As a high school marching band member, I attended every school football game. So, you’d think I could tell you how the game of football is played, but I can’t. I didn’t enjoy watching boys crash into each other, or the stopping and starting of plays, so I didn’t pay much attention. (On the other hand, I enjoy watching baseball and tennis, more appealing to my sensibilities.)
At the risk of upsetting friends, I want to talk about my antipathy for football, and football culture in American society.
This past year I thought we were on the verge of seriously discussing the issues in football culture. We heard reports about the long-term effects of repeated concussions on players’ brains. Domestic violence scandals involving NFL players dominated the news for weeks, with critical reviews of NFL policies toward bad-boy players. This year’s Super Bowl featured a 30-second ad for the “No More” anti-domestic violence and sexual assault initiative. We heard charges of football deflation, with claims of lies and deception. Maybe now we would find a way to discuss the ethics of football culture, including the idolization of football stars and how football has achieved a nearly religious status in American culture.
Yet, a view of the whole seems elusive. Each negative story has been discussed until the news cycle runs its course, then dropped. It’s a disappointing stop and start of play, just like the game, in my view.
This week, another challenge to football culture on college campuses was presented in a NYTimes op-ed by Joe Nocera, At Rutgers It’s Books vs. Ballgames, 5/12/15. Since two of my children graduated from Rutgers, this one caught my attention. Our family had discussed our displeasure over the growing athletic budget. Nocera writes, “It’s not exactly a secret that big-time college sports often distort priorities on university campuses. But every once in a while, something bursts into public view to put those priorities in glaring relief.” He cites a dispute at Rutgers between faculty members who oppose the athletic department’s “out-of-control costs” against powerful alumni who are seeking increased funding to enable the football team to compete in the Big Ten.