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Monday, August 20, 2012

I’m boycotting football

I’ve decided to boycott football. I’m not going to watch it on TV, I’m not going to read football stories in the paper, I’m not going to wear any football gear, and so forth.

Why?

1. Concussions. It’s been pretty obvious for a long time that football players suffer injuries to less vital body parts (knees, notably), but that seemed to many players to be a worthwhile tradeoff.  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I don’t think you can say that about brain injuries.

if  we know that concussions aren’t just accidental, but practically a sure thing if you play football long enough, then maybe we should be playing other sports.

There’s been a lot of press about NFL players ending up with brain injuries, but that has to be just the easiest stuff to measure because they play longer and harder.  But a college player who doesn’t make the pros has played for 8, maybe 10 years during college, high school, and junior high or youth football.

Should football go the way of boxing? In the 1950’s, there was a lot of boxing on TV: the Friday night fights.  On Saturday afternoon in Louisville, they showed “Tomorrow’s Champions”, who were youth fighters (notably Cassius and Rudy Clay – even then big standouts). Golden gloves groups were big. 

Going farther back, boxing clubs were common in all the best colleges. Boxing was “once a required sport of all Harvard students (http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~boxing/) In 1961, the NCAA decided to discontinue boxing as an intercollegiate sport (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Boxing_Club).

Times change. Now we watch beach volleyball instead of boxing, and we’re better people for it.

2. Loss of institutional control. It’s clear that big time football is the largest part of overblown college athletics.  Even a program that was legendarily clean – Penn State – turns out to have had a big organizational blind spot.

The athletic department at gigantoversities seems under little control. Football coaches are paid millions. Transcripts are either faked, or athletes often aren’t really students – they’re really unpaid NFL interns.

Is this the sort of thing we should support?

Can I do it?

I’m not a big fan. I don’t have tickets. I don’t have a lot of sports gear. I didn’t name my kids after football heroes.

Some might argue that this is a good time to do it, because the Bears don’t seem likely to be very good.  Michigan is on the uptick, but I don’t get cable so I only have to avoid a few games each year. Maybe I can go for  long bike ride on the day of the Michigan – Ohio State game.