FanDuel - WFBC

October 23, 2010

Should We Watch Football?: "Is it morally defensible to watch a sport whose level of violence is demonstrably destructive?" Michael Sokolove asks in the New York Times. "What if the brain injuries are so endemic -- so resistant to changes in the rules and improvements in equipment -- that the more we learn the more menacing the sport will seem?"

posted by rcade to football at 06:24 PM - 18 comments

Does the NFL learn from incidents on the field I wonder? For example after Felipe Massa's accident at Hungary last year, the FIA legislated new helmet design for all series under their governance. (I believe they HAVE to be made of carbon fibre now.) Massa was badly injured by a piece of suspension from Barrichello's Brawn. It bounced on the track and hit Massa above the left eye, puncturing the helmet.

It seems racing is the only sport that seems to learn from accidents and injuries and reacts swiftly.

I'm really torn on football. On the one hand I want to say "Nobody forces them to play, it's their choice". On the other I think it's reprehensible to watch the sport when the players are suffering injuries that were only recently beginning to understand.

posted by Drood at 06:00 PM on October 23

It seems racing is the only sport that seems to learn from accidents and injuries and reacts swiftly.

The NFL is well adept at reacting swiftly.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:54 PM on October 23

NFL viewers accept the fact that the game is inherently violent. Even if those viewers are morally offended by the violence on the field, I seriously doubt that enough of them will quit watching football in an attempt to make the league do something about a certain type of football violence.

Changing the rules regarding certain types of tackles, hits, etc. because of their violent result on a player only goes so far. There is also the "morally OK" pounding that NFL players take over a period of weeks, and seasons. How do you legislate against that? A one-concussion-and-you're-out-of-the-league rule? The NFLPA might have something to say about that.

The NFL may attempt to "tone down" the violence by gradually legislating against certain hits. A rule-or-two here, a rule-or-two in an offseason. This makes it look like the league cares about the players. And it may also work to appease those who may become morally offended by the game's level of violence.

But the NFL will not take a butcher knife to its game and its violent nature. Its product makes too much money.

posted by roberts at 09:26 PM on October 23

that the more we learn the more menacing the sport will seem?"

For most of the viewing public, I just don't think that will matter.

posted by cjets at 10:45 PM on October 23

What bugs me are the thousands of debilitating injuries suffered by amateur players. People encourage their kids to go out and play a sport in which the injuries you pick up last the rest of your life. Maybe the chance at pro stardom is worth it, but most of the dudes you meet with trick knees from high school football injuries never had a shot at the big time anyway.

This doesn't stop me from watching football, though. I need entertainment like a war needs cannon fodder.

posted by Hugh Janus at 11:50 PM on October 23

Individuals abhore the results of dangerous sport and warfare and general life experiences. People, as a mob, love it with an unparalelled passion. The Romans, Rollerball, War Heroes, AFHVs and oglers of car wrecks and crime scenes confirm this. We feel better about ourselves by writing and signing rule books (Geneva Convention) but people will still congregate to see a public stoning.

posted by bobfoot at 11:54 PM on October 23

My question is will this increase in awareness about the violent nature of the sport have an impact on the decision to increase the number of regular season games?

posted by MW12 at 07:03 AM on October 24

There is also the "morally OK" pounding that NFL players take over a period of weeks, and seasons. How do you legislate against that?

You don't "legislate against that". You, an individual -- not a committee -- make your own moral decision about whether to support it. Currently I'm still watching but not sure I will continue to do so, since I believe only a withdrawal of fan support will make significant changes. And if my fellow fans decide that they're "morally OK" with it and I decide I'm not, well, that's how moral choices go: you make yours because you believe it is the right thing to do, not because it's what everyone else is doing or because it will get you what you want. You make your own choice and live with it.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:59 AM on October 24

I wonder how many true fans or even fringe fans gave the inherent danger of playing football much thought before the firestorm that occurred last week. For the life of me, I cannot imagine a diehard fan being anything but thrilled by last weekends' action and hits. Maybe Clyde in Cleveland didn't like it but I'm sure Pete in Pittsburgh loved it. Others watching from their couches around the country probably leaned closer to see the replays and get a better look.
The only truly "dirty" hit, in my opinion, was by Merriman and even then I wonder how many fans said, "I'm never watching another game of football, it's too dangerous to those who play it." The reaction by the NFL has ignited, again in my opinion, this moral debate that will have nothing but a negative reaction by 90% of fans who love the big hits. After all it's not their heads getting scrambled, except by the intoxicants they consume during the games. Player safety is important to players not to most of those who watch.

posted by gfinsf at 09:28 AM on October 24

I wonder how many true fans or even fringe fans gave the inherent danger of playing football much thought before the firestorm that occurred last week.

I've been giving it serious thought for several years, particularly during the sickening stoppage in play while a player is down and we wait for one of his limbs to move. The drumbeat of concussion trauma stories began a year or two ago. Stories about completely debilitated 50 year old former players began 3-5 years ago.

In every dangerous sport there are fans who appreciate the carnage. But casual fans can abandon a sport, as happened to boxing in my lifetime, and more serious fans who believe there's a moral component to their support for the game can quit as well.

I'm seriously entertaining the idea. If I hadn't been a fan since childhood of the Cowboys, I don't think I'd feel any pull to watch football at all. The athleticism/brutality ratio in this sport is getting lower by the year. The idea they're even considering an 18-game season is appalling, given the physical punishment doled out by the sport.

We feel better about ourselves by writing and signing rule books (Geneva Convention) but people will still congregate to see a public stoning.

The U.S. hasn't held public criminal executions for many decades. Don't generalize us by what happens in backwards parts of the world.

posted by rcade at 09:49 AM on October 24

But casual fans can abandon a sport, as happened to boxing in my lifetime,

But I think boxing was abandoned because it became less violent. Especially in the heavy weight division. The matches have become hugfests instead of two men punching each other.

As far as the NFL, what is the league supposed to do? Make tackling illegal?

I see the reason to institute some rule changes for malicious shots to the head but sometimes it just happens during play. In some cases the offensive player is \"to blame\" for the shot to the head.

posted by cheemo13 at 10:06 AM on October 24

Boxing make look less violent to you, but in recent decades the medical consequences of taking all those head shots has become crystal clear.

posted by rcade at 10:27 AM on October 24

The athleticism/brutality ratio in this sport is getting lower by the year.

I believe I know what you mean but isn't it the reverse, athleticism/brutality is getting higher by the year. The fact that these guys are getting bigger and faster than those even ten years ago is a huge difference. Brutality, "cruel, harsh, or ruthless behavior or treatment" should be ruled out of the game by its inherent intent. However, fast violent hits in a micro second cannot be eliminated by a statement or video by the NFL office. Also did you happen to notice 12 other players were fined for hits after the weekend? When did that ever happen before? I'm not sure where this is going and I do not question the intent to protect players but I hope they also protect the integrity of the game. It is fast and violent but players also care about their own, they are very human. Look at the picture of the Falcon-Eagle game with the players kneeing down. It's a war without guns, casualties happen and brothers morn. There is also no doubt in my mind headgear could be improved and standardized. That should be the NFL's focus and mandate not more fines.

posted by gfinsf at 10:35 AM on October 24

Nope. 1/20 is lower than 1/10. I guess it makes more sense as brutality/athleticism a la signal/noise.

posted by rcade at 10:57 AM on October 24

But casual fans can abandon a sport, as happened to boxing in my lifetime.

In many cases to watch MMA, which I think is more violent. I think many casual fans abandoned violence because of the corruption, the lack of any true governing body, and Boxing's inability to match up its best fighters, as well as a lack of compelling champions.

posted by cjets at 11:20 AM on October 24

Boxing was fading before MMA rose to prominence. I agree that your reasons all contributed. I also would add the high number of pay-per-view big fights that exclude casual fans. How will a champion become compelling if the broadcast TV viewer never sees him fight?

posted by rcade at 11:51 AM on October 24

According to my immigrant father's theory, Americans' love of brutal sports like NFL gridiron can be traced to their preference for bloody, almost uncooked steaks. This sport without its inherent violence will lose its followers. My suggestion: try rugby, where they play the ball, not the man. Added benefit: continuous, flowing action for 80 minutes.

posted by trueblueroo at 04:49 PM on October 24

According to my immigrant father's theory, Americans' love of brutal sports like NFL gridiron can be traced to their preference for bloody, almost uncooked steaks.

You don't say where your father's an immigrant from, but when I traveled in France on business, restaurant staff used to wince at how well done my coworkers would ask for their steak.

(moi, je l'aime bien saignant...)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:19 PM on October 24

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