Writer Wants to Shame Super Bowl Viewers
Writer Wants to Shame Super Bowl Viewers
This Sunday brings one of the biggest — no make the biggest — day in the professional sports calendar: the Super Bowl. This game has historic significance, for not only is it the 50th anniversary of the football spectacular, but fans are also questioning whether or not this will be legendary Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s final football appearance.
And, on cue, here come the scolds.
Tom Krattenmaker, a writer specializing in religious life at USA Today, asked, “Is it immoral to watch the Super Bowl?”
Not for the players to play it. Not for the National Football League to maintain a gigantic business based upon a dangerous sport, fraught with concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). But immoral for the average football fan to relax in a sofa, open a beer and bag of Doritos, and cheer on their preferred team.
Krattenmaker points out how fewer parents are letting their sons play football, due to the dire reports of head injury. I didn’t raise sons, so I had no dog in that hunt, but I’m changing my mind on the issue. My brother played football as a child. I hope my preschool-aged grandson does not.
Witness some of these hits taken by what appears to be high school football players.
There’s little doubt remaining that football, particularly professional football, can be deadly. In 2014 the American Academy of Neurology reported that football helmets in current use do little to protect players. Add to that the increasing size of pro football players over the years, and you have a recipe for CTE.
But where does this stop? Should we be shamed for watching any sport that could cause massive injury? What about boxing? Muhammad Ali, possibly the greatest boxer to enter the ring, has suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for decades, due to the blows he took to the head.
In 2013 the first player in Major League Baseball was diagnosed with CTE. Ryan Freel committed suicide in 2012 at 36 years old after a career of diving for balls and flinging himself into the walls surrounding the outfield. And then there’s what every baseball player faces when he steps up to bat: a hard ball whizzing toward him at speeds that can top 100 miles per hour.
Witness what happened during Game 3 of the 2015 World Series, when my beloved Kansas City Royals were facing the New York Mets.
Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard decided he would throw a fastball at the head of Royals lead-off batter Alcides Escobar. Later the Royals got their payback by taking the World Series.
And of course there’s the racial angle. There’s always a racial angle in journalistic shaming.
Juxtapose the sport’s massive spectator popularity with our growing knowledge of its dangers, and with the reality that most of the men playing in the NFL are black and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds, and you end up with a creepy feeling.
Professional sports is the arena in which excellence is rewarded, not for being the member of a selected race or ethnicity. If the majority of talent in football arises from within the black community, so be it. One of the most inspiring stories in the NFL is that of Kansas City Chiefs player Eric Berry, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014, missed that season, and came back in 2015 to be one of the best safeties in the NFL. I can tell you from experience that he is one of the most beloved athletes in Kansas City, largely because of his inspirational comeback story.
Berry is obviously black, and he plays a dangerous sport. Is it immoral to watch him? Or should we be inspired?
What about the large numbers of Latinos who play professional baseball? Are we immoral for watching them play as well? Many have left impoverished nations to achieve athletic greatness in the United States. Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales defected from Cuba on a raft. Are we immorally exploiting him by marveling at his power hits?
Let professional sports be. Let talented young men and women seek athletic greatness on the field of their choice. Let professional athletes make their own decisions as to risks vs. rewards. And stop shaming those of us who will be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday.