I am not a fan of football; I am a fan of George Will. Here I switch sides and defend football and criticize George Will for his article on the topic in today’s WaPo. George, you just plain got it wrong this time.
Though he never comes out and says it, the article has a subtext that violence in football ought to be curtailed. Absurd. Violence is football. He acknowledges as much, though he seems to continually condemn this violence. Thus, he condemns football.
The bigger point, however, is that he seems to miss that everything about football (the players playing the game and the fans watching the game and everything else about the game) is voluntary and consensual. Football is not like dog fighting (an allusion made in the article): everybody has the choice to be there or not.
Even more curious about Will’s veiled attack on the sport is that he seems to fully acknowledge that the sport may kill itself:
“Furthermore, in this age of bubble-wrapped children, when parents put helmets on weetricycle riders, many children are going to be steered away from youth football, diverting the flow of talent to the benefit of other sports.”
Indeed, this paragraph makes me think that I might be missing something…
But here Will is definitely missing something:
“Now, however, accumulating evidence about new understandings of the human body — the brain, especially, but not exclusively — compel the conclusion that football is a mistake because the body is not built to absorb, and cannot be adequately modified by training or protected by equipment to absorb, the game’s kinetic energies.”
No: clearly the body can absorb the game’s kinetic energies. Many players play the game for years. They make a lot of money doing so. That their brains are destroyed in the process is…well…it is what it is. (And now, unlike, say 20 years ago, there IS evidence that players can look at to see the damage being inflicted upon their bodies. That evidence is apparently not enough to convince them not to play. I suspect many people would make a similar choice: $50 million in the bank with the cost of dying at age 55? There would be takers.) Such is the price of making a lot of money and being the center of attention of a nation. It is a price people chose to make. And in doing so, those players provide entertainment and research subjects into the nature of human physiology. They provide benefits to the rest of society on a number of levels. I, though I haven’t watched a game in probably a decade, am glad they’re willing to do it. We’re all better off for it.
George Will is usually an ardent defender of freedom. I am disappointed that he drops the ball here.