At a fundamental level, the sheer brutal force of football should be enough to deter the general public from paying any attention to the sport. Millions of people watching players hit each other with the ferocity of a car accident should be an indictment of our culture in the United States. By watching each week, millions of viewers implicitly approve of the toxic culture within the sport.
This past summer, a University of Maryland football player, Jordan McNair, died of heatstroke because his coaches did not take his fainting seriously. The head coach of Ohio State’s football team, Urban Meyer, turned a blind eye to an assistant coach’s serial physical abuse of his wife. The university suspended him for three cupcake games against teams that do not have a chance of beating Ohio State.
The National Football League (NFL) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are both morally bankrupt institutions that exploit the worst of human nature. The players are underpaid for the risks they have to take and demonized for asking to get paid what they are worth.
The culture of football is being torn apart at its very foundation. Sports, which are supposed to be above the political fray and bring the country together, are being used as just another political tactic.
Sports serve as a neutral space in which everyone can just turn their brains off and enjoy the rawest of human emotions. When I watch Aaron Rodgers in the pocket, I’m not thinking about an assignment due the next morning. I’m wondering what he’s going to run on third and five against a four man rush.
Even though Stony Brook’s football team failed to gain 100 yards of offense two weeks ago against the Air Force Academy, the simplicity of the Academy’s triple option offense in 2018 brings a smile to my face.
Take last weekend’s amazing opening NFL games.
The Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Sunday night game was an instant classic. In the first half, the Bears’ newest weapon, all pro defensive end, Khalil Mack, dominated the Packers to the tune of two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception that he returned for a touchdown, all of which occured in the first half.
In addition to Mack’s brilliance, the injury to future hall of fame quarterback, Rodgers, set the table for one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. The quarterback had injured his knee when a Bears player landed on it at an awkward angle. Going into halftime, the Packers were trailing 20-3 and without the highest paid player in the league.
Somehow, Rodgers improbably limped out of the tunnel to start the second half, unable to place weight on his injured left knee. Yet, Rodgers willed his Packers back into the game, throwing three touchdown passes and 273 yards on one leg.
While watching this play out, I’m thinking about Rodgers’ life after football. In his career, the quarterback has broken his clavicle twice and has the typical wear and tear on his body of a football player. Will Rodgers be able to lift his arms over his shoulders when he’s 50 years old?
These are the type of questions that keep the “NFL is in trouble” take in the background.
At one point, 14-1 underdogs in the game going into the half, the Packers pulled off a 21-point swing and won the game 24-23. The Packers and Bears game alone should pump the brakes on any argument about the impending doom of the NFL.
Football is still the most watched sport in the United States according to Statista. While there was a slight dip in ratings last season compared to previous years, there is a combination of factors at play aside from the players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice. The declining ratings do not account for the number of households that have gotten rid of their cable service and now elect to stream games instead.
The sheer number of people that no longer subscribe to cable means that there are fewer TV sets as a whole. In fact, when accounting for the fewer number of TVs as a whole, the NFL ratings were actually up this past season in comparison to scripted television.
There was something magical about watching Rodgers uncork a 40-yard bomb down the field on one leg, and it is a testament to just how special the game of football is.
The long term impacts of the game of football are finally being understood — players are suffering from Concussion Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other debilitating injuries that alter their standard of living. The moral decay of a sport in which kids as young as five hit each other with the allure of playing in a stadium of 100,000 people reflects where America is as a country.
The NFL very may well be the modern equivalent to Rome’s Bread and Circuses, but all I want to know is, can Rodgers limp through two months on a sprained knee and lead the Packers to the playoffs?