Sunday, February 2, 2014

Are Football Fans Immoral If They Watch the Superbowl? NO!

Mr. Almond asks: "Am I absolutely moral if I watch the Superbowl?"  The Cube doth reply, 'No!'  

According to Steve Almond, in last Sunday's New York Times magazine ('A Fan's Farewell Note', p. 44), those of us who tune in to watch the Superbowl today  will be de facto moral reprobates. Or at least accomplices to an immoral industry and sport. Almond reminds us that the evidence is now incontestable that "catastrophic brain injury" occurs "routinely" as part of the game, and this puts fans in a "morally queasy position". According to Almond:

"We not only tolerate this brutality, we sponsor it just by watching at home."

Huh? How do I "sponsor" it if I am merely a passive spectator, especially if my team isn't even in it - so I haven't purchased any gear - like sweatshirts or team caps from  All we ordinary fans are doing is enjoying what promises to be a memorable sports event with the Number one ranked defense in Seattle vs. the No. 1 ranked offense in Denver?

Mr. Almond does agree to the game's popularity and he admits that he's aware "more than 100 million will watch the game" and "most of my friends will be parked in front of their TVs" - but he adds that he won't be among them. Oh no! He is making his statement to stand against NFL- promoted brutality and will not be among them. This is his swan song to the game ...a "fan's farewell."

Well, more power to you, dude, but don't expect many of us to join you! What is Almond's problem? In his own words, it's that he "can no longer indulge "(the pleasures of viewing great plays) because he "feels complicit" when he does.  I can't explain that kind of thinking, because it makes no sense - it's almost like "sympathetic magic" . How can you feel "complicit" if you don't really control any of the game's directions or fortunes? That's attributing way more power to the fans than they're capable of.

To his credit, Almond does concede there are two "rationalizations" that NFL fans invoke to defend their sport: 1)The NFL is working to make the game safer, and 2) All players CHOOSE to incur the game's risks and are lavishly compensated for doing so.

Almond asserts that excuse (1) is "flimsy at best" - since for years the league denied any neurological damage as a result of hard hits. (Well, we know this! That was part of the popularity of the sport, hence the success of videos like "NFL's Hardest Hits').  The problem is, as the NFL has kowtowed to the nervous Nellies, and helmet to helmet hits have been disallowed, as well as other hits that ordinarily were ok in the olden days - players are now going for the legs. So, in striving for  a putative safety in one area, players end up often losing their careers on account of leg injuries from which they're unable to return.

This brings up (2) which Almond acknowledges is "technically true".  Indeed, even the lowest rung "utility"  or "practice squad" players on an NFL team earn vastly more than high school algebra teachers- which is the REAL immorality - if Almond truly wishes to find such. It shows how inverted the nation's priorities are. So, given this inversion something has to 'give'  in terms of offset. There has to be some element in this highly remunerated  NFL game that warrants the mega-salaries or even vastly larger salaries than benefit the hoi polloi.  That is the risk of specific kinds of injuries- which ALL players have to know about before they sign on.

This game isn't croquet after all! The very nature of the game , i.e. in asking two sets of 11 large sized men to confront and stop each other,  calls for violence!  You're not going to stop the other guy across from you by calling him names!  Also, contrary to myth, football can be violent even in its tag or flag variation. When I attended Monsignor Pace High (1962-64) there was no varsity or other tackle football team yet - but we did have intramural tag teams. I played inside LB for one such intramural team - and my job was to sack the quarterback. I loved it. And be aware that on every down that meant crashing through blocks of the O-line using arms, elbows. That meant you sported bruises after each game, though maybe not concussions.

Given this, it's ludicrous for Almond to also take issue with the sport as played "by kids with limited options" - who then look on the NFL as their path to "riches and glory".  But see, it is the parents' job to temper their kids' expectations and let them know that only 1 of every 5,000 HS players will make it to the NFL. And only 1 of every 150 of those will reach true celeb status, including the million dollar endorsement deals and other perks. The parents are the ones that have to impart the reality, not the NFL.

In the end, I plan to enjoy the game today with my brats, beer, burgers, chips and dips. Almond can go to his computer and/or read a book if he wants to.

As to how the game will play out - I detect a seething Seahawks team, especially angry after Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman were snubbed for top defense honors - and eager to prove something after Peyton Manning has held center stage all week.  My prediction:

Seattle 34 Denver 17

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