and would laugh at us if they were aware of us.
The culture of shit will continue to flow down the sewage drain of life until it reaches the sea.
I shall now return to my computer chess game.
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