This year, I gave up football. By that, I mean I decided to stop watching any form of the game – pro, college, whatever. And I stopped reading about football in the newspaper or online. When football stories come on the radio, I switch stations or switch it off. Football and me are through.
This wasn’t easy and it took me several years to make the final break from football. Like many Americans, I was raised watching football on TV. I have many powerful memories from childhood and college of cheering on my teams with friends and family. I enjoyed being a part of football fandom.
What made me quit? Starting about five years ago I began absorbing reports of football players dying young, or getting Alzheimer’s symptoms in their 50s, or living in perpetual agony from knee, back and other injuries. The more I read, the more I realized football has become a brutal, blood sport.
After digging around a bit, I could see a different reality behind the façade of football on TV. Players in high school, college and the pros take dangerous steroids to bulk up. These heavier players are inflicting a terrible toll on each other on the field. Later in life those actions lead to disease, infirmity, and early death, yet the vast majority of the players never make a dime from the game. Even those that make it to the pros generally play just a few short years, suffer many negative consequences, and never earn enough to justify the physical sacrifice.
I believe that, all things being equal, an athlete should live a longer, healthier life than the rest of us. Getting in great physical condition should be a good choice with positive consequences. For most football players, this simply isn’t true.
I also believe that we Americans have an obligation to consciously not be the new Romans. Rome had its massive gladiator spectacles with injury and death on public display. We have football. The two are so close in their social place and function that I had to walk away.
So goodbye football. I won’t miss you. And you can’t have any more of my time. Instead, I’ll do what I can go get in better shape myself.
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