On Sunday, February 5, America will observe for the fifty-first time what has evolved into our most observed national holiday: Super Bowl Sunday. I call it “The Concussion Bowl.”
Count Me Out!
It is clear now, beyond any shadow of a doubt that the collisions that are integral to tackle football on any level inflict lasting long-term injuries on participants. Many suffer serious brain injuries that lead to depression, dementia, inordinate instances of suicide and early death.
One of the greatest college football—and until his debilitating injury, one of the great pro—football players, Bo Jackson, has said he will forbid his son from playing football. As his old ad correctly put it, “Bo knows football.”
What about the rest of us?
In the face of such evidence each individual faces a stark and daunting choice: You can be part of the ongoing pattern of injury and early death that football inflicts by watching, supporting your team and buying their merchandise, or you can be part of the solution by turning it off and turning away.
Football today is as much a part of our national culture as, say, cigarettes were in the 50’s.
In those days, great athletes, doctors and dentists publicly appeared in ads peddling cigarettes to impressionable and easily influenced young people. Nobody thought much about it.
Now we know better!
Similarly, football has become a national religion. The biggest campus heroes—whether the campus is high school or college—are often the football stars. So many impressionable kids want to be like them.
That was OK before we learned conclusively the damage football causes—long term and permanent damage—to so many who participate.
Now we know better!
Oh, I know, some will claim that players know the risks, but they make the adult choice to participate. I admit there is some truth to that.
But it is also true that such an attitude sends an awful message about our values as a human society. When we condone and even laud those who risk permanent bodily injury and early death only for the sake of our amusement, entertainment or gambling enrichment, we diminish ourselves immeasurably.
As a rabbi I would add, that we diminish the Divine Image in which God created us.
I don’t so much blame the players for developing and using their talents in this way. For kids the lure—however long the odds—of a free college education and, for the truly elite, millions of dollars, is irresistible. Moreover, their elders have conditioned them—from one generation to another–to yearn and strive for the glory involved.
No I don’t blame the players, but I do blame the enablers–the owners, managers and most of all the fans–who perpetuate this lamentable culture.
I only pray that one day football will go the way of the once glamorized and openly advertised cigarette: banned in all public places!
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