I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve spent a decade on the football field. That’s more than half of my life–from kindergarten to high school–in shoulder pads. I never miss a snap of OU football (whether from the band section or my dorm room) and you’d better believe I’ll be at a Super Bowl party this weekend.
That being said, football is a scary, scary thing.
The detrimental cognitive effects of the sport surfaced publicly in 2005 when Dr. Bennet Omalu published his findings on an autopsy of former NFL player Mike Webster. Webster’s brain was riddled with a debilitating disease that Omalu deemed “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” or “CTE”.
Omalu’s research gained public traction in 2009 after an interview with GQ Magazine and in 2015 following the release of the film Concussion. The NFL saw backlash from their fanbase about claims that NFL executives were downplaying the epidemic of brain trauma that plagued their league.
Kids started dropping out of youth football programs. I saw blog posts from young parents who vowed to keep their children off the football field. I didn’t think much of it until my freshman year of high school. At the end of a play, I took a hit that left me concussed and on bed rest for the last three weeks of the season. I decided that the risks weren’t worth it and didn’t play the next season.
Here’s the thing–I know just how violent the sport is. I’m well aware that my favorite collegiate and professional players are breaking their bodies every game. I know that their playing time–and mine–might have permanent ramifications.
But I still love to watch.
Football has transcended its role as a sport. It’s a business. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a behemoth. Do I know that we need to make serious, immediate changes in the way that we see football? For the sake of the athletes, yes. But I also know that football is a distinct social commodity; the insidious cornerstone of The American Experience™.
It’s nearly impossible to kill an idea, and the idea of football has permeated the minds of Americans everywhere. The question is this: Will we kill football before it kills its players?
Arguably the most important highlight reel of the 2017-2018 NFL season.