While football remains America’s favorite sport, a long-time fan says with all the damage it causes players, we should stop watching and supporting the game.
Writer Steve Almond is sparking a huge national debate after the release of an excerpt from his forthcoming book, “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.”
Almond says he started thinking about his love of football after his mother was hospitalized for treatment of an acute brain episode that left her temporarily delirious.
“Seeing my mom so reduced had a curious effect on me: I found myself feeling more and more complicit about my love of football, a game that destroys men’s brains as a matter of course,” he writes.
Almond says he looked closely at a “growing body of medical research” he argues has confirmed football regularly causes traumatic brain injury “as a routine byproduct of how the game is played.” He says it’s wrong for us to continue supporting it.
“Over the past year, I’ve studied the history of football and thought a lot about what the game means,” he writes. “I’ve come to believe that football fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, misogyny, and militarism. I believe it does economic damage to our communities and to the national soul. These are some of the reasons why I’ve stopped watching.”
But Almond’s arguments are drawing sharp rebukes.
“The fact is that everybody who chooses to play football knows the risks, assumes the risks and has decided that the rewards of playing are greater than the risks of playing,” says KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, the longtime host of Seahawks’ game broadcasts. “If they’re willing to assume the risks, why should any of us boycott the sport as a result?”
Former Seahawks’ quarterback Sam Adkins calls it an extreme overreaction. He points to recent statistics showing the NFL recorded 228 diagnosed concussions during all preseason and regular season practices and games combined during the 2013 season, an average of less than one per game.
“I don’t think that’s something that’s so atrocious,” Adkins says. “You look at the few that get the headlines, and I think that once you carve away from those and look at the total numbers and put it into perspective, it’s a miniscule percentage.”
Former Seahawks’ defensive back Paul Moyer is also critical of Almond’s call for us to stop watching the game.
“The beauty is, in America you have the right to do whatever you want, and I don’t think the NFL will miss him that much,” Moyer says.
Moyer argues the NFL has taken steps to make the game safer, adopting new rules and procedures for detecting and treating head injuries.
“You try to do the best with what you know today and make it safer, teach better tackling, have better gear and better technology, and hope the game evolves,” he says.
But Almond argues supporting a form of entertainment that causes human beings to suffer brain damage is not only wrong, it’s immoral.
Regardless, it’s unlikely his book will do little more than spark heated discussion. With the NFL at an all-time high for ratings and revenues, it’s doubtful many fans will turn away from the beloved game as he has.