Are You a Conflicted Football Fan?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl Aerial view of MetLife Stadium (LI-Aerial/Getty)

Peter Beinart's essay in The Atlantic explores his moral conflict between his love of watching football with his young son and the inherent violence of the game. As you make plans to watch the Super Bowl this weekend, are you conflicted between your enjoyment of watching the game and teaching your kids to love it too, despite the violence? Do you worry about the message you're sending to your kids when you cheer every time a player on the opposing team gets hit?

Heartbroken football fans flooded the lines. One listener who had played and coached for 25 years even said sometimes when he sits down to watch a game on Sundays he just cries.

Callers said they talk about the dangers of the sport when they watch games with their kids. Daniel in Queens said he doesn't even know what else he’d do on Sundays if he didn't watch football. But: “I’m completely conflicted. I’m a huge football fan. My son is just turning 5 years old and I love the game. And I've talked to my fiancé about it and we made the decision that we probably would not let him play,” he said.

“You used to watch football back in the day and you’d see the 1 o’clock game, the 4 o’clock game, the nighttime game, Monday night football game…and throughout all of those games, you may see one guy get knocked out of a game, now you see it multiple times in each game you watch. Like every four plays somebody’s getting knocked out of the game. The guys are so much stronger and faster now. And obviously everything’s been coming up about CTE and I've just gotten to the point that I don’t think that I would let my son play, at least according to the things I've heard from doctors, not before the age of 14.”

Lev in Brooklyn was a lifelong Jets fan who said the news of the traumatic brain injuries forced him to give up watching the game. “Everybody who says they’re conflicted is just ignoring the evidence. The facts are in. This game messes you up really bad.”

To add to the conversation, leave a comment below. 

Comments [32]

LM from New York

Years ago Joe Namath said that football is not a sport. It is men trying to hurt each other.
Odd that now people are talking about football as if it is turning into something (violent and harmful) that it never was before.

Jan. 29 2014 07:15 PM
Betsy from Upper Westside from Manhattan

The main conflict is the way the game is expected to be played. To purposefully maim, hurt or take out’ a person is different than just defending your goal and playing as a sportsman with a good conscience by the rules. When played that way the game is exciting and fun to watch, especially when people can prove to be skilled and think on the fly. When my son was a QB for Stuyvesant HS he was challenged by the game and learned how to lead and create his “chess plays” to do what’s hard in life, which is mostly lose but always strive to win with a good game plan. In spite of his ups & downs now in hindsight, he’d do it all over again, though, maybe with another strategy. We’ll watch games and cheer & cringe and we can always hope that rules will be followed and players will be taken care of or just be better players of the game.

Jan. 29 2014 09:57 AM
pooloniousmonk from NJ

I abandoned watching football as an innocuous pastime 14 years ago when my son reached an age where he might contemplate participation. In my opinion, good parenting is antithetical to support of football (as well as boxing). The limit of my hypocrisy is demonstrated by the fact that I will watch the Superbowl, not as a football fan, but as an American engaging in a national event that includes great commercials and (hopefully) an entertaining halftime show. I suspect that limiting participation to watching one game a year without any further transfer of resources is not a sustaining model for the NFL. I am thus comfortable with my viewing. If the sport withers and dies, as well it should, that is fine with me.

Jan. 28 2014 12:42 PM
TJ from Inwood

There is a lot of ugliness is the game and the further up the ladder you go, the uglier it gets on all fronts. However, to suggest - as some people here have suggested - that there's no sport and that the game *itself* is moronic, is ridiculous. Anyone who bothers to watch a game and takes note of the constantly changing formations, the different routes being run, playcall changes, etc. will realize that the game is predicated on strategy, contingent upon each player doing their part and playing at or above the X's and O's.

The point here, is that if you're making assumptions about the intelligence of the *game* or the players without conceptually understanding what a cover 2 is, what an audible is [and why qb's call it], or, even better, why they line up the way they line up, I'd urge you to reconsider.

I agree that there is undeniable physical danger, social danger, and psychological danger involved with the NFL and the game of gridiorn, but this is a 2 way street. We perpetuate the dangers by distorting their original contexts to suit our opinions. We deny the actual sport and intelligence of the players because we want to believe that it's just a bunch of large men running around looking to knock someone's head off. There's some of that, perhaps a lot of it, but if we fail recognize how truly complex the sport is, how hard these players work, how smart and charitable they can actually be (a la, Richard Sherman), we are doing our part to highlight the bad, but not directly address it. 2 sides to every coin...

Jan. 28 2014 12:40 PM

The answer to Brian’s wonder that increasingly violent SuperBowls broadcast to an audience increasingly aware of the enormous harm being wreaked upon the guys on the field are more popular than ever is that humanity is endowed with a major streak of viciousness. We did not become the lords of this planet by playing nice.

Which is why now that we have developed and disseminated weaponry capable of destroying civilization, if not our entire biosphere, in an hour, we have to work with extreme diligence to wean ourselves from all activities that idolize violence (be they football, first-person shooter games, gangsta rap, etc.) and/or irrationality (especially god-based religions).

Jan. 28 2014 11:47 AM

Bring back the velodrome!!

Jan. 28 2014 11:24 AM

How could the woman who called in to complain about the sexist objectification of women in the football world not realize that the game centers on an even worse objectification of the men out on the field?

If she really wants to bring her daughter into a world cured of sexist commodification, she has to start by expunging the football fandom that she acknowledged forms a central part of her identity.

Sexual objectification of men and of women are two faces of the same coin, you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other.

Jan. 28 2014 11:22 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

What is most interesting about this whole debate is how incredibly credulous and stupid Americans are. I hate to "go there" because it's become such a cliche but really, is the fact that Football a dangerous bloodsport something we were not aware of until the "news" about concussions? Anyone who has watched the game played at the High School level or higher should be able to see, quite easily, the potential for serious, even fatal injuries.

Was the marketing of Pee-Wee Football and the big Thanksgiving game and the whole NFL full court press ('scuse the expression) enough to overwhelm the common sense even a fool is born with? It's the same mentality we see in our foreign adventures... "Dead civilians", OH MY, how could that happen? What with the Geneva Conventions and all, War isn't civilized yet? How could it happen?! What with the laser guided bombs and BS humanitarian pretenses. Truly awe inspiring stupidity, ignorance and hypocrisy.

Jan. 28 2014 11:20 AM
Myriam Miedzian from NYC

There is definitely nothing new about the terrible damage done to boys and men from playing football. In Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking The Link Between Masculinity and Violence, first published in 1991, I had a chapter on sports devoted mainly to this topic. My interviews with football players, retired football players, and sports researchers left no doubt that players, even young boys, were being encouraged to "sacrifice your body" in order to win, at huge cost to their bodies. As for building character-- that claim doesn't quite fit with football players being way overrepresented in college rape, and other acts of violence.

Jan. 28 2014 11:11 AM
Karen Borchert from Long Island

Back in '12, my hs senior was taken off the DL so that he could participate in the last game of the season. The other team had a bloodlust going on and he was concussed deliberately by someone who was caught up in the moment. There was no concern displayed by his own coach and the opposing teams coach too afraid of a lawsuit to display concern. I would never allow my children to play football since. My son was so ill he couldn't take the SAT.

Jan. 28 2014 11:02 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


That's so gay. I'd rather play Call of Duty or other violent video games.

Jan. 28 2014 10:52 AM

Austriaian football is less violent and more interesting to watch

Fast moving and less time outs

Jan. 28 2014 10:51 AM
Ehren from Brooklyn

It's a basic issue of value consciousness. There has been to much emphasis physically and financially placed on athletics in American culture. Our Sunday's can be filled with art, dance, poetry, and community service.

Jan. 28 2014 10:50 AM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

Compare the actions of football player to those of rugby player and one should see what is wrong with football. 250+ man tackling an opposing player by leading with his head like a ram and at full speed, should be OUTLAW.

The problem with football is the indiscriminate manner in which tackling is done. Remove tackles that use the head, and tackling where these men simply throw they bodies at opponents, and maybe the beauty oof the game can come back.

Jan. 28 2014 10:50 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC


Don't want your kids to play football? Don't let them play. Don't want to watch? Don't watch. Consenting adults beating each other senseless? Boxing next? What about that gay wresting stuff (MMA) or the fake gay wrestling (WWF)? What about WAR? Basically just a sport now considering our recent opponents... Jesus god let's just castrate boys at birth and resolve all these awful aggression issues once and for all. NFL players are very well compensated for their shortened life spans and crippling injuries that leave them maimed and disabled for life. It's their choice. The league ought to be on the hook for their medical treatment lifetime and it should be in their contract. Colleges should be made liable too, let the NFL fund its own farm league.

Jan. 28 2014 10:49 AM

Thank you caller: The FACTS are in.

Jan. 28 2014 10:49 AM

Not a American Football fan neither is my son. We prefer soccer (football). The dangers are real as we see it in friends who play; many injuries. What I see is there is no conflict for many parents who promote / pressure their children to play.

Jan. 28 2014 10:48 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I'm not conflicted at all.
Let the retard jock lowest common denominator morons kill each other on the field.

Jan. 28 2014 10:48 AM

I am not conflicted at all. Football is vicious, violent and brutal. there is no "Sport" in football and there are no valuable life lessons. It's a case of whoever is bigger and more vicious wins... can you spell BULLY. And don't get me started on the culture of blind adoration for "professional athletes! If you want to bond with your kids turn off the tv and the football games - all of them- and PLAy with them. Talk to them, Read together. Take a walk, go hiking, biking, swimming, play tennis or golf or monopoly. Build legos, make art, play baseball, basketball etc. etc. etc.

Jan. 28 2014 10:47 AM
Kate from Brooklyn

The best solution would be for college football and the NFL to become touch football leagues. Not only would this be safer, but the game would be more fast-moving and strategic since huge size wouldn't matter so much and speed and skill would count for more, plus the game wouldn't be stopped by hits and tackles constantly.

Jan. 28 2014 10:46 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Not to mention the waaaay over the top and bloated halftime shows, always slanted to the lowest common denominator entertainers -- pandering to the beer-guzzling audience.

Jan. 28 2014 10:44 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

I think the game can survive if they switch back to leather helmets.

Jan. 28 2014 10:44 AM
Ann from Westchester

Would we allow gladiators entertain us? We should talk about boxing too.

Jan. 28 2014 10:44 AM
Sarah from Prospect heights

Here's a great article that I read that looks at football head injuries and PTSD, written by a Iraq war veteran who is a sports writer.

I think it's worth adding to any discussion on this topic.

Jan. 28 2014 10:43 AM

Ban helmets and all the extra pads and padding for a year. At least in youth leagues. Just flesh and blood and cloth. The players will learn to respect their bodies again.

Jan. 28 2014 10:41 AM

It builds sexual objectification and homophobia.

Jan. 28 2014 10:41 AM
patti from paterson, nj

I'm a huge football fan! While I've been very reticent to let my 11 year old son play (have been able to use the excuse that its too demanding a practice schedule for him to maintain along with homework), we still watch most Sundays. Something that has changed in our viewing is we discuss the 'good hits' vs. 'bad hits'. We also point out to him that the health care they have accessible to them is way better than what we have access to, so any damages that he would sustain could be way more detrimental.

Jan. 28 2014 10:41 AM
Saskia from NYC

That cameraderie and those life lessons will be learned in other sports as well. Or in other community activities.

Jan. 28 2014 10:40 AM

Moronic meathead Korporate® spectacle.

What's to be conflicted about??


Jan. 28 2014 10:38 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm not a sports fan at all, because for various reasons I could not play ball as a kid. I played football only once, got knocked down and my knee twisted and have had problems with that knee for the last 50 years as a result. So my bloody sport is playing video games. I can get "killed" but all the pain is virtual and am immediately resurrected and back in the game.
But I'm not against football. I think it's more humane than gladiators butchering each other in Roman arenas, or knights jousting and often killing each other for sport. The need to feel that adrenaline pumping from time to time is just a natural part of being an animal.

Jan. 28 2014 10:38 AM

Big Bu$ine$$

Jan. 28 2014 10:21 AM
oscar from ny

..I once read in some zionist protocols that only retards like kind of left a sour taste in my mind..

Jan. 28 2014 10:19 AM

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