Damar Hamlin is the latest, but he won’t be the last.
It has been a few years now since I have written about the horrors of big-time football – the shortened lives, the almost certainty of brain damage for those who play, the inordinate number of suicides, and yet the money – oh so much money – driven beat goes on.
Please don’t defend this carnage by saying it is the choice of players to play.
Starting with the peewees, society makes heroes our of football players with talent. The infinitesimal number who make it to the pros earn big money, but like their less talented counterparts they often come away from a high school, college or pro career with concussion addled brain cells, and lingering pain from gridiron injuries.
After the horrific incident in which Mr. Hamlin collapsed on the field with cardiac arrest and in critical condition, columnists once again offered litanies about the danger of the sport. But those warnings die in the din of the violent spectacle that captivates so much of our world.
Yes, I know other sports are dangerous.. I would ban them also, but none has the appeal and reach of big-time football.
Like the gladiators of old players enter the arena knowing at any minute a debilitating injury can permanently alter their lives. Although the Damar Hamlin cases are rare, the fates of the majority of professional football player is predictable.
What is wrong with us that we are addicted to this blood sport. One NY Times headline proclaimed what I have been writing for years,” We Are All complicit in the NFL’s Violent Spectacle.”
Columnist Curt Streeter asked: “Will it take a player nearly dying on national television for us to widen our view and examine why and how we watch?”
I can say with saddened confidence, “No Mr. Streeter,” not even that will do it.
We are too addicted, and there is too much money involved.
As Jenny Vrentas wrote in The Times, “There is a risk of serious injury every single time the football is snapped” And the inherent danger persists …”
“In 15 years of covering the NFL,” she continues, “I have never gotten over how hard the hits are. As a simple matter of physics, the combination of the size and speed of professional football players means that the force of their collisions can be akin to that of a world-class sprinter running into a brick wall.”
“More than 300 former players,” Vrentas notes, have posthumous diagnoses of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Translation: brain damage.
But who cares? Why? Because the league will likely meet NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s goal of earning 25 billion dollars in annual revenue by 2027.
Yes, 25 billion dollars! How many lives, crippled and/or brain damaged bodies is that worth?
For my money, not one!
I have said it before, and I will say it again even though I know I am spitting into the wind: When it comes to big time football, we are either part of the problem by continuing to watch, or we are part of the solution by turning away. Yes, we must turn away, once and for all, from the carnage.