Monday, April 16, 2012

Are You Not Entertained?

After the recent hubbub about the bounty program being run by the NFL's New Orleans Saints, there's been even more intense discussion about the violence of football and it's place in society. This is made more complicated because of football's place in society - nothing is more thoroughly entrenched in the US than college football loyalty or Sundays watching the NFL.

It's difficult to critically examine something we like so much.

Even before this incident, it had become more and more troubling for me to continue to watch the NFL. It goes beyond the money and excess of the league, although that should probably be enough. For me, it just seems more and more like watching Gladiators in the arena.

When it comes to that comparison, there's two big differences: the gladiators are willing participants and they're handsomely rewarded. The argument being that if a man wants to take 20 years off his life (and spend his latter years in terrible pain and/or disorientation) that it's his prerogative to do so. Perhaps the shortened life and painful existence is worth knowing his loved ones will be well taken care of after his death.

That negates some facts about how well NFL players are actually paid or how well they spend such money - but the theory is sound given certain assumptions - namely that the person who knows what's best for me is me.

I'm not sure I agree. The longer I live the longer it seems like I'm the last person who knows what's best for me. Sure, ultimately I am responsible for the decisions I make and I do choose whether to follow my own opinion or submit to the authority of others. That doesn't mean I ever fully understand the consequences of my actions or that I do indeed know what's best for myself.

Does handsomely paying our gladiators and creating a society that glorifies the pain and suffering they endure absolve us of the guilt for their abuse and injury? I don't think it's a cut and dry answer either way. Obviously, society has never been all that successful in choosing what's best for people either. I think the best solution is to attempt some balance in between - the best governments find a way to do that.

There is something to be said, however, for those who defend a system that produces such tragic figures (even if those figures are not the majority). Is this macho, self-sacrificial violence really a valuable way to define ourselves? I recall, more than 100 years ago, when President Teddy Roosevelt intervened to make football safer after a rash of deaths on college campuses. He persuaded the powers than be to institute a forward pass.

I can't think of anything that changed the game more. Sure, we might not like the new version of football as much - mostly because it's new. I'm just wondering what price we're willing to pay to make sure the people playing are not paying with their lives.

1 comment:

Odist_Abettor said...

great points. not sure though if it bothers people more the idea that they don't know what's best for themselves or that other people who they don't respect giving them orders