Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Modern gladiators

I love football. I don't know if it's all the Thanksgiving afternoons with the family menfolk digesting turkey in front of the TV, or the effects of college football and its harmless rivalries, or the sense of a whole region rooting together for a common (pro) team, but somewhere I got the bug, really enjoy watching, and we have even gotten Speck interested in Sunday afternoon games.

But in recent years all the coverage of concussions has made me more and more uncomfortable with this pastime -- not just news of acute injuries, but recurrent patterns of low-level head trauma that add up to early Parkinson's, personality changes, and middle-age dementia (leaving their wives and girlfriends scrambling to hold things together). Many of these players are literally giving up the rest of their lives for these few years of glory (and some for pretty slim glory, as much of the damage accrues to unsung players like punt returners and linemen).

So I watch, and I cheer, but every time there's a really hard hit, or a man stays on the ground, or the replay shows that grim neck-snap, I feel my stomach turn a little, a pang of uncertainty about whether I should watch. The idea that any fans, however incensed, would actually cheer an injury leaves me totally floored. Am glad that this team-mate took his own fans (and the public) to task for that occasion, but honestly, are they meaningfully worse than those of us whose fanship supports the sport in general? I wish I felt more clean about it all.

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