Love Of Football May Kick America Down The Path Of Ruination | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Love Of Football May Kick America Down The Path Of Ruination

Play associated audio

This may sound far-fetched, but football reminds me of Venice. Both are so tremendously popular, but it's the very things that made them so that could sow the seeds of their ruin.

Venice, of course, is so special because of its unique island geography, which, as the world's ecosystem changes, is precisely what now puts it at risk. And as it is the violent nature of football that makes it so attractive, the understanding of how that brutality can damage those who play the game is what may threaten it, even as now the sport climbs to ever new heights of popularity.

Boxing, another latently cruel sport, has lost most of its standing, so it is often cited as the example of how football too must eventually be doomed in our more refined, civilized society.

However, the comparisons between boxing and football don't fly because there is a huge difference between individual and team sports.

Football teams represent cities and colleges and schools. The people have built great stadiums, and the game is culturally intertwined with our calendar. We don't go back to college for the college. We go back for a football game, and, yes, we even call that "homecoming." It would take some unimagined cataclysmic event to take football from us. Concussions for young men are the price of our love for football, as broken hearts are what we pay for young love.

Indeed, part of boxing's decline may well be because football has exceeded its display for blood lust. When George Bellows was painting those graphically gruesome boxing paintings a century ago, he noted that the "atmosphere" around the ring was "more immoral" than the brutality within it.

The thrill of watching football is not that players perform with such incredible precision, but that they do so even as they dance in the shadow of collision. Enthusiasm for sport can be a convenient cover to excuse the worst in us.

Of course, the difference between the Venice of Italy and the football here is that everybody loves Venice, but only Americans care about our gridiron.

Football is, and always has been, sport on the edge of that immorality that Bellows saw when he painted men cheering pain; but then, football is also, and always has been, the presumed proof of American manliness — the sport that was the beau ideal of what was called "muscular Christianity."

Way back in 1896, after the president of Harvard University wanted to ban a sport he called "more brutal than cock-fighting or bull-fighting," Henry Cabot Lodge, senator from Massachusetts, responded by declaring that "the injuries incurred on the playing field are the price which the English-speaking race has paid for being world conquerors."

Have no fear. Football is still our own indecent joy. The fighter jets will long fly over the Super Bowl.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In Tom Hanks' iPad App, Typewriters Make Triumphant Return (Ding!)

For iPad users who are nostalgic for the clickety-clack of keystrokes and "ding!" of the carriage return, Hanks has created Hanx Writer, an app that simulates using a typewriter.
NPR

New U.S. Rules Protect Giant Bluefin Tuna

To reduce the number of giant bluefin tuna killed by fishing fleets, the U.S. is putting out new rules about commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the western Atlantic.
WAMU 88.5

Jury Deliberating 14 Counts In McDonnell Trial

As of Tuesday afternoon, there is no word yet from the seven men and five women who are deliberating 14 separate counts against the McDonnells.
NPR

The Troubling Implications Of The Celebrity Photo Leak

To learn more about the recent celebrity photo hack, Melissa Block speaks with Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University. They discuss how the photos might have been obtained.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.