110 thoughts on “Fan Forum

  1. Daniel G. Kelsey

    This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I read a lot of books. I haven’t watched a football game in any form since 1975, though I’m a sports fan. Will Steve follow suit?

  2. Richard Steele

    As a devotee of the other football game (soccer), I am always bewildred by the popularity of America’s game. Although I’m a born and bred American who grew up in football country, on Bakersfield, California, the laggered pace and endless stop-and-go format of football always left me wanting. Does it really require 3 hours to play a 60- minute game? With soccer, it’s all wrapped in an hour and 50 minutes, and that includes intermission!
    As many others have noted, the American code of football seems to serve a larger rationale for America’s station in the world, i.e. violent, implusive and impervious to consequences. I get a sense that although the game is more wildly popular than ever, I suspect that it’s long term health is in jeopardy, and a slow but perceptible decline will result.
    Of course, I am biased; my hunch tells me that Association football will continue to make ever greater strides in the affections of American sports fans, who see the long term damage to body and mind in America’s game as ” bad news” for their children.

    Well, just sayin’
    Richard Steele
    Studio City, CA

  3. Kenny Ames

    I read the book this weekend and want to thank you and curse you at the same time. I can’t unread what I’ve read and I can’t enjoy football.

    I would have liked to see in the racism discussion the idea that a black man cannot succeed at quarterback. Is it something about a black man in charge? There are also few black coaches. Are there any black owners? Just curious if you did any research on this that didn’t make it into your book or if you care to comment.

    Again, thank you and curse you at the same time (but probably thank you for the good it will do over the long run).

    Kenny

  4. James

    Thanks for writing this wonderful book. You gave perfect voice to the feelings I’ve had towards football and the NFL for a decade. I grew up– as we all seem to have done– in a football family, mine being Washington. Babies’ first words in my home were always “mama”, “dada” and “Dallas sucks” and it was fun in the 70s with the Over-The-Hill Gang and the 80s with Gibbs and Riggins but from the early days I was terribly uncomfortable with the name Redskins. That unease finally won out when I had my first child in ’99. I didn’t want to raise my own son to be as accepting of something as racially insulting as the name of our local franchise, so I divested my holdings, as it were: I gave away all of my ‘Skins magazines, trading cards, books and anything else branded with the team name. I’d still watch the games but I purchased no NFL merchandise.

    The discovery of CTE caused me to discontinue my remaining ties to the NFL. While I never played on an organized team, I did suffer several concussions in my youth, two of which were severe and required brief hospitalization. I knew what that felt like and couldn’t in good conscience continue to be entertained by the sight of others inflicting them deliberately. Brain damage just to sell me beer and Ram trucks?!?

    Defiant racism combined with a callous disregard for the lives and well-being of their employees finally ended my patronage of the NFL.

    Thank you for writing this book. It’s the first time that I’ve felt that I wasn’t alone out here.

  5. Owen

    Steve, I’ve finished your book last night. Completing it helped me to better understand why I’ve been able to put the game behind me….for the most part. In addition to your well constructed arguments, football creep has evolved and matured into football FATIGUE for me. I’ve watched the game go from having two days on the calendar in the fall to one where it can absorb one’s attention from Thursday thru Monday. The game ask too much of it players, too much of fans and too much of our society. I’ve empowered this manchild and I now must have “possession receiver” type courage in putting it back in the box. In a nutshell, I can get more, give more, be more by taking back the 8-16 hours this game tempts me with and the financial commitment that she requires. I will keep my memories. I will keep my gear as souvenirs or landmarks of past experiences that I’ve engaged in. However, the love affair and the fascination and the support that I’ve provided over the years is now being diverted to interests that are more consistent with where I am today.

  6. Charles Beall

    I have been a Cowboy fan since my dad took me to the Cotton Bowl to watch them in the early to late 1960s.

    My wife, who is not from this country, doesn’t understand the yelling and screaming. All I can say in response is that it’s dumb for me to waste 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon in this way. The emotional investment is ludicrous. I could be up in the mountains hiking or skiing. Feeling elated for days after a Cowboy win or depressed after a loss is utter foolishness.

    I’ve been looking for a good excuse to break away from my servitude to football. Although Mr. Almond’s outstanding book helps a lot, I have to admit that his reasons are not quite as compelling as my No. 1 reason at this time; namely that Dez Bryant’s reception in the Green Bay playoff game was probably the most beautiful catch I’ve ever seen. When it was nullified, I concluded that, well, if that’s not a catch, then there is no reason for me to continue watching NFL football.

    Mr. Almond makes a strong case against continuing to support the NFL that is only going to help me in my resolve to spend Sunday afternoons next fall in less stupid ways. Football has appealed to me mainly because of its beauty as live drama. I’ve never gloried in the violence, and don’t think the author should assume that violence is its chief appeal. I have never felt a surge of delight when an opposing player lies on the ground unable to get up. Well, hardly ever!

  7. Kendra Anspaugh

    What your book brought to mind was something I’ve had rattling around my brain for a while now – the idea that professional football is one of the few ways in which we can proclaim our loyalty to a certain region/city. We live in such a homogenized culture that it’s one of the ways we can distinguish ourselves from everyone else, and the reasons people pick the teams they root for often give you a glimpse into their history, or even their soul.

    For example, I grew up in a Detroit suburb but have lived in New Orleans for the past nine years. I’m a Saints fan through and through – it’s one of the best ways to meet people in this city because no matter what bar or backyard party you stumble into, you have an instant connection. However, when the Saints play the Lions, I’m at the Superdome in blue and silver. It’s my way of showing that no matter how many y’alls I now slip into my speech, I haven’t forgotten where I come from…

  8. Lloyd

    It was the summer of 2014, I was already pretty sick of the soap opera that, over the years, became the national football league. In the fall I was asked by some friends if I wanted to go watch a game…I responded, “Im treating the nfl like a step child who calls for money… a telemarketer trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner” I explained to them,” I am done with football, not just football at a pro level…all of football.” I grew up watching, playing, inhaling football. I was a high school prospect and thank the Lord above I did not pursue it. My knees just from high school ball at my age tell me the weather. I cannot imagine having continued on in that sport. I do miss the comraderie of Sunday football and chicken wings, blue cheese, and the like…but it’s ok. I am done and I encourage all of my friends to be done as well.

    The only thing I will miss is saying, GO STEELERS! :-( sorry Rooneys, I still love you and what you gave to my life as a fan, but it would be nice if you would agree too and get out of it. Heinz field can be used to generate so much more money…taxed…to support the greatest city in the world…but I am biased.

    Signed,

    Recovering football fan

  9. Barbara

    Great book! I’ve always said football is the second dumbest sport (boxing being the first dumbest). Will hear/see you this evening at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville.

  10. john balderston

    Hello from Canada. Your book reinforced my decision to stop watching football on TV. FYI-Maclean’s- “Canada’s National Magazine”- had an editorial on Feb. 10 denouncing football using your book as a reference. The last sentence was ” Football will always be a tough sport. It can’t continue to be a deadly or despicable one” Keep up the fight!

  11. Jeff

    I’ve only read “Sacking the Super Bowl” article in the February, 2015 issue of “The Rotarian” magazine.
    Your courage and vulnerability in writing what you did (and The Rotarian’s editors for printing it) is truly great and I am inspired to speak up about things I know and not be intimidated by trolls and social inertia.
    Thank you.

  12. Bill Boden

    Read your book the day after the Stupor Bowl, and your book has helped me to see things MUCH differently. I always thought the NFL, NCAA and high school football was way out of whack, but now, thanks to this book, I know it.

  13. Jason Jordan

    Steve: I enjoyed the book, as well as some of your others, and I decided to use it for a couple of junior-level composition classes I’m teaching at Ohio University. It’s been enlightening and fun for me to discuss your provocative arguments with students, just as I hope it’s been fruitful, in certain respects, for them. I’m not yet sure what our respective moral convictions will lead us to do with regard to football but, in the least, I believe it’s beneficial to be aware of and consider the problems with the sport, the NFL, and as you put it, the “Athletic Industrial Complex” as a whole. Also, I’d be curious to hear your in-depth thoughts about ice hockey, boxing, rugby, etc., so maybe you could do a series of these books. Throw a parody in there, too–Against Golf, perhaps? Anyway, thank you for the good read.

  14. Simon DelMonte

    So as someone else trying to get a divorce from football, I figured Super Bowl Sunday is a good day to read this book. Am about halfway through. And I find it interesting but not as convincing as I would have hoped. Too many arguments raised to an extreme, and others surprisingly left unfinished.

    One I want to pick up on is the “corporate welfare” problem. Why stop with criticizing the NFL? ALL professional sports do this. Condemn them all, or none. Why not suggest we stop watching all sports that bilk the public? Why not even suggest that we the people stand up to the fat cats and push our elected officials to stop caving to corporate demands of all sorts. Pointing a finger at football alone is insufficient, and not really fair, as much as the NFL deserves it.

    Also want to add that as much as I like football, I have never once lived and died with my team. It’s just a game. So odd that so many seemingly mature men let themselves lose sight of that. But then, I also never did much in the way of male bonding or drinking in bars. I would much rather miss any sporting event just to spend time with my non-sports fan wife.

    PS: my true love is baseball. Football is something I know and love, but it’s not and never will be baseball.

  15. brian

    Love the book! Thank you for writing it! Like many of your readers I played football — [up] Tight end in high school (Michigan Class C State Champs) and one fog of war type year at a DIII — 3rd string tight end as freshman. Ran scout team. Major responsibilities: offer rib-cage up as sacrificial lamb for surprisingly athletic sadists (linebackers).
    Digression: I always had great hands — Rarely dropped the fucking ball (caught a JV game touchdown against Saginaw Valley State’s JV squad [down-out-down]) but after feeling entirely unappreciated and deserving of more playing time even as a lowly freshman — and so tired of “hitting” (that is, being hit), I walked off that fucking stage. No regrets.
    Moved east and turned deeply into punk rock — Fell in love with a Dominatrix … Go figure… Couldn’t even acknowledge that football existed for the longest time….
    Full circle: went through my son’s Pac V SoCal High School Friday Night Lights football experience (big time high school football) as a concerned father who loved that my son had the balls to do it and was terrified that he might get maimed.
    He came out whole. Now we both know: we exchange ironic glances and cynical comments on Sundays. We cringe whenever phrases like “Slow getting up” are passed off and the networks go to commercial break for yet another injury timeout…
    Football is vicious. As a non-believer I never prayed…. except before games — I’d pray to something I didn’t believe in. I’d pray, “Please, just let me do this without getting paralyzed.”
    Concussions (had em), separated shoulders (had em), torn knees (had em), broken bones (had em) — These are high class problems compared with a catastrophic paralyzing neck injury. I know CTE is horrible but at least CTE sufferers have had a life … Albeit a shorter more violent life.
    I read a story recently where a parent’s child was paralyzed in a Pop Warner game. … How is something so horrific even possible?
    “The horror, the horror” versus “God help me, I do love it so.”

  16. brian

    Love the book! Thank you for writing it! Like many of your readers I played football ([up] tight end in high school — Michigan Class C State Champs) and one fog of war type year at a DIII — 3rd string tight end as freshman (Ran scout team. Major responsibilities: offer rib-cage up as sacrificial lamb for surprisingly athletic sadists (linebackers).
    I always had great hands — Rarely dropped the fucking ball (caught a JV game touchdown against Saginaw Valley State’s JV squad [down-out-down]) but after feeling entirely unappreciated and deserving of more playing time even as a lowly freshman — and so tired of “hitting” (that is, being hit), I walked off that fucking stage. No regrets.
    Moved east and turned deeply into punk rock — Fell in love with a Dominatrix … Go figure… Couldn’t even acknowledge that football existed for the longest time….
    Full circle: went through my kids Pac V SoCal High School Friday Night Lights football experience (!) as a concerned father who loved that my son had the balls to do it and was terrified that he might get maimed.
    He came out whole. Now we both know: we exchange ironic glances and cynical comments on Sundays. We cringe whenever phrases like “Slow getting up” are passed off and the networks go to commercial break for yet another injury timeout…
    Football is vicious. As a non-believer I never prayed…. except before games — I’d play to something I didn’t believe in. I’d pray, “Please, just let me do this without getting paralyzed.”
    Concussions (had em), separated shoulders (had em), torn knees (had em), broken bones (had em) — These are high class problems compared with a catastrophic paralyzing neck injury. I know CTE is horrible but at least CTE sufferers have had a life … Albeit a shorter more violent life.
    I read a story recently where a parent’s child was paralyzed in a Pop Warner game. … How is something so horrific even possible?
    “The horror, the horror” versus “God help me, I do love it so.”

  17. JOSEPH BARRETT

    In indirect response to numerous comments, the NFL OFFICES are tax-exempt (The ones in New York City). The revenue of the individual member teams is NOT, which is where most of your quoted revenue figures will be coming from.

  18. Max Margolis

    Steve:
    Your manifesto against football was far more exciting to read than the “miraculous” Seahawks game. Last night, a buddy gave me your book and I spent the afternoon reading it, while the game played quietly in my living room. I often feel depressed after watching a game, because I sat on my ass watching players take years off their life for my entertainment. In fifth grade, my Darryl Stingley “moment” was watching Mike Utley become paralyzed. I am always amazed that after a traumatic injury players gather to pray, while their comrade/combatant receives medical care, then after the injured player is removed they go right back to injuring each other.

    However, I am just as culpable because I have never turned away. I have accepted that watching Theismann’s legs get shattered, Montana concussed, Kevin Everett nearly die, and other horrific injuries are part of the game; however, you point out our inability to turn away is indicative of a callous and brutal culture that holds entertainment as sacred with compassion providing a brief respite where we can “all hope he heals quickly.” Your book enrages because it makes people think about cultural significance of violence in our national pastime. A bloody game that is sandwiched between two hours of ads for violent television shows, beer, and fast food. Energy flows where focus goes, and so much of our nation is enraptured with football how could it not impact our culture and communities.

    I grew up under the Steel Curtain. Football connects my family, however, I am not an idiot, just a stupid football addict. I have shrugged at the accelerated decay of my childhood idols, whimpered about the waste of my tax dollars to build stadiums, filled my week with sports radio, paused violent commercials to protect my daughter’s mind, but I have never stopped watching Our leaders use football to justify and promote their views, and I am glad that cultural critics are finally doing the same thing. I want to change my Sundays, but like all addicts I remember the Superbowl wins, but your book has restored my critical thinking skills and I will change my Sundays after this Superbowl, maybe? Great book…Keep fighting Football Industrial Complex!

  19. Bob Van Meter

    I just read the book and like many others who have commented, I found it a powerful well argued critique of the whole Football Industrial Complex. I had come to similar conclusions earlier this fall with the convergence of news about the multifaceted violence from domestic to head injuries that seem to be at the core of the NFL. I staged my own short lived boycott of the Patriots but the male bonding aspect of watching NFL games has overcome my rather weak moral impulse to boycott. I hope your book will strengthen those impulses.

    I am curious whether any of the more progressive writers and voices on sports have engaged with you about your argument. I am a regular listener to Only a Game and I don’t recall hearing you on Bill Litttlefield’s show or reading anything from Charlie Pierce on your book. I did a search and did not turn up as much from those folks as I hoped. It would be interesting to see if we could organize a public forum here in the Boston area where we got Bill L. and Charlie Pierce and maybe even Bill Simmons to respond to your argument at an event.

  20. Philip Morrison

    My take on the Epilogue —

    Revoke the NFLs non-profit status
    Great Idea!! 50% chance of it happening – IMHO

    require – public referendum
    Not a great idea, rich guys can always get around it… 20% chance – but will not help

    Institute a parental discretion
    Fine idea – 50% chance

    Enforce a weight limit
    Complicated issue – not a good idea 10% chance

    Create a helmet that records every sub-concussive hit
    Great idea! 50% chance

    Include graduation rates in rankings…
    Bad idea 10% chance schools will just graduate athletes who don’t deserve it (they already do enough of that…)

    Prohibit tackle football for under sixteen players
    Good idea – 5% chance

    Require a 3.0 GPA to play varsity football
    Bad idea, 1% chance schools will give the players whatever grades they need, they already do enough of that

    Remember who is in charge
    Great point, we get what we deserve.

  21. Philip Morrison

    This book is very provocative.
    We have let gridiron football become a many headed monster…
    Reforms are needed … and soon.

  22. Michael5000

    I am almost ready to leave behind my enthusiasm for football. I do not know if your book exactly convinced me of much — indeed, much of its argument seems tailored to someone with a more refined sense of morality than I could ever boast of — but it has perhaps help me sort out my increasingly conflicted feelings about the sport. I don’t think I would have picked up the book if I weren’t ready to be swayed.

    But like St. Augustine with chastity, I need a little time to make the change. At the close of a long tenure as an Oregon Ducks fan, I specifically need — depending on what happens at the Rose Bowl — until either tomorrow or until January 12th. Even when you are just letting young athletes fulfill your need for cathartic emotional experience, there’s something to be said for quitting while you’re ahead. Right?

  23. JIM DURR

    Like some of the other posts, I enjoyed your book very much. Requiring a 3.0 average to play varsity football seems a little high.
    Let’s face it, the playbook for a football team is complex enough.
    I believe there was an article in the New York Times about how people need to follow a football team. It gives them some sort of favorable behavior.
    Pro football can be exciting also. When pro football came to the sticks here in Northern New York, the only games we got were New York Giant games. Chris Schenkel did the announcing, “Mel Triplett, father of 8” was one thing I remember him announcing. Today we have Phil Sims talking about a players “athletic ability.” Holy Fright Phil, they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have athletic ability.
    AGAINST FOOTBALL is a great book and I will recommend it to friends…Thanks…

  24. Willie Weaver

    Morals & Responsibility of NFL
    Domestic violence has been an ongoing issue in the NFL. Recently a story unfolded as the media exploded with the breaking news: “NFL’s Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, is seen on video footage committing domestic violence on his fiancée, Janay Palmer.” As the camera roles, NFL’s pro player is seen knocking his fiancée out cold. Preceded not even long before this happened, NFL’s pro running back Adrian Peterson is charged with child abuse. And the list of NFL players’ domestic-violence problems goes on throughout the years to as far back as Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee O.J. Simpson. So, it’s obvious now that these ongoing issues of NFL player’s domestic violence has an extended history.
    However, there’s a questionable issue to the NFL’s accountability to its players’ extended history of domestic violence. Some might say that it has been ineffective, not took serious enough by the NFL. It can be believed that the NFL has resisted to take substantial responsibility of this matter, rather, choosing the dollar figures over moral value, being insensitive to the actions of its players’ immoral acts of violence committed outside the field. Well, outside the field is where the NFL’s effect to social change is real, so, it’s valid to understand that domestic abuse is a common issue in the NFL that reflects society. Domestic violence by the leagues players needs to be better addressed as the NFL’s responsibility and moral values.
    In his article, International Business Times, Thomas Barrabi argues that NFL has been neglecting proper responsibility of domestic violence throughout its extended history. His position on this issue infers that responsibility hasn’t been addressed properly by the league, however, “confronted with this problem…the NFL denied it was its responsibility to act.” As said before, this has been a long going issue. Barrabi made a point in his article, “The league’s apparent apathy over players’ mistreatment of women and children goes back several decades. And financial incentives appear to have been more effective than has any sense of moral obligation in spurring the league to take steps to address the problem.” The NFL, basically, has been paying no mind to the violent actions of its players. While not committed to adequate responsibility, the NFL hasn’t taken into account how American social lives are affected.
    In fact, as Americas top sport, the NFL plays a part in “social change.” Take for instance that the youth grow up to admire the sport. And many of the pro players are viewed as role models — these are public figures who are the view of the NFL. The NFL plays a significant part in the view of the public eye.
    How about how millions of people who are dedicated to watching of football. “The game has, over the last five decades, embedded itself into the national character to the point that it defines Sunday afternoon (not to mention Sunday, Thursday and Monday nights) in tens of millions of homes.” (Editorial Board). Two-thirds of Americans watch the games on TV. The popular sport has enough attention to make some type of influence on American society.
    However, the NFL has resisted to act in a responsible manner throughout the long history of domestic violence by the players. The NFL doesn’t take these matters serious enough. Case in point, he NFL has knowledge of multiple players violence committed outside the field, however, “confronted with this problem…, the NFL denied it was its responsibility to act.” (Barrabi). The players’ domestic violence problems has been disregarded throughout the NFL’s history.
    As an illustration, “San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who was arrested in August for allegedly causing visible injury to his pregnant fiancée, and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend this summer, continue to play despite ongoing legal action against them” (Barrabi). The facts provided by Barrabi provides the disturbing reality of the NFL’s absence to address domestic violence responsibly.
    Along the same line, I agree on Barrabi’s view that the NFL is reluctant to take responsibility in the leagues violent acts. It’s apparent to me that the NFL isn’t righteously attributing to a responsible action. It’s logical to see that moral values are aren’t highly factored in between the players unruly acts and the football field. The value of the player staying in the game becomes more so the NFL’s choice over morality.
    On the other hand, don’t get me wrong, the NFL does, to some extent, punish the players when act of violence is committed. There are certain standards that committed to insuring these type of actions won’t withstand in the sport. Clearly, a big example has been made with the suspension of Adrian Peterson as he goes through a tough battle to get off suspension.
    Too, some may argue that the NFL is not obligated to be responsible for these domestic violence problems. “It’s a personal problem that the family and authorities should deal with.” Football may be seen as these players job, and problems at home shouldn’t affect the players’ right to play. However, I think otherwise.
    The NFL needs to provide a better example for the social view. It needs to strongly be suggested that these cruel acts of violence by these players cannot and will not be accepted. The reason is because these players are viewed as role models to some people, more importantly, the youth. The sport consist of social figures, and without a significant amount of corrective action took upon these players’ violent acts, others can think that is not so bad to do such things. While these Ray Rice Jerseys are worn by the fans, some kid out there who think of football players as some of the coolest people in the world might think that it’s ok to punch a women.
    Now, to move along the subject at matter, how serious is the influence of the NFL on society?
    In The Wall Street Journal, “How the NFL Reflects American Culture,” Rich Cohen describes the NFL as a representation of America. He categorizes the sport as reflection of who we as Americans are – disturbing as it is, Cohen defines the NFL as a sport committed to the acceptance of negative behavior. To put it another way, he notes that “the league is a microcosm.” So, he expresses that the NFL, in part, shapes America.
    I cannot disagree with Cohen. I believe the NFL is an influence to society. I think the NFL does play a great deal in what actions are carried out throughout our society. It’s an influential sport that impacts the actions of others. There’s a long line of professional players who much of the youth look up to. They are the vision of another who may one day want to be like the player. I’ve seen children who look up to these NFL players. While fooling around at, let’s say a park, playing catch with a football as the youngster pretend he is some big-bad-pro-football-player. He’ll go for the pass of the football and call out, “Crabtree!”, as he catches the ball and run. There’s youth football players out there who look up to these pro NFL players as an image of who they want to be.
    In the article, “Image is Everything…Unless We’re Talking About the NFL”, Joe Concha reflects on height of influence these NFL players are. While he does express that they are very influential, he does point out that much of its image produce a negative effect. Only problem is it’s not be took seriously by the NFL. Concha makes it clear that it’s not enough done to make things better, “So when hearing cable news hosts and pundits talk about the NFL being in jeopardy because of an image problem, just know this: Almost all fans see this kind of behavior and collectively shrug. No one expects these guys to be role models off the field.” This has to be a concern.
    The NFL is a big influence on society! Its impact shouldn’t be ignored. Better moral value needs to be practiced by the NFL. Stop ignoring domestic violence by the players. Understand that it not just some 9 to 5 job were you’re blended in with the rest of society. It’s a nationally known sport that most Americans favor. Set an example!
    With the NFL’s actions posed upon the players’ lawless deeds took more serious, it will set a better example for the community. For example, with Ray Rice’s appeal on the domestic violence being denied and suspension continued to presume for a lengthy time period, this will set example that committing these type of crimes aren’t in any fashion acceptable. Plus, this will open the eyes of other players, helping decrease lawless acts which will be better for the community. The youth who admire these football players will be less prone to seeing violence as acceptable in a way. As said previously, the NFL is an influential sport, so more responsibility should be took for the sake of its influence on the community. As a result, moral values will be preserved.

    Works Cited
    Barrabi, Thomas. “NFL’s History Of Domestic Violence Extends Beyond Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson Abuse Cases.” International Business Times. 21 Sep. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.
    Concha, Joe. “Image is Everything…Unless We’re Talking About the NFL.” The Daily Beast, 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014
    Cohen, Rich. “How the NFL Reflects American Culture.” The Wall Street Journal, 19 Sep. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.
    Editorial Board. ”Peterson and Rice: New light on NFL’s dark side.” Star Tribune. Star Tribune, 19 Sep. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.

  25. Liana Coppola

    Liana Coppola
    ENG 330
    21 December 2014
    HOW THE NFL HURTS OUR NATION
    The National Football League has integrated itself and the game of football into the fabric of American life. Being a NFL fan is one of the major commonalities that intertwines our vastly diverse country and it does so with a passion and devotion uncontestable by any other following of professional sports. The game of football goes far beyond the realm of entertainment; it inspires the dreams of our youth, unifies and breeds camaraderie in our societies, and it ignites a beacon of hope that fuels individuals and entire communities alike. Unfortunately there are two sides to the world of football and the latter is more difficult to understand. This other component sewn into our countries identity—along side America’s devotion to the sport—is the dark obsession and exploitation of wealth. The NFL claims to embody the classic American dream but lurking in the shadow of this façade is a corporate organization run by greedy capitalists. The American public blindly supports the NFL simply because it has become a community staple but, little do they know, that there glorious game is actually a corporate enterprise rabidly draining the economy for profit. I believe that the world of professional football robs the local communities that it so valiantly claims to support. The NFL is hurting local communities financially and hinders these communities from making essential economic advances.
    The most prominent issue with the NFL is it’s status as a non-profit organization. This classification allows this multi-billion dollar industry to take advantage of all the major tax benefits associated with non-profit organizations. A CNN article by Drew Griffin introduces the key problems with allowing the NFL to be a non-profit organization. Griffin explains how detrimental this is to the taxpayers and ultimately the entire country. The first major clue as to why the NFL’s non-profit status should be revoked is that the status is outdated. The IRS ruled the NFL as a trade association in 1942 and what the NFL’s is making today is unfathomable compared to what the organization was making in 1942. This alone is a valid reason to reconsider their non-profit tax-exempt status. Griffin states: “Did the National Football League make $10.5 billion in 2013, pay its chief executive Roger Goodell $44.2 million, yet pay no taxes to Uncle Sam?”(Griffin). In Griffen’s article he introduces Tom Coburn, US senator and Oklahoma republican, who shares that “For all the professional sports leagues — including the PGA Tour and NHL among others — that use the loophole, ‘It amounts to like $10 million a year. $10 or 11 million a year. Probably $110 million over the next 10 years’”(Griffin). Senator Coburn goes on to explain how much the NFL is hiding from the government behind their non-profit status, “the individual owners and teams pay taxes. We’re not going after them, but what they do is they can put all this confluence of money into the league office and do this as a nonprofit, which means they’re not paying taxes like every other business that would be in a trade business like they are… The nonprofit NFL raked in more than $326 million from April 2012 to March 2013, almost of all of which came from ‘membership dues and assessments’ or league fees paid by the member teams, according to a CNN analysis of IRS documents.”(Griffin). These numbers are hard to even truly rap our heads around but the numbers provided by the Federal Education Budget Project help quantify these numbers. “On average, school districts spend $10,658 for each individual student, although per pupil expenditures vary greatly among states, school districts and individual schools”(Federal Education Budget Project). This means that a public school of 10,00 children could get their education paid for by the NFL mock taxes each year.
    What is becoming very clear is that the American people spend their hard earned money on all things football and not a single penny is recirculating into their local economies. A simple way to view the positive impact of a tax-paying establishment is to use the scenario of a hard working father. This father takes his family to a local restaurant and without knowing it he contributes to the upkeep and success of his community. The restaurant will make a profit and be able to pay and hire more employees, but more importantly the restaurant will also pay a percentage of the profit in taxes. These taxes will recirculate back into the community improving the standard of living for all parties involved. This circulation of wealth is the corner stone of our nations economic success and organizations like the NFL that do not recirculate it’s wealth and success in the form of taxes are debilitating to the American economy.
    In reality NFL teams embrace their communities far less then the communities embrace them the Cleveland Brown’s brand is worth over $59 million dollars and on average they earn $51 dollars from each one of their fans. And with a Metro Area population of 2.1 million people their revenue from the fans amounts to $1.071 billion dollars in merchandise, ticket sales, television support packages, and other cost associated with being a football fan”(Forbes.com). The financial contributions feeding into the NFL’s pocket from these hard hit communities and metropolitan areas is robbery. These communities suffer from economic hardship and minimalized living standards because they have been abused by organizations like the NFL who give nothing back to the local economies. These communities spend their hard earned money in support of these franchises and then in return these billionaires simple pocket their earnings and shelter the income from government taxes.
    The communities whose economies are most severely leech on by professional football organizations are the communities that house their franchises. The sharing of their land with the team’s monstrous stadiums only further represses the surrounding communities chance for economic improvement. Greg Easterbrook in The Atlantic wrote this article exposing the pure injustice that follows NFL team facilities. “Republican Governor Bob McDonnell took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts”(Easterbrook). The fact that Dan Snyder, a billionaire, receives millions of taxpayer dollars to expand an organization that only furthers to emaciate the American economy is simply unjust. Easterbrook talks about the new Levi Stadium which is being built in Santa Clara, CA. He reports, “Although most of the capital for the new stadium is being underwritten by the public, most football revenue generated within the facility will be pocketed by Denise DeBartolo York, whose net worth is estimated at $1.1 billion, and members of her family”(Easterbrook). A common misconception is that sports arenas and stadiums feed the surrounding economy by providing jobs and increasing tourism. On the contrary the billionaire owners pocket the profits from the stadium, who in turn shelter these profits within the NFL’s non-profit status. The surrounding communities of these stadiums eventually wither and die after the loyal patrons readily hand over their hard-earned money and they never see any form of recirculation.
    The NFL and the embodied franchises seem to be writing a horrific tragedy with the heart and soul of our nation. The game of football reaches to the far corners of America, captivating the country with all it’s glory, wealth, boisterous prosperity, and hope. The wealth contributed by the individuals of our great nation and who span across all walks of life is glutinously consumed by a very select few. While the spirit of the game provides such a powerfully metaphysical experience for it’s supporters, the corruption and extortion will eventually over burden the American society. We risk losing entire communities because the NFL and its tax-exempt status is devouring their economic foundation. The irony is that the NFL is actually one of the few extremely prosperous corporations who could afford to pay more than their far share of taxes and who owe it to the community to recirculate the wealth.


    Works Cited

    Easterbrook, Gregg. “How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

    “The Real Super Bowl Question: Should The NFL Be A Nonprofit?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

    “Cleveland Browns.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

    Griffin, Drew, and Tristan Smith. “Is the NFL Skirting the Tax Man?” CNN. Cable News Network, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

    “Background & Analysis.” Background & Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

  26. Shaina Zimdahl

    This is a paper I wrote for my writing class focusing on the idea of Fathers and Sons and their relationship with football.

    Fathers, Sons, and Football

    “Mostly, I wanted to be close to my dad. That’s why most boys take up with sports. Teamwork, dedication, killer instinct—-all that stuff comes later. In the beginning, you just want to be with your dad.” (Steve Almond, Against Football)

    Father’s and sons have connected over the subject of football for decades. It’s most often considered a right of passage for a father to teach his son to throw a football in the front yard for the first time, or to spend Sunday afternoons catching the latest game rooting for their favorite team. This bond created by a common interest in probably what is the most testosterone-fueled sport played today, can be the make or break point for any young boy’s search for approval from his father. If a son manages to pick up a love for his father’s passion this will likely bring them closer, forming a tighter bond. On the other hand if a son has no interest in his father’s love of sports it can throw a wrench into the development of their relationship. It’s a shame to think that something as trivial as a sport can become the defining factor of how a father and son relate to each other, and it can also have a profound effect on the development of any young boy. My intention is to highlight how football can either bring a father and son closer, or how it can become a driving force in tearing them apart.
    Fathers and sons can make connections with one another through various subjects, especially sports. The hard work, focus, dedication, and camaraderie can be wonderful skills to teach a child because they can be utilized both on and off the field. More importantly sports; football in particular, can become the foundation for an unbreakable bond between father and son. Bob Griese was a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins from 1967 to 1980 and was able to be apart of two Superbowl wins. It wasn’t until 1988 that life took an unexpected turn and Griese lost his wife Judy to breast cancer. Bob relied on the support of his sons, and most importantly his relationship with his youngest son Brian. It was at this point Bob and Brian needed each other more than ever. “I was the one he could talk to,” the son, Brian, says. “He didn’t have a friend, a companion, anymore. It was a hard time for him. I had to be two people, be there for him at home, then go to school and be someone else, figure out who I was.” (Montville, His Father’s Son) Brian may not have been old enough to remember his father’s legacy, but he did get a chance to see his father’s passion for the sport transition from that of player to broadcaster. Seeing his father in action may have factored into Brian’s decision to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a solid quarterback at his high school Columbus high. With Brian on the team, Bob found himself involved in helping at practices and attending weekly games, something that seemed to bring them even closer together “I could be there for the games,” the father says, “be there at the end. I think that’s important for a kid, to have someone there at the end of the game. If I couldn’t make it, I always made sure someone was there to meet with him.” (Montville, His Father’s Son) Bob’s insistence on having someone there at all times to support Brian is important to the development of any child, and shows how much a parent values their child. Bob continued this even once Brian went off to college. “The best thing about doing his games this year simply is being able to go to the games,” the father says. “I can go a day early, we can have dinner on Thursday night and just talk. Not about football. Just talk about anything. It’s the college football experience. I can be a part of it with him, the way my parents were with “me.”(Montville, His Father’s Son) In this case football was used a positive bonding mechanism. Father and son found solace in their shared love of the game, not only did the son look up to what his father was a part of, but he was able to incorporate a part of his father’s world into his own life.
    Unfortunately not all men are able to share this special bond with their sons, and if forced can have some adverse effects on both a father’s relationship with his child and the child himself. The best example of this can be found in the lives of Marv and Todd Marinovich. Marv Marinovich’s career in football includes being a lineman for USC, winning the 1962 championship, later moving into the pros for three years with both the LA Rams and the Oakland Raiders. He soon thereafter, due to his focus on training, transitioned into becoming a trainer instead of player. Marinovich’s dedicated focus on training would soon spill over into his personal life when his wife Trudi became pregnant with their son Todd. Determined to prepare his unborn son for greatness Todd stated, “Some guys think the most important thing in life is their jobs, the stock market, whatever,” he says. “To me, it was my kids. The question I asked myself was, how well could a kid develop if you provided him with the perfect environment?” (Sager, Man Who Never Was..) Marv made sure that Trudi used no processed foods, alcohol, or tobacco and that once their son was born he was only fed fresh raw foods. At age three, Marv had his son on strict regimen of exercise and mental stimulation. All of this preparation turned Marv’s son into a vessel of “focus and will” and in 9th grade became quarterback of his high school team. It wasn’t until he lost his first game that Todd began to show some cracks, despite the fact that he offered his team a defense that they never would have had due to his training regimen. Those cracks came in the form of stunted social growth and lack of confidence. This only makes sense due to the fact that with Marv’s rigorous training there wasn’t much time for any social activity, however by being on the team offered Todd a chance to connect with his peers “When I was growing up, the term my mom used was ‘terrifyingly shy,’ ” Todd says. “That’s why I always loved being on a team. It was the only way I could make friends. It was really amazing to have these guys, these upperclassmen, come over. And they’re like, ‘Hey, Todd, let’s go! Come out with us after the game. It’s party time!” (Sager, Man Who Never Was..) Slowly, this became the norm in Todd’s life; throw everything into football during the week, playing Friday’s game, and then partying all weekend. Todd soon began experimenting with marijuana, saying that it helped with the social awkwardness and allowed him to mellow out a bit, though he says he never practiced or played high. Fast forward to college where Todd ended up starting at USC, it was here that he moved on from just alcohol and pot and into cocaine. Soon enough he was written up on possession and charged with two misdemeanors and let go from the USC team. However, this somehow translated to Todd that he should become eligible for the NFL, with his stats and background it was surprisingly easy and soon enough he was signed to the Oakland Raiders and once again training with his father Marv. Now the pressure of being a rookie was becoming even more apparent and led to Todd acting out using even more drugs, and attending raves. The drugs, which had started out a purely a ‘weekend’ thing, they slowly began to leak into his football performance and he began to use before games stating, “I wasn’t playing, so the warm-ups were my game. They’d have these great stereo systems in the stadiums; they’d be blasting the Stones or whatever. I’d take some black beauties and be throwing the ball seventy-five yards, running around playing receiver, fucking around — and then I was done for the day. I never played. Some guys did play on speed. Or they mixed with Vicodin. They could run through a fuckin’ wall and not feel a thing.” (Sager, Man Who Never Was..). It got to a point where Todd’s spiral downward became worse and worse causing him to smoke all the time and stock clean urine to pass drug tests. Todd’s crash came when he was caught with urine (he thought was clean) to be measured with a .32 alcohol level and was sent to detox, came back to play, and then continued to fail another drug test. Todd was soon there after let go from the team. Todd’s story continues with another brief stint in the NFL but nothing much came of it, due to his issue with drugs. The question is, how was it that a child bred for greatness by his father starting from in the womb, could end up so broken? Everything was set up perfectly, except the fact that his father never took into consideration what was best for Todd. Todd grew up with a heavy expectation put upon him, to live and breathe football and nothing but success was ever an option. Marv’s intense focus on football projected onto his son stunted his child’s social development; there were no other interests outside of football. The pressure to be perfect was immense, and that kind of stress thrown on to a kid at the age of three is not healthy. It just goes to show you that there is a difference between sharing a life’s passion like football with your child and forcing that life’s passion on child.
    Both these examples of father/son relationships in relation to football are so vastly different. One thrived with the presence of a shared love of the game, while in the other the fathers love of the game did nothing but tear down a man before he ever even had the chance to become one. What is apparent here though is that it’s not football directly that seems to be the issue, it’s the search for a long lasting and nourishing connection between father and son, how that connection is made and to what extreme. It is important for the bond between father and son to be strong, unbreakable even, but the trick is to be able to accomplish this while still keeping the child’s needs and social development as top priority.

    Resources:

    1. Almond, Steve. Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2014. Print.
    2. Montville, Leigh. “His Father’s Son.” Sports Illustrated, 87.15 (1997): 76.
    3. Anonymous, . “Members of the National Football Players Father’s Association Take Pride in Their Sons.” Jet, 103.25 (2003): 50.
    4. Sager, Mike. “The Man Who Never Was: Twenty Years Ago, Todd Marinovich Was Guaranteed to Be One of the Greatest Quarterbacks Ever to Play the Game of Football. Engineered to Be. He Was Drafted Ahead of Brett Favre. Today He S a Recovering Junkie. Scenes from the Chaotic Life of a Boy Never Designed to Be a Man.” Esquire, 151.5 (2009): 84-94.

  27. Kenneth Arnold

    Kenneth Arnold
    Professor Dr. Kim Vose
    ENG 330 – Project 2 Revised/Final Draft
    21 December 2014
    Changing Faces: How American professional football changed from Caucasian player dominance to African-American player dominance and what it reveals in today’s society.

    “Who was the first African-American professional football player?” Unlike baseball which celebrated Jackie Robinson, a celebrated second baseman with the Dodgers during the late 1940’s, football didn’t significantly smash the color barrier until the 1960’s. In fact, only seventeen African -Americans managed to play football professionally in the space of 29 years, from 1904 to 1933 (Ross 5). When I look at today’s sports games and just take a visual count of the racial background of each player and the diversity in a modern sports team as a whole, I wonder how such a dramatic change was possible.
    But that change didn’t happen overnight. Like America in the early 19th century, football was also coming to age along with the rapid social and technological changes brought about by the industrial revolution and civil war aftermath. Young African-American males in this era faced constant danger on all sides, from Ku Klux Klan rallies to lynch mobs. In this age, segregation was king. Caucasian campuses like Harvard and Yale enjoyed what were then state-of-the-art football facilities and equipment for their all-Caucasian teams. With the media coverage of matches increasing in popularity nationwide; baseball, basketball and football games became more and more popular within the African-American community and leagues catering to enthusiastic players and fans began to form. But underneath the surface, change was beginning to form. Little by little, African-Americans took note of their absences in professional sports and gradually, the amateur neighborhood ball and sports clubs evolved into organized clubs borrowing aspects from the best all-Caucasian teams.
    From these early beginnings, the few African-American’s who played professionally had shown impressive athletic skills rivaling or surpassing their Caucasian counterparts and it wasn’t only just starting to happen in Football. In Basketball, African-American players showed aggressiveness on the court which captivated the crowds. But this success also bore a dark side; stereotypes began to mold into African-American athletes typically viewed as “physically superior but intellectually challenged” (Sailes 186). Even today, these athletes struggle to shake those stereotypes. If this is difficult to believe, even in today’s world, read on!
    How often do we see a large, healthy African-American male in excellent shape wearing a jersey and make an immediate subconscious connection that he may or may not have been a football player or athlete at some point during his life? As “benevolent” as this thought may be, it’s still a stereotype many in society continue to hold. Even today, the perception of success some people hold is that successful athletes and musicians are typically African-American males while successful businessmen and lawyers are usually Caucasian males (Ross 108). The problem with any stereotype is that once they are finely developed, they tend to “stick around” generation after generation and create distorted and inaccurate views of the potential an individual can bring regardless of their true characteristics.
    To the contrary of these stereotypes, strong evidence suggests a connection between athletic and teamwork skills gained in school sports and achievement, learning and career success for many African-Americans, both men and women (Murphy 313). For proof, look no further than James Nathaniel “Jim” Brown, who was a running back for the Cleveland Browns. Long after his football career ended, he continues to enjoy fame as a respected actor in his own right. Acting in movies like the “Dirty Dozen”, “Ice Station Zebra” and “Any Given Sunday”, these roles showed his prowess as a successful actor who successfully survived in an ultra-competitive industry and across generations of Americans (Freeman 200). Jim Brown and many like him broke the ground for generations after them. But it never happened in a vacuum, the social and political environment was “just right” for these profound changes and transition from a majority of Caucasian to a majority of African-American professional football players to occur.
    So how and why did this transition occur in the first place? Interestingly enough, it really began with the progress of African-Americans in other sports that eventually allowed the breakthrough into mainstream professional football, like boxing. In 1936, boxing legend Joe Lewis and four-time Olympic gold-medal athlete Jesse Owens were the talk of America. They became accepted and even admired by a massive segment of the American population of the day with their popularity stretching across the color barrier like it never existed (Sailes 7). Even as America was still dealing with segregation and racism, Joe Lewis and Jesse Owens opened the door for credible African-American athletes and future generations who would eventually play professional football.
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also changed the legal landscape for professional football players. No longer could the NFL discriminate on the basis of color or creed and proven African-American athletes had both the means and determination to achieve their goals. For many of the low income students who wanted to succeed academically, joining the college football team or “going pro” seemed to be a realization of those goals. It’s important to recognize that many African-American teens of the 1950’s and 1960’s viewed society as only offering limited paths to success. Unless it was to serve in the Military by possibly dying in Vietnam, or even worse, to deal drugs in the neighborhood, a professional athletic career was typically perceived be the only other option (Ross 170).
    Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, African-American professional football players continued to gain ground in parallel with other career fields. Those teens of past years worked hard and crafted their place into football history. While the situation for players was improving, African-Americans continued to be (and many argue, still are) largely absent from the power structure of professional sports. Even as recently as 1995, Caucasians were majority owners of 100% of all NFL teams (Shropshire 37). So how would you argue that race doesn’t play a major role in sports?
    Make no mistake; race continues to play a major role in sports. In fact, just looking at the ethnic makeup of today’s professional athletes, the NBA (National Basketball Association) and NFL (National Football League) are dominated by African-American players. In the 1994-1995 seasons, 68% of NFL players identified as African-American and 31% identified as Caucasian. Following suite, the NBA had nearly identical results to the NFL. Even more telling, the MLB (Major League Baseball) organization had nearly the polar opposite in ethnic orientation the same 1994-1995 season, with 62% of its players identifying as Caucasian, 19% identifying as African-American and 19% identifying as Latino (Shropshire 4).
    Looking at this information, one could easily draw the conclusion that the MLB is still “stuck in the past”. However, this is primarily due to simple cultural interests in these sports, often rooted in tradition. Football during the 1970’s and 1980’s appealed to the “masses” more readily than Baseball, which seemed to be a “dated” sport. Football differed from Baseball in one key aspect, the fans demanded aggressive players often regardless of racial background. The “NFL Draft Picks” to this day are uniquely publicized and scrutinized by fans. NFL and professional football teams also grew more quickly than their counterpart baseball teams during the 1970’s and 1980’s, which allowed teams to focus on the recruitment of popular African-American college and high school athletes.
    Even today, schools offer lucrative scholarships to attract skilled African-American athletes to their campuses. For a low income student, this could offer a superior “out” to their current financial straits and future goals. Conversely, however, there has also been a negative effect in which society has neglected to encourage African-American students towards subjects like engineering, medicine, and other sciences. African-American musicians, soldiers and athletes are glorified in the mainstream media and culture, encouraging a disproportionate population of African-Americans in these fields and careers.
    This change from football being a pre-dominantly Caucasian sport to a pre-dominantly African-American sport matters as it shows how much we as a nation have changed, and how much we have changed football and other sports with it. Football, while entertaining, is a microcosm of the changing world we all inhabit and to understand how football changed opens a window to how the world changed and vice versa. Just consider the impact of the teamwork that football demands. A close-knit team is the first step in overlooking and, eventually, overcoming the color barrier. An integrated football team is dependent on each player to operate seamlessly together and, as a result, there cannot be any tolerance for racism within the team’s dynamics since it threatens the team’s effectiveness. Through football and especially other contact sports, we are able to do what has continued to elude us in the everyday world, embrace teamwork and cooperation across the color barrier. So, to answer the question at the beginning of this paper, “Who was the first African-American professional football player?” It was J.W. “Bud” Fowler, who began playing in 1872 (Ross 4).

    References/Works Cited
    Freeman, Michael. Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero. New York: William Morrow, 2006. Print.
    Gius, Mark, and Johnson, Donn. “Race and Compensation in Professional Football.” Applied Economics Letters 7.2 (2000): 73-75. Print.
    Murphy, Angela. “Life Stories of Black Male and Female Professionals: An Inquiry into the Salience of Race and Sports.” The Journal of Men’s Studies 13.3 (2005): 313-25. Print.
    Ross, Charles Kenyatta. Outside the Lines: African-Americans and the Integration of the National Football League. New York: New York UP, 1999. Print.
    Sailes, Gary Alan. African-Americans in Sport: Contemporary Themes. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998. Print.
    Schollaert, Paul T. “Team Racial Composition and Sports Attendance.” The Sociological Quarterly 28.1 (1987): 71-87. Print.
    Shropshire, Kenneth L. In Black and White: Race and Sports in America. New York: New York UP, 1996. Print.

  28. Andreya Peru

    Andreya Peru
    12/7/2014
    Extended University Online
    ENGL

    Make Thieves, Then Punish Them

    “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.” – Thomas More, “Utopia”
    We as a society have a responsibility to one another that extends beyond everyday cordiality. We are responsible for our triumphs and we are also responsible for our shortcomings. However, we have also become a society that has created certain negative social behaviors, both learned and physiological, for our own benefit and rewarded some of the worst aspects of our learned behaviors. Could this quote also relate to the violence taught in football? Do we first make aggressive, violent individuals and then berate them for the qualities that we also revere them for? In the manly game of football, teaching violence on the field can create a violent person off the field. It’s hard not to open a newspaper or turn on the news without seeing the latest story of an NFL player who has beaten his wife or girlfriend, or who has been arrested for some other violent crime. Why is this happening? For thousands of years men have been evaluated in terms of their ability to do violence in combination with their physical skills. Boys start to learn this in sports and begin to accept brutal body contact and borderline violence as part of the game but does the violence end once the players leave the field?
    Players in heavy contact sports like football learn early on to use aggression, violence, and intimidation as strategies to accomplish their competitive success on the field. (Violence in Sports, Coakley) Success in such sports depends upon the use of brutal full contact. Players know that doing violence is necessary and even expected, even if it causes bodily harm to others or themselves. Often time’s coaches use strategies that include intimidation and violence to strategically assist their team by intimidating, provoking, fighting with, or injuring opponents. An ex-NFL player, Jessie Armstead, says that making the transition from the aggressive on the field life to the off-field life isn’t a simple task; he says that many players have a problem with it. (Violence in Sports, Coakley) Another former NFL player, John Niland says “Any athlete who thinks he can be as violent as he can be playing football, and leave it all on the field, is kidding himself.” (“Mind Body & Sports”, Kamm, Ronald) These players admit that the aggression they feel on the field is something they can’t always willingly turn off. If a player has a confrontation with another player off the field then its hard for them to stop the initial reaction that they would use “at work”, which is to throttle the person causing them to be upset. How can you ask someone to tackle a person in one instance and then to talk through their differences in another?
    It seems that the violent behavior that NFL players show off the field is a sort of controlled response. (Violence in Sports, Coakley) Players learn aggressive behavior early in life from violent sports and come to rely on this behavior to solve problems for one simple reason: resolution comes from physical domination. For many players, life starts in a rough neighborhood where violent sports are revered and where poverty and hopelessness promote the use of the skills they learn on the field. Kids in these neighborhoods see football as a “way out”. Steve Almond explains it quite well in a quote from his book “Against Football”, Almond says “it (football) reinforced the idea that violence was a source of power and a path to destiny.” (106) They learn to love a sport where their natural strength can elevate them out of their poverty. The sport of football has a culture that highlights hostility, physical domination, and the willingness to use one’s body as a weapon. When those are the qualities that are valued how can you expect someone to want to change? How can you call on the field aggression sportsmanship while off the field aggression is called domestic violence? We cannot first make aggressive people and then punish them for using the knowledge that was given to them. “The ultimate message football sends to young boys, …, is that they are valuable not for the content of the character, not for their intelligence or creativity, but for how fast they can run and how well they can throw and catch and, especially, how hard they can hit.” (Almond 108)
    Without proper education in the philosophy behind using violence, people who are taught to be aggressive will revert back to this first knowledge in times of stress, adversity, and hardship. A study done by Michael E. Trulson showed that aggressive tendencies by young males who were educated with the philosophy of tae kwon do, which emphasizes respect for others, confidence, physical fitness, self-control, honor, patience, and responsibility while fighting and in life in general, showed far less tendencies to become violent at all. (Martial Arts Training: A Novel “Cure” for Juvenile Delinquency) This seems to show that there is a responsible way to use aggression or to even maintain it. If football could teach players the aggression needed on the field and the necessary attitude to control this aggression then perhaps there can be a balance found between aggression on the field and off the field. The idea behind most martial arts training begins with the teachings that violence is a last resort. Martial arts gives their students the knowledge to take on any adversary but moreover teaches them to control the power they posses. That there is a time and a place to show your strength but to never abuse it or use it unnecessarily. Instead of creating more violence perhaps the path is to control it and understand it. But the truth of the matter is, the NFL doesn’t use martial art philosophy to teach their players to control their violence. They have cheered their players on the field as they ran head long into each other and then sat back and watched as they continued their rampage off the field with crimes that span from domestic violence to sexual assault. The behavior exhibited is not only that of unrestrained emotions, but also an effect of repeated physical harm they’ve sustained and the physiological changes that have come with it.
    Football creates violent people through the violence they demonstrate on the field. The manner is which they do their job has a direct affect on their body in the form of bumps, breaks, and bruises. However, it can also manifest itself in a far more damaging and permanent way: psychologically. Though “heads up” tackling, where players lead with their shoulders, is taught, it is not always the common practice. Mike Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears said “The main thing I see is players putting their heads down or closing their eyes when they go for a tackle.” This is completely against what is “taught” but is also, sadly, the norm. Spearing, or leading with your head, is supposedly outlawed in the NFL but on closer inspection you see that the rule only applies to a certain scenario. Only hits that happen on the crown of the helmet are considered spearing, while facemask, hairline, and side hits are all permissible. (What is spearing?) Within one season a single NFL player can have more than 1,400 impacts to their head and it is known that these repetitive strikes to the head can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in a National Football League Player: Case Report and Emerging Medicolegal Practice Questions.) CTE is a degenerative brain disease that is commonly found in athletes who take multiple sub-concussive hits to the head. The unfortunate thing is that CTE can only be truly diagnosed through a post-mortem examination of the brain. Some of the symptoms of CTE are confusion, depression, progressive dementia, memory loss, impaired judgment, aggression, impulse control problems, and suicidal tendencies. All of which have been attributed to the violence that some players have shown off the field. Lesions have also been found on the anterior lobe of player’s brains with CTE. That part of the brain is responsible for self-control and emotions. With damage done to the anterior lobe, players may lose their control of emotions such as anger and be unable to resist the power to act out. Even players with no previous history of domestic violence suddenly have huge changes in their personality and find themselves acting out in uncharacteristic behavior. (O’Keeffe, Michael. “Study: CTE May Be Linked to Domestic Violence.”) It appears that violence truly does breed more violence, even if it is through a side-effect rather than cause and effect.
    Another, more controversial view that can be considered here is a view that was shared by Byron Hurt from a debate on Ebony.com with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. Hurt says that players are taught from early on that to dominate is to be in control. A player needs to always be in control and not just in the game. To dominate is to be superior and when someone challenges their superiority they must fight back. The problem is that a player is conditioned to “control” a situation through brut force to show how superior they are. Could this conditioning and training be the cause of the violence that the players demonstrate so regularly? Is off the field violence a type of show to demonstrate just how manly and bigger they are?
    But perhaps the problem lies with the NFL itself. Could the fact that most players have little to no consequences to their actions have a part to play in this? Players have no repercussions to their violent behavior. Think back to some of the most recent stories of NFL players who have had run-ins with the law lately. Most recently Ray Rice, the running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was convicted of assault against his then finance, Janay Palmer. Security tapes were found of Rice punching Palmer and dragging her unconscious body from an elevator. After the tape surfaced the Ravens were forced to terminate Rice’s contract. Shortly after, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, indefinitely suspended Rice from the NFL. However, the suspension was found to be “arbitrary” and an “abuse of discretion” so the decision could therefore not be held. The NFL agreed with this ruling and will allow Rice to sign with a team if one shows interest. Another instance is the Adrian Peterson case where Peterson gave his son such a bad “whooping”, as he referred to it, that his mother had to take him to the doctor for the apparent abuse the child received. (Peterson, Britt. “Adrian Peterson Child Abuse Scandal Exposes Our Cozy, Evasive Language for Hitting Kids – The Boston Globe.”) What did the NFL do? They suspended Peterson for one game.
    In both cases the NFL allows for an initial slap on the wrist only to revoke it soon after. NFL fans were outraged at the seemingly nonchalance of the organization. The NFL’s feelings on domestic violence were a slightly altered version of domestic violence in the home in the 1950’s: it is a private matter that happens between family members. But, in light of the Ray Rice incident, the NFL was forced to take action. Each of the 32 NFL team owners were sent a letter stating that any player caught in a domestic violence or sexual assault would have an automatic 6 game suspension. The second offense would be a lifetime banishment from the NFL organization. (Wilson, Ryan. “NFL on Domestic Violence: 6 Games for 1st Offense; Lifetime Ban Afterward.”) With the current statistics of domestic violence in the NFL it should not take long to see if the NFL will stick to its guns.
    It is sad that one should ever have a doubt in their minds about how seriously someone will take violence in any circumstance but the truth is that the NFL has proved that they are an unreliable source of protection for those that need it. An organization that conditions and trains its athletes to be aggressive needs to be held accountable. Thankfully, after Ray Rice’s incident the NFL can no longer sit on the sidelines. Actively reprimanding their players for conduct off the field is finally becoming a real consequence for players. NFL players are beginning to see that their actions off the field have a tangible effect on the field which is a blessed relief. The NFL must accept that they have a responsibility to not only create great players but also to maintain good people.
    Through my research I have found that violent behavior may truly breed more violent behavior. It may not be so simple as a monkey see, monkey do scenario but it could be the beginning. CTE is a very real and an extremely dangerous disease that cannot be diagnosed until it is too late. This disease makes players act out in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Where once there was a sweet football player there is now a depressed, quick to anger player who can’t control the emotions he’s feeling. It is not fair to first make an aggressive person and then hold only them accountable for their actions. I believe that the NFL and we, as a nation, need to implement a change in the way we teach football.
    My research has lead me to believe there are serious steps that can to be made in the NFL and in football across the board, starting from the first time a child picks up a football. As America’s favorite past time, football carries quite a big responsibility, it is our main distraction as a country and many of its players are people who are looked up to. I feel that a responsible and civically-minded philosophy should be taught alongside tackling, running, and passing drills. Ultimately, power without wisdom is a disservice to everyone. We can teach these lessons as soon as a child begins to play the sport, ingrain it into their minds, and make choosing responsible and reasonable reactions more common place for those living in what most consider to be a violent world. The game would only change for the better if the players were still the hard-hitting brutes we all admire on the field, but also kind, thoughtful, and respectful individuals off the field. As a society I feel that we have a duty to make this change. The people who play this game aren’t just NFL players; they’re our brothers, husbands, sons, and nephews. Football touches our lives in more ways than we think and we have an obligation to keep these people safe through good teachings and practices.

    Works Cited
    Almond, Steve. Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
    Bennet I. Omalu MD, MBA, MPH1, Ronald L. Hamilton MD2, M. Ilyas Kamboh PhD3, Steven T. DeKosky MD4 AndJulian Bailes MD5. “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in a National Football League Player: Case Report and Emerging Medicolegal Practice Questions.” Sign In. Journal of Forensic Nursing, Mar. 2010. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    Coakley, Jay J. “Chp. 7 VIOLENCE IN SPORTS How Does It Affect Our Lives?”Sports in
    Society: Issues and Controversies. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. N. pag. Print.
    O’Keeffe, Michael. “Study: CTE May Be Linked to Domestic Violence.” NY Daily News. N.p., 18 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    Kamm, Ronald. “”Mind Body & Sports” – Dr. Ronald L. Kamm.” “Mind Body & Sports” – Dr. Ronald L. Kamm. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.
    Peterson, Britt. “Adrian Peterson Child Abuse Scandal Exposes Our Cozy, Evasive Language for Hitting Kids – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    Wilson, Ryan. “NFL on Domestic Violence: 6 Games for 1st Offense; Lifetime Ban Afterward.” CBSSports.com. N.p., 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    “Martial Arts Training: A Novel “Cure” for Juvenile Delinquency.” Martial Arts Training: A Novel “Cure” for Juvenile Delinquency. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    “Spearing Definition – Sporting Charts.” What Is Spearing? Definition from SportingCharts.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
    “Stephen A. Smith ‘Provokes’ Debate about Violence Against Women.” EBONY. N.p., 28 July 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.

  29. L. Claire

    Steve, I read your book as part of a college English course. Your work was an inspiration for my research paper:

    Gender INequality in Sports Culture:
    the Dykes and the Cheerleaders

    Today, gender equity is commonly embraced and celebrated by American society, yet inequality still exists in many facets of our culture. In many instances, gender inequity is apparent and the issue is largely ignored. One of those instances is in sports. Undoubtedly, sports culture is its own subset of American culture. Members of sports culture have their own specific set of values, beliefs, and traditions within American culture. Some of the qualities of sports culture lead to fortifying relationships, teaching teamwork, and instilling ethics through the observance of rules. Sports creates camaraderie between family, friends, and even strangers. However, there’s a dark side of sports culture that’s often ignored. Sports culture today engenders hypermasculinity, which devalues and degrades female athletes and perpetuates the objectification of women. Researchers Mosher and Sirkin first defined hypermasculinity as “a macho personality constellation consisting of three components: (a) calloused sex attitudes toward women, (b) violence as manly, and (c) danger as exciting” (Mosher & Sirkin). While in other areas of American culture, sexist attitudes have improved and continue to improve at a reasonable rate, sports culture tends to preserve these attitudes, which in turn influences American society as a whole. According to Jan Boxill of the University of South Carolina, author of “Football and Feminism” in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, “Sports do not simply reflect passively; they are active in the sense that they affect what they reflect” (Boxill 1). Because sports are so popular and so intertwined into American culture, they have a massive amount of power to influence American attitudes. The attitudes reflected in sports culture become social norms. We, as fans, really need to think carefully about how we’re contributing to backwards attitudes towards women when we engage in sports culture. When we watch games, buy fan gear, read, watch or listen to sports reporting, participate in and allow our children to participate in sports, we are being shaped by sports culture. We must take note of the ways we’re being influenced that are damaging to women and in turn, to society. When we see women portrayed as less valuable than men, they actually become less valuable to society, which relates to a higher level of dependence on others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women in the U.S. earn 82% of what men earn, yet they live 5 to 6 years longer than men (Kirkwood). That suggests that women are more likely to need welfare programs. The BLS also reports that the people receiving means-tested government assistance are 58% female (Foster and Hawk 2013). American taxes are paying for the way that we devalue women. This cycle needs to stop. We must change these attitudes for the betterment of society, and also so that our children will have healthier views of themselves and healthier relationships. We must make sure that our daughters understand that they deserve to be treated with respect and should be valued for more than their appearance, and we must make sure that our sons regard women as multidimensional human beings rather than as just the parts that sports culture favors.

    Some believe that sports culture has come a long way with regards to sexism. They claim that Americans and the world are more accepting of female athletes now than ever before. There was a time when women weren’t allowed to participate in the Olympics or in a wide range of school sports or professional sports. Now, women have the opportunity to compete for Olympic Medals, many school sports programs have been created for them, and there are numerous opportunities for women in professional sports. While I agree that all of these facts are true, I still say that all these things don’t result in equality for women in sports. For starters, the opportunities for women in professional sports are few when compared to the opportunities for men. Today, there are no opportunities for women in professional football, baseball, or hockey. These are some of the most popular and most profitable men’s sports. For women, being isolated from these sports is tremendously limiting. A woman’s interest in participating one of these sports cannot be fulfilled, and women are unable to capitalize on their skills in these sports. Further, professional female athletes are paid far less than professional male athletes. For example, a top WNBA player earns a salary of $105,000 per year, which is the maximum in the WNBA, whereas an NBA player with similar achievements on the court and similar awards earns $20.5 million per year, which is roughly the maximum in the NBA (Woods). That is almost 200 times the salary of a top WNBA player. So, a top female professional basketball player earns one half of 1% of what her male counterpart earns. There is no other occupation where the gender pay gap is so drastic. This means that the dream of becoming a professional athlete is substantially less appealing for women than it is for men. In addition, it’s obvious to any American that women’s sports aren’t nearly as popular as men’s sports. Female athletes receive far less media coverage than male athletes. “The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) reported that in 2013 women’s sports received 7% of coverage and 0.4% of the total value of commercial sponsorships” (qtd. in K.S.C.). Why is this? Some say it’s because there’s a lack of commercial appeal. According to K.S.C. in The Economist, it’s a vicious cycle in which fans want to see the best athletes and sponsors want to be associated with the best athletes, but because of the lack of sponsorship, female athletes cannot afford to dedicate enough time to training in order to become the best. Still others might say that it’s because female athletes actually have a different physical capacity and are therefore inferior and less interesting. In addition to K.S.C.’s theory, I argue that even the worst performing male professional teams still have strong followings. Case in point, the Oakland Raiders of the NFL and the Chicago Cubs of the MLB. Neither team has achieved recent success, however, each still attract a tremendous amount of support from their respective fan-bases. So the issue of why women’s sports don’t get attention is more complicated. Perhaps it’s because the culture of sports teaches us that male athletes are superior because they optimize masculinity and aggression, whereas females, athletes or otherwise, should represent femininity and passivity. Therefore, only men can be respected athletes. Jan Boxill recalls the once widespread opinion that sports “… is for developing the kind of character we want in our men, not in our women” (Boxill 1). This may seem like an outdated idea, but consider the fact that female athletes today are often stereotyped as lesbians and frequently endure being called “butch” and “dyke.” This demonstrates that sports fans don’t value strong, competitive women. No doubt these gender attitudes have the effect of minimizing women. Women should be allowed to have characteristics and interests that extend beyond the box that sports culture wants them to fit into. Researchers Messner and Sabo, both former athletes, note that “Studies of men’s historical and contemporary relationships to sport suggest that sport tends to unify men in the domination of women, and that women’s movement into sport is thus a challenge to male domination” (Messner & Sabo). This suggests that men oppose women’s movement into sports because sports culture influences them to do so. It’s important to note that men may not be actively subjugating women, but rather unaware of their position of male privilege and of the effect that sports culture has on their attitudes. Nevertheless, this helps explain the perseverance of gender inequality in sports. Women deserve to have the same opportunities in sports as men have. Women should be allowed to be strong, competitive, and aggressive without being judged with disgust. Maybe if sports fans paid more attention to female athletes, they would find value in watching women’s sports, then Americans would begin to value female athletes, and sponsors would support female athletes.

    Some might argue that sexism existed long before today’s sports culture. Of course it did. But think about how gender equality has evolved in other areas of American culture compared to sports culture. Great women have achieved Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals, and MacArthur Genius Awards. Women have earned political appointments, CEO positions, and professorship positions. According to “Women in the Workforce,” women outnumber men in jobs in education, health services, and financial activities. The Russell Sage Foundation notes that women now outnumber men in the number of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees awarded. Of course, women are still underrepresented and underpaid compared to men in most fields, but not to the extent that the issue exists in athletics. The current culture of sports perpetuates sexist attitudes by reinforcing them. Locker room talk and language used by coaches are contributors. Team sports tend to create an environment where femininity is feared and despised. Stanley Eitzen points to Timothy Curry’s study of locker room talk. “Curry’s (1991) research on the male bonding in athletic locker rooms found that the talk there focused on the affirmation of traditional masculinity, homophobia, and misogynistic slurs against women. Curry reasons that athletes do not want to be singled out as unmasculine in any way. Thus, the expression of dislike for femaleness or homosexuality demonstrates to oneself and others that one is separate from it and therefore must be masculine (Curry 1991:128)” (qtd. in Eitzen 374-375). This explains the origin of the fear of femininity and the widespread use of slurs against women. In “Against Football,” Steve Almond echoes the same ideas when he notes some of the insults he received for his opinions on football, such as, “…you are the biggest fucking pussy of the face of the earth. Change your tampon you woman;” and “I read an article you wrote about football and I couldn’t help but think of a slutty girl I knew growing up. I thought she had the biggest vagina I’d ever seen before until now… congrats dude, you have a bigger one” (Almond 98). The fact that being labeled female or feminine is being used as an insult is degrading to women. All women are female and have feminine qualities. Should they all be ashamed because of that? This kind of misogynistic talk doesn’t happen in classrooms, in churches, or around your grandmother’s dinner table. This talk happens in locker rooms. Then it travels from locker rooms to playgrounds and then into living rooms where families and friends gather around a television. This kind of talk is damaging to women; it’s damaging to their self-esteem and to their relationships with men. They should not be made to feel devalued. This kind of talk is also damaging to men. Men should be allowed to be all of the things that sports culture has defined as feminine and shames them for. Men should be allowed to have feelings, to say no, to be weak, and even to fail without being insulted.

    Another negative outcome that’s perpetuated by the current culture of sports is the objectification of women. In “Against Football,” Steve Almond observes, “The two archetypes (of women) seen most commonly on television are cheerleaders and players’ wives. Got that ladies? You can either dance around on the sidelines as a half-naked sex object or sit in the stands cheering on your man” (Almond 89). I’d like to look at cheerleading more carefully. Many claim that cheerleading is a sport. I agree that it clearly requires strength, agility, balance, and other athletic abilities. However, cheerleading as a sport is never the main event. Cheerleading competitions aren’t being broadcast nationally several times a week. Cheerleading is a sideshow. Though cheerleading may be a sport that requires real athletic skill, the fact that cheerleaders wear costumes for the sole purpose of sexual appeal is degrading to women. Let’s be honest. These women aren’t being valued as athletes. They’re being valued as dolls. “The image of the cheerleader (was) constructed in part to promote heterosexual male voyeurism (Davis 1994)” (qtd. in Quinn 9). Not only does this encourage men to think of women as sexual objects, it teaches girls and women that they’re valued for their appearance. Teaching women that their value is in their appearance contributes to body image distortion, which is a serious problem in American culture that leads to depression and eating disorders. For the benefit of their own well-being, we must teach girls and women that they’re worth more than how they look. Sport culture has such a huge influence on American society, that if sports stops treating women as objects, other entities that contribute to the issue might follow suit. Moreover, if men stop viewing women as objects, they’ll also have fuller, more satisfying relationships with women.

    So what are the results of all of this? Messner and Sabo contend that “Sports… breed intolerant males more prone to violence, domestic abuse, and homophobia and less likely to sustain a long-term relationship with a woman” (Messner & Sabo). If Messner and Sabo are right, knowing that sports culture influences American culture, the outlook for Americans is grave. In their study on relationship violence, researchers Forbes, Adams-Curtis, Pakalka, and White found that athletes, especially those that have participated in aggressive sports, are more likely to devalue women, be violent towards women, and sexually assault women. Further, they “had more sexist attitudes and hostility toward women, were more accepting of rape myths, and were less tolerant of homosexuality” (Forbes et. al.). Almond agrees, noting that “…the cult of football preys on male insecurity, prizes physical dominance, and denigrates women. It follows that these tendencies would [a]ffect not just how players interact with each other, but with women” (Almond 99). That leads to another grisly effect that sport culture has on American culture, which is that violence against women is disregarded when privileged males, such as star male athletes, are involved. For example, in the Washington Post article, “For battered NFL Wives, A Message From the Cops and the League: Keep Quiet,” NFL wife, Dewan Smith-Williams recounts a nightmarish story of her experience with domestic violence and how the NFL asked her to keep quiet, yet did nothing. When the police became involved, they also turned a blind eye and appeared to tolerate the behavior of her husband. Steve Almond described a similar case reported in a New York Times article about a rape committed by a Florida State Univ. football player who suffered no consequences. As Almond puts it, “…[the victim’s] claims threaten to expose the whole misogynist underpinning of the fan/athlete dynamic, the sickening arrangement by which we give athletes the cultural power to sexually possess women” (Almond 102).

    We must not ignore how sports perpetuates sexist attitudes. Surely, in mainstream America, women still encounter some sexist attitudes and an earnings gap, but not nearly to the extent that sexism is found in sports. We must be cognizant of the negative impact that sports culture has on American society. We must pay attention, keep our eyes and our ears open, and speak out against sexist attitudes. We know how detrimental they can be to society. It’s time to stop ignoring the issue.

    References

    Boxill, Jan. “Football and Feminism.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. Vol. 33, Iss. 2, (2006): 1. Web. 08 December 2014.

    Eitzen, D. Stanley. “Social Control and Sport.” Handbook of Sports Studies. Ed. Jay Coakley and Eric Dunning. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2006. 370-381. Web. 08 December 2014.

    Forbes, G. B.; Adams-Curtis, L. E.; Pakalka, A. H.; White, K. B. “Dating Aggression, Sexual Coercion, and Aggression-Supporting Attitudes Among College Men as a Function of Participation in Aggressive High School Sports.” Violence Against Women. Vol.12, Iss. 5 (2006): 441-455. Web. 08 December 2014.

    Foster, Ann, and Hawk, William. “Spending Patterns of Families Receiving Means-Tested Government Assistance.” Beyond the Numbers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Vol. 2, No. 26 (December 2013). Web. 20 December 2014.

    “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2013.” BLS Reports; Report 1051. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. December 2014. Web. 20 December 2014.

    Kirkwood, Thomas. “Why Women Live Longer.” Scientific American. (November 2010). Web. 20 December 2014.

    K.S.C. “Why Professional Women’s Sport is Less Popular than Men’s.” The Economist Explains. The Economist. 27 July 2014. Web. 20 December 2014.

    Messner, M. A. and Sabo, D. F. Sport, Men, and the Gender Order: Critical Feminist Perspectives. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1990. Web. 08 December 2014.

    Mosher, Donald, and Sirkin, Mark. “Measuring a Macho Personality Constellation.” Journal of Research in Personality. Vol. 18, No. 2 (June 1984). 150-163. Web. 20 December 2014.

    Quinn, Molly. “Getting Thrown Around: Little Girls and Cheerleading.” Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education. Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall-Winter 2003). 7-24. Web. 08 December 2014.

    Sebastian, Simone and Bebea, Ines. “For battered NFL wives, a message from the cops and the league: Keep quiet” Washingtonpost.com. 17 October 2014. Web. 08 December 2014.

    “The Rise of Women: Seven Charts Showing Women’s Rapid Gains in Educational Achievement.” The Russell Sage Foundation. http://www.russellsage.org 21 February 2013. Web. 11 December 2014.

    “Women in the Professional Workforce” Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. http://dpeaflcio.org. Web. 11 December 2014.

    Woods, David. “Equal Pay? Not on the Basketball Court.” The Indianapolis Star. USA Today. 19 May 2012. Web. 20 December 2014.

  30. Doug

    Hated football since being forced to play it as a kid. My dad cared more about it than me it seemed. Then, whodathunkit?, I married a woman who acted the same way. Now much later in life I suppose i should feel vindicated after watching League of Denial and reading your book. I’m simply saddened though; another typical American institution. Ripping off taxpayers, feeding on bloodlust, and leaving a trail of corpses. At least I can say they don’t get a penny of my money. I live in a town too small to be extorted by an NFL team, and I don’t buy cable TV services with prices that are jacked up by National Felon League payments.

  31. Lex Renda

    Steve,
    I finally read your book and found it compelling. Here is my take:

    Your Solid Points
    1) The NFL and NCAA fleece taxpayers in many ways (non-profit status, publicly financed stadiums, property tax-free stadiums)
    2) Prospective football players should be educated more thoroughly and intensely about the health risks of the game, and from a young age.
    3) Football camouflages racism in America, even while exploiting de facto racism and reinforcing racial stereotypes
    4) The NFL bolsters unthinking support for militarism and war
    5) Football fosters conformity and, in certain circumstances, anti-intellectualism
    6) Football promotes tribalism over trivia (or as you aptly put it, “brightly-colored laundry”)
    7) College football players are ruthlessly exploited

    Your Overdrawn Points
    1) I may be mistaken here, but I think you confuse profits and revenue. The $10 billion figure you cite is, I believe, generated revenue,
    but at times you write as if it were all profit. About half of that revenue goes to the players alone.
    2) The solutions you propose at the end of the book seem half-baked, almost as if to hide your real goal of wanting the game
    banned or to having its popularity gradually become extinct. If Roger Goodell had proposed some of your solutions, he would be accused of trying
    to reform the game in order to save it.
    3) Your argument that machismo in football masks hidden homosexual desires is purely speculative (and I think your psychologist parents might say, sophomoric)
    4) You say that football can not be made safe. I believe it can be. Grass and field turf are safer than the old astro-turf, the concussion protocol is a positive step, helmets can once again be made more to be used for protection than as weaponry, and a reintroduction of bump and run coverage would reduce spearing.
    5) Your argument that football makes us more callous toward suffering, and more accepting of violence, possibly confuses correlation with causality. An alternative way to look at this is that football allows us to channel our primitive desire for human confrontation in an organized and less destructive way.
    6) You say that you can’t understand why women love a game that is either inherently or functionally misogynistic. Perhaps women love football for some of the same reasons men do: It’s exciting. Moreover, is it such a terrible thing that men have something with which to retreat to, as you say, adolescence? Why is it so terrible that men sometimes want some space apart from their wives (just as women sometimes want space apart from their husbands)?
    7) You criticize yourself for retreating to a sports bar to watch the Raiders rather than giving your time to more important things — like actively opposing the war in Iraq. As tempted as I am to say that your active opposition to the war would not have made any difference, I won’t. But I will say that life should not be just about serious things. I’m sure you could still root for and follow your Raiders while finding time for more noble pursuits.

    Your Weakest Point:
    You acknowledge but essentially give short shrift to the fact that NFL players are paid — and paid handsomely. And you yourself admit that even if they were fully informed of the risks involved, they would still take on those risks, because football is part of their identity. The same can be said for mountain climbers and other risk takers (who unlike football players are in many cases not paid).

    Overall, though, a good book that makes any open minded fan at least think.

  32. Paul Ginnetti

    Thank you, from the bottom of my eternal soul. You, Steve Almond are a veritable genius! This book has given me hope that our civilization will rid itself of this violent pestilence we call SPORTS and replace it with a peaceful, boring world of Education, Culture and the Arts on all levels!
    You have in 179 pages taken us from ,”The Age of Endarkenment……once again to, “The Age of Enlightenment!!!”
    I have never been a fan of any of the Sports du jour choices that most Earthlings enjoy on a global scale, nor have I played in any sports on any level while in school-Hell, I was the one smoking in the school elevators during the six periods of Audio-Visual( delivering packages to all the Teaches!) me and another friend figured out how to install into our senior high school curriculum without notice!
    To you Sir, you should be Knighted in the Court of the Queen for Honor, Bravery and Truth telling beyond the pale of reason and rationale! I love you man, you helped me find the real person I hid within myself for fear of ridicule from my peers and family! I was and have been either actively or subliminally ignoring the “Fearchild” I abhorred the most-that half of my id[libido], we as Boys to Men must reconcile with and adapt to, for the highest return on our ‘resentments’ [poetic license]
    The easiest and most explanatory mini-tome I ever read and I did it in 21/2 hours! I just could NOT put it down.
    I have been pumping this book to every, [“Jock Strap Junkie”(copyright TM-PDG)] and their wives and am hated, since I hail organically from Buffalo, New York-a maladjusted burg, rudely located somewhere south of Siberia and just north of Freezing IE. Absolute zero.
    Buffalo is a drinking town with a football and hockey problem! I’ll let the Bison’s off the hook because in the summertime,the weather is heavenly and sitting in the bosom of Pilot Field watching a B-league game is pretty damned cool!
    Steve, I can’t say enough and if you need a good man to help you PR, Market and just Shill for your cause, I am here to do your bidding!
    Thank you Sir!
    Paul David Ginnetti

  33. Cassie Patterson

    I studied your book, Against Football, in a college writing class this semester. I learned a lot about the NFL that I never would have sought out before. For our final project, we were asked to write a paper about a topic on the NFL. I chose to focus on the issue of domestic violence. Below is my paper if you’d like to read it.

    Domestic Violence in the NFL
    In a letter written by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on August 28, 2014, he stated “Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and they have no place in the NFL under any circumstances”. I agree with this statement wholeheartedly but I cannot accept that that NFL actively pursues upholding this standard, judging by recent events. I believe that the NFL chooses to show themselves in a different light than what actually happens behind the scenes in this sports industry. Trophy wives and girlfriends stand in the bleachers, “supporting their men”, but do they really have a choice? Police and the NFL give the athletes too much power and are too lenient with punishments for their offenses. Besides the disciplinary actions, the endorsement of violence/aggression on the field does not speak positively about the organization. While Goodell is trying to rectify the NFL by updating the personal conduct policy and promising harsher punishments for those who don’t abide by these rules, I think there’s still a long way to go. Football fans everywhere (especially young children) need to know that domestic violence is not right and not the way relationships should be. Youths today look up to professional athletes; their role models should live accordingly and abide by society’s accepted rules. Domestic violence in the NFL is a deep-seated problem that needs to be fairly addressed with suitable and standard punishments both by the justice system and the organization.
    “Domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players” (Morris). That statistic only covers the domestic violence actually reported to police and doesn’t necessarily mean the NFL players were convicted. Almost half of all NFL player arrests are for domestic violence reasons and I’d like to go into detail about a few of those players – specifically Phillip Merling, Brandon Underwood, Robert Sands, and Ray Rice. The incidents described have taken place in the last 5 years.
    In 2010, Phillip Merling was a defensive end for the Miami Dolphins. Defensive ends are generally pretty large men; their stature perfect for their position on the field. One evening in May, the police received a phone call from Merling’s pregnant girlfriend, Kristen. The two already shared a child together. “The police found Ms. Lennon with redness and swelling on her face and a cut on her lip” (Eder, “Whisked”). After being “booked on charges of aggravated domestic battery on a pregnant woman” (Eder, “Whisked”), the Dolphins’ security director began pulling his strings for the athlete. “N.F.L. teams, which have their own robust security operations, often form close relationships with local law enforcement agencies. When allegations of crimes such as domestic violence arise, the bond between officers and team security officials can favor the player while leaving the accuser feeling isolated” (Eder, “Whisked”).Upon release by posting bond, he was escorted out a back entrance where “a commander, who was off duty and in uniform drove Merling home to get his belongings – even though a judge had ordered him to “stay away” “(Eder “Whisked”). Merling’s girlfriend, Kristen, had packed her bags to leave the state immediately after her boyfriend had been arrested. Yet, “soon after Ms. Lennon returned to South Carolina, members of Mr. Merling’s family contacted her, pressuring her not to process with the criminal case. They told her it would ruin his career” (Eder, “Whisked”). She received no sympathy for her situation and “had never been contacted by the league or any of the teams” (Eder, “Whisked.”). Kristen never felt any comfort or consolation after her abuse. It was more like she was ganged up against for speaking the truth about the imminent danger her and her children were in while in their home. Harassment towards her from Merling even continued after the incident, though she no longer lived near her abuser. The charges were ultimately dropped because Kristen Lennon did not want to return to Florida for the proceedings so late in her pregnancy. As far as punishments from the NFL towards Merling went, there were none. He was “never suspended by the league or the Dolphins” (Eder, “Whisked”) with no reprimand or even acknowledgment of his arrest.
    Brandon Underwood was a player for the Green Bay Packers. In 2010, he was accused of sexually assaulting a couple women at a charity event for the team. He assured his wife that the allegations were false but still, Brandie Underwood felt lost while married to her Packers husband. The NFL and other football wives encouraged her to support her husband through this tough time and keep her marriage problems quiet. “Calls to the police would make the organization look bad” (Eder, “N.F.L.”). Later, a plea to a misdemeanor prostitution charge was given by the Packer. In “fear of jeopardizing her husband’s standing with the Packers” (Eder, “N.F.L.”), Brandie kept relatively quiet through all this turmoil. Her turning point was in 2011. After an evening of Super Bowl celebrations, her and her husband, Brandon, got into a heated discussion on their way home. Brandie called the police reporting that “her husband had ripped off her necklace (which she received at the party earlier that night) and threw her out of his parked car and onto the ground before driving away” (Eder “N.F.L”) When the police officers showed up to take her report, she recanted her story in fear of what would happen if she pressed charges against her husband. The police arrested him but there was no prosecution. After the incident, Brandie expected support and love from her fellow football wives. “No one was there. Neither the NFL nor the Packers contacted her after she called the police” (Eder, “N.F.L”). A few months later, she was able to get herself out of the troubled marriage even though she had to struggle to make ends meet. The only retribution he felt from the N.F.L. was a measly two-game suspension, “although it was unclear whether it was for the prostitution charge or the episode with Ms. Underwood” (Eder, “N.F.L.”).
    Robert Sands was a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals. He married his wife, Mercedes, after a short courtship before moving to Cincinnati for his career. They had a rocky relationship and the head coach of the Bengals asked for the couple to call him when they were having marital issues instead of the local authorities. In order to avoid “attraction from the news media and embarrassing distractions” (Eder, “N.F.L”), he encouraged calls at any time of the day or night to mediate in times of crisis. By reporting violence to the police, Mercedes could “imperil her husband’s status with the team and threaten their livelihood” (Eder, “N.F.L.”). In January 2012, she couldn’t refrain from reporting the abuse anymore. Ms. Sands called the police, saying her husband had choked her, a police report shows, although she declined to press charges. Three days later, during another argument, she drove her car into a neighbor’s house” (Eder, “N.F.L”). Charges were not filed but the team’s head coach “offered encouragement, telling the two that young couples often fought and that they should seek counseling” (Eder, N.F.L). But one year later, another incident occurred; resulting in an arrest of Robert Sands. “Mercedes called the police to report that her husband had assaulted her, choking her with his hand while putting his weight on her stomach. Since the arrest, Mr. Sand’s case has been expunged; the charges were dismissed in exchange for his agreeing to undergo counseling” (Eder, “N.F.L”). The NFL was just as lenient on Mr. Sands. “The N.F.L. said in a statement to The Times that it had suspended Mr. Sands for two games; he said he was not aware of the suspension” (Eder, “N.F.L.”). If an athlete doesn’t even know of a suspension, it probably didn’t have much of an effect on his time on the field or his paychecks.
    Now, the most publicized domestic violence case of recent years: Ray Rice. Earlier this year, Ray Rice was a running back for the Baltimore Ravens. In February, after a Valentine’s Day celebration in Atlantic City with friends, Ray and his fiancé stepped into an elevator to head back to their room. An argument ensued and there is actual security footage of what happened next. The security footage would be the number one piece of evidence in a case like this, so Rice’s counsel made sure to keep it under wraps. There were two videos; one from the outside of the elevator and one of the interior. In the interior elevator video, you can see “Rice struck Janay (his fiancé) in the face with his left fist and sent her careening into the elevator wall, where she struck her head and was knocked out instantly” (Van Natta). Both Ray and Janay were arrested and charged with simple assault. Janay’s charges ended up being dropped. A few days after the incident, the outer elevator video was released on the internet. You could see Ray Rice dragging his fiancé’s limp body out of the elevator, still unconscious from the blow. The interior video was still unknown to the public. But when Rice’s attorney got his hands on the interior elevator video, “he began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: it would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public” (Van Natta). Anything to keep the NFL player’s discretions out of the public eye. In order for Ray Rice to get the plea deal of pretrial intervention program, he had to appear in front of a grand jury. He was indicted on an increased charge to “felony aggravated assault in the third degree” (Van Natta) because both elevator videos had been given to the courts as evidence. After flooding the prosecution with support letters in favor of Ray’s integrity and character, Rice was ultimately accepted into “New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, which is for first-time offenders charged with nonviolent crimes. If he completes the one-year program, including attending anger management classes, the court would dismiss the felony aggravated assault charge” (Van Natta). According to data obtained by “Outside the Lines”, less than 1 percent of all assault and aggravated assault cases in New Jersey are resolved by PTI (pretrial intervention).
    Ray Rice’s fate with the NFL was still to be determined. The NFL prefers to wait until all litigations in court are finished before they decide the proper punishment for violations of their personal conduct policy. Upon the meeting with the NFL, Janay escorted her now husband and asked the Commissioner “not to impose a penalty on Rice that would take away their livelihood and besmirch his name” (Van Natta). Goodell decided that a two-game suspension was adequate for his offense. “Rice didn’t hear his suspension was two games until July 23, the day before Goodell announced it” (Van Natta). This light punishment shows the leniency of the NFL and, when compared to other offenses, demonstrates that domestic violence doesn’t register very high on their list of unacceptable acts. For example, Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns is currently facing a season-long suspension for a positive marijuana drug test. The NFL is essentially saying that smoking an herbal drug is worse than hurting a woman. The franchise has their judgments frightenly backwards.
    After public backlash of the light reprimand for Rice’s behavior and the public release of the interior elevator video by TMZ, the organization quickly changed their tune. Questions were raised and “the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract. Within an hour after the Ravens released him, the NFL announced that Rice was suspended indefinitely” (Van Natta). Since the decision, Ray appealed his decision and is now a free agent. Whether a team picks up this stigmatized player is yet to be seen.
    These cases of domestic violence have a very negative impact on society. With no criminal charges and very menial punishments from the NFL, society views these incidents as allowable and not wrong. The aggression you see on television during sports broadcasts is being transferred to the homes of players. When watching a football game, what parts do you remember? The replays, right? And what are those replays of? They are always of devastating tackles and touchdowns. Watching an athlete get taken down with the force of a 300 pound defensive player over and over promotes the violence that it occurring right before your eyes. You might even wince or cringe at the sight and sound of the hit. Waiting for the tackled player to move off the ground fuels the drama and thrill of the game. What does this say about society and the NFL? The NFL needs to find a way to lessen the brutality of the game and society needs to speak up about the aggression they see every Sunday, instead of glorifying it. Personally, I do not watch football; especially after all that I have learned in class this semester about the sport. What I do know is that many of my peers think that these professional athletes are gods and support everything they do on and off the field- no matter the transgression. Athletes cannot be hurting others on and off the field; the NFL has some serious changes to make.

    While I feel a lot of negativity towards the NFL for the way they handled the above offenses, they are making some positive strides toward repairing these negative views. Commissioner Goodell’s rehaul of the personal conduct policy and the efforts of the No More campaign are two great starts. The No More organization is aiming to “help end the stigma, shame and silence of domestic violence and sexual assault, while helping to increase funding for prevention efforts” (“About”). You may have seen one of their public service announcements while watching television. I believe the most effective advertising for this effort has been the PSAs featuring NFL players. They often play during commercial breaks of sports broadcasts, reaching a wide audience. In the videos, NFL players are addressing all the excuses people might have used for not speaking up about abuse in their life. Examples such as ““No more ‘boys will be boys,’” says New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “No more, ‘he was drunk,’” (Baker). These PSAs are helping showcase and hopefully help the victims that have been scared of coming forward about their assaults. I am a huge supporter of this cause.
    Also, Roger Goodell seems to be changing his stance on domestic violence and the way the NFL deal with its’ players indiscretions. On August 28, Goodell wrote a letter addressing changes that need to be made to the NFL’s personal conduct policy. This letter was sent to each owner of an NFL team and insisted that those owners pass its message along to players and their families. In this address, he mentions his lackluster efforts of handling the Ray Rice situation and apologizes for his poor handling of that incident. He assures the public that things will change on the NFL’s part and “their goals are to prevent violence, impose appropriate discipline, provide professional support resources when appropriate, and publicly embrace a leadership role on this issue” (Goodell). There will be mandatory training and education on domestic violence and sexual assault. Confidential assistance will be available to at-risk individuals to get them the help they need privately. Goodell also stated that “Our Player Engagement Directors and Human Resource Executives will meet with team spouses and significant others to ensure that they are aware of the resources available to them as NFL family members, including the ability to seek confidential assistance through independent local resources, as well as through the club or the NFL Total Wellness Program.” This seems like a great objective but I hope they also meet with the family members separate from the players as well. Speaking up about abuse while the abuser could be sitting right next to you is generally a tough situation. In his statement, he also mentions the NFL cooperating in the efforts to stop these issues at a broader level. I believe the participation in the No More campaign is a great achievement under this objective and it’s good to know that they’re actively seeking opportunities such as these. Finally, the most important objective of this new policy is “If someone is charged with domestic violence or sexual assault, there will be a mandatory evaluation and, where professionally indicated, counseling or other specialized services. Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant” (Goodell). By following these guidelines, there will no longer be a discrepancy in punishments among football player’s offenses on and off the field. This will prove the NFL’s change of reputation the most I believe. The NFL really seems to want to fix the view society has of them when it comes to these issues, especially with the recently publicized cases. There is mention of other violations of this personal conduct policy as well but they don’t relate to my topic. I recommend reading his statement if you’re interested!
    Domestic violence and sexual assault are major issues in our society and most notably in the NFL. Many victims that have been abused by NFL players have been asked to keep their incidents quiet and not report to the police. Many women don’t voice their attacks because of this isolation that the NFL makes them feel. On top of the fear the women feel daily, there doesn’t seem to be adequate punishments even when they do report their issues. Police tend to work for the NFL as off-duty security guards and receive enough money from the teams to cloud their mind when it comes to domestic violence calls. Support is given to the athletes instead of the victims being hurt. Finally, the NFL doesn’t punish its employees properly. There is too much leniency and often the punishments don’t fit the crime. While there are efforts being organized to stop domestic violence and assault and the NFL has rewritten their personal conduct policy, there is still much work to be done. I hope the NFL can turn this around and open society’s eyes to the issues at hand.

  34. Carmen

    Wonderful book, Steve. On behalf of humanity, I apologize for most of the comments on the site. Keep fighting the good fight.

  35. rcforkat

    Steve,
    I need to read your books. Today, I made the deliberate decision not to watch any more football, particularly the NFL. I have been like you, reluctantly acknowledging that no good has really come out of this barbaric sport. I watched the video on George Visger, the former football player with a serious brain disorder, and learned the news of the Ohio State player that just committed suicide. Enough is enough. You have struck a nerve and perhaps this is the tipping point when football in its present form, needs to be retired.

  36. peter miller

    Steve – i read your book and although a long way away , only fans or lack of fans will change footballs’ chronic violence. I will try to ween myself off the sport but i need a replacement fix which i don’t have right now. Surely the least that could be done would be to revoke the NFL’s non-profit status – what a joke ! the recent death of the OSU kid is yet another warning to all young kids. Of course, the NFL already punted on their liability on concussions so that’s on the players. hopefully parents will , seriously , warn the kids on what can happen to them as they decide on their sport of choice in high school. Great book! –

    Pete Miller ,
    Jax Beach, FL

  37. Bill Lichter

    Steve,
    I just read the book and throughly enjoyed it. I finally was able to discover that I am not the only male in America with these thoughts about football. I was a sports geek from the age of 7 ( I am now 52) startin with the Walt Frazier / Willis Reed Knicks and the miracle Mets. Today sports to me is restricted to NHL hockey ( THE best live sports product in the world) and MLB ( although even that is getting harder and harder to watch due to the excruciatingly long games and over managing of the pitching
    A few additional thoughts not mentioned in your book: football as a pure product is boring. It is popular BECAUSE it is popular. It has a perfect social aspect to it that makes people want to like it so they can be part of a social network. Sunday games – an excuse to invite friends, drink beer, eat chicken wings and nachos and socialize. Because MOST of the 3 plus hours of a game are filled with inactivity – there isn’t any need to focus on the game that much. Most of the time it’s either a huddle ( with the clock running), a TV commercial, or a replay review to micro dissect frame by frame whether a ball struck a blade of grass or whether a knee struck a blade of grass before a ball popped out. ABout 11 or 12 minutes of the 3 plus hours actually involved running, jumping and blocking. And yet these guys are seen on the sidelines sucking oxygen. Great athletes? Guys who weigh 375 are not great athletes. They are cattle.
    NHL players log 15 to 28 minutes of ice time – where there is NO idle time or huddles. They do this 3 to 4 times per week over an 82 game schedule and then through 4 grueling rounds of playoffs. No 2 minute warnings, no coaches challenges or stopping the clock by spiking the ball – just pure physical, fast action. There is no comparison as far as who the better athletes are and what the better game is. NFL rules because of the marketing, the gambling and the social aspect. If an alien were dropped onto Earth and was exposed to all sports for entertainment and excitement value, he or she would find football boring.
    One other item I though for sure I would find in your book but did not: the fact that over 80% of all NFL players wind up bankrupt within 5 years of retirement. -a disturbing stat and one that further has impact on our society as a whole ( homelessness, drug abuse welfare, Medicaid….).
    I made a prediction back in the late 1980’s which I’m shocked has not turned out to be true (yet). I predicted that within 10 years someone would die on the field during an NFL game. It is quite amazing that has not happened yet.
    I wish your book were required reading of all high school and college players ( and as many US citizens as possible). Great Job!

  38. W. A. Sego

    I learned the truth about football when I watched the O.J. Simpson murder trial on TV. A sports doctor testified about the permanent injuries players suffer. It was unbelievable. So now I only watch the super bowl halftime show – but not the game. Some of these players will become millionaire paraplegics. When you buy a ticket, you endorse this process.
    Not too long ago, whenever a player incurred an injury, the tv camera would turn away from that injury — which struck me as morally wrong. I believe that contact football played by tots to adults — should be completely abolished.
    Prize-fighting ditto. I could not fathom why the brain-damaged Mohamed Ali was such a celebrity.

  39. Aaron

    Great book, Steve. Read it in one sitting this morning. I watch Vikings games with other Minnesotans in Cambridge, MA every Sunday, but this season I decided to take a year off. I couldn’t reconcile my fandom with my complicity, so I needed some space. Into that space came your book, putting words to my discomfort, supports to my theories, solidarity to my convictions. I’ll recommend “Against Football” to my family and friends who love football like I do. If football can bring us together to watch, it can also bring us together to talk about what’s wrong with the game and what kind of togetherness truly enriches our lives. Write on. ~Aaron

  40. Bill

    My path (and it’s admittedly alike pulling teeth) to divorcing myself from this sewer of a spectacle is going to be made easier by the mothers of this nation, who I believe will lead the way in steering highly gifted athletes toward safer sports. This is something few have mentioned, but I believe that when that talent pool shifts and the class action lawsuits come home to roost, finding a parent who will choose to let their talented and bright kid play this game will become as hard to find as a mom who encourages her boy to get involved in Golden Gloves boxing. Because really–to what end? A scholarship that will result in an education that the player can’t remember having earned, much less make use of? The one percent chance that their child will make NFL bucks that he will be too incapacitated to enjoy? We as a nation will grow weary of this sport when our greatest young athletic talents are doing something else. And that is happening. To be sure, it will take time, but if you are counting on the American people to stop watching, it won’t be because too many of the treasure of our nation have been sacrificed. It will be because the sport has become watered down and the understanding the scarcity of potential earning power becomes apparent to even the most dreamy eyed and unfulfilled dad.

  41. Steve Almond Post author

    Russell,
    Your letter is absolutely on point and has made me think a great deal. You’re right about much of what you say. Football does fill these huge needs. But I do feel that there are other activities that could provide that sense of connection. Let’s keep discussing this.
    Thanks,
    Steve

  42. Ari Mintz

    Thank you for writing a most provocative book. Red “the Galloping Ghost” Grange and Gale Sayers were my first sports heroes and I have enjoyed watching and playing football for five decades, but the concussion and dementia issues cannot be ignored. As I watch NFL games this year I have a heightened awareness of this huge commercial juggernaut and its manufactured ties to patriotism, which in effect make it seem unpatriotic to question the sport. Nevertheless, beginning with the youngest, most vulnerable players, I hope we as a society can rapidly implement meaningful reforms that will transform this game into something safer yet equally entertaining.

  43. Russel Buetow

    Hi Steve! Just finished the book. I played in high school. I had chances to play Div. 3 after high school, but initially passed. I missed it. A lot! A coach I knew asked me to come to camp at a JC promising me that if my long-snapping was what I said it was I could use their program to get to a school better than Div. 3. After enrolling in the “training class”, I sustained a weightlifting injury to my knee. Without ever using PED’s, I could squat over 400 lbs, bench 400 lbs and power clean 300. The team basically told me I was on my own with my knee injury. Thank god! My knee recovered. But I no longer felt the urge to play college football. (It’s worth noting that for me what provided the greatest protection from head injuries was becoming a Center & Long-Snapper in high school. The coach decided I was too valuable to keep playing defense and other special teams besides Punt & Field Goal. And I just never experienced plays where I was using my head/helmet in a way that resulted in “concussive” impact.)

    I went through my early 20’s not being particularly interested in College or Pro football. But I by my late 20’s I started going to San Diego Charger’s games with a group of friends. This weekly pilgrimage was as much about the tailgate and social elements as the game itself. As best we could tell, our group pioneered the idea of bringing satellite dishes to watch every morning game (Our TV guy was the one others in the parking lot came to when they couldn’t figure out how to point their dishes once they started copying us). Our tailgate was featured on The Tonight Show, The Man Show, and a few other programs. We had as many as 50+ “randoms” show up to see game highlights, eat our food (I was the BBQ chef), and play drinking games. For many years it was just a given that we would go to every home game (save the Raiders game, because, the unruly would always show up) and we went to one away game every year. We even went to the AFC Championship in Boston in 2008 to see the Chargers. In addition to the Tailgate element, gambling, fantasy football, and playoff pools were also a key to our group’s football fandom.

    In 2010 I decided to return to college and get an MBA through an executive program. My school of choice, The University of Southern California. In part because the program was high quality and has a great network in Southern California. But also, it was because USC has a big time college program and the campus atmosphere to match. I attended all my classes on campus and right from the start the program itself paid heed to “Gameday”. The Marshall School of Business Tailgate, which raises money for a B-School charity competition, is one of the best run on gameday. Many others in my class were also extremely excited to be a part of the USC Big Time Football machine. In a class of 70, we have had as many as 30+ in attendance at annual away games in NorCal (alternating between Stanford/Cal) where some classmates live in the past 3 years and we frequently convene in mass for home games, especially, Homecoming, UCLA, and Notre Dame. It is clear that in addition to the opportunity to continue to network professionally that the games have fostered true, lifelong friendships.

    My wife is an educator working for a relatively highly regarded school district in Orange County. There are 3 high schools in the district, each with successful programs. We have many games not just because my wife has had a role at one of them, but also because of the sense of local community. We have taken our 6 year old boy and he is interested in the “Friday night lights” experience.

    In both my Chargers & USC circles, the people participating are highly educated and affluent. And fully aware, in a conscious way, of the inherent risk to players. Nearly all of my friends openly reject the idea of their kids playing football, instead favoring things like soccer, Golf, Water Polo (which has its own unique head injury risks), Cross Country, etc.

    So what is my point in sharing all this? Simply this, we cannot take away this kind of human connection (regardless of the clear barbarianism involved) without figuring out a way to fill in the gap. People want to be connected to people. This year was the first time I ever paid much attention to World Cup Soccer. And while it was interesting and I will pay more attention, it still has a long way to go to fill that gap. Especially, when one considers the structure of football’s schedule. It comes EVERY fall, right at the end of summer. It helps us transition back to school, back to work from vacation, back to winter, back from daylight savings.

    I am simultaneously repulsed by what football does to its players and dependent on it for what it does for my connection to people. How do I reconcile what I must give up to do what is right, especially, knowing that few if any will follow?

  44. Matthew

    Steve:

    i JUST finished reading your book.

    Thank you for raising and confronting all of us with these important questions and issues. Football perhaps once was but is no longer — or anywhere near — my favorite sport these days, for many of the reasons that you discuss so eloquently in your book. So congratulations on producing a fine read, yes, but also on advancing difficult questions about a serious issue that, ought to get more attention and generate serious cause. On a personal note, my mother is an Alzheimer`s patient. After witnessing what she has gone through — and what she has become, a shadow of her former self — i cannot imagine how anyone can subject themselves — or their own children — to a sport that promises undeniable risk of a similar fate. But we are all complicit, each time we tune in or show up for a game, or buy a piece of NCAA or NFL merchandise. Overcoming our unwillingness to recognise this is the biggest and most immediate challenge.

    Cheers,
    Matthew, Chicago

  45. Mark Heller

    Hi! Currently reading “Against Football.” Lifelong Big Ten fan (Not B1G) since the early ’60’s. Two concussions playing football and played freshman ball at non-Power 5 FBS school. Currently a Northwestern University football season ticket holder.

    That said I am trying to opt out of football next year – emphasis on “try.” As Yoda said there is no try.

    There are lots of things that turn me off the game: injuries caused by no contact that wouldn’t have been imagined when I was younger, injuries caused by contact that weren’t understood when I was younger, the overemphasis on the importance of the game, the commercialization of the game so that when I attend games it’s clear the television viewers are more important than people who pay to attend the games, the part of the culture that thinks you’re a better person because the school or team you support is a winner, the seeming lack of consequences for criminal or immoral acts because you’re good at football, the endless demand at both the collegiate and professional level for more and more money..

    Thanks for writing the book. One of my friends – a sports fan – said three or four years ago that in 20 years American football won’t exist. While I don’t know that he is right I do believe that football is facing strong headwinds for all the reasons I am trying to swear off it.

  46. MIKE TROWSE

    UNIVERSITIES SHOULD TURN THEIR FOOTBALL PROGRAMS OVER TO THE NFL AS A FARM SYSTEM LIKE MLB HAS. IN THIS WAY UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES CAN GET BACK TO ACADEMICS AND THE NFL CAN NURTURE AND DEVELOP THEIR OWN TALENT. THE RESULTING A, AA OR AAA TEAMS WOULD STILL BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCHOOL (LOGO AND MASCOT ETC). THE SCHOOLS WOULD NOT HAVE MUCH MORE TO DO WITH THE CORRUPTION, GRADE FIXING, GRADUATION RATE, NO SHOW CLASSES, BOOSTER CLUB PAYOLAS ETC. THAT GOES ON NOW.
    IN FACT ALL THE UNIVERSITY VARSITY SPORTS SHOULD BE TAKEN OVER BY THEIR RESPECTIVE PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE ORGANIZATIONS. IF THE STUDENTS WANT TO FORM A CLUB SPORT IN LIEU OF A VARSITY SPORT (AT THE STUDENTS EXPENSE) THATS OK WITH ME. OUR UNIVERSITY RUGBY CLUB PLAYS OUR SPORT THIS WAY – WITHOUT SUPPORT FROM THE U. ITS A BEAUTIFUL THING WITH NO LAWYERS, ADs, ACCOUNTANTS, NCAA OR A BAZILLION COACHES AROUND.
    ANOTHER BENEFIT – FEDERAL TITLE IX LAW GOES IN THE TOILET WHERE IT BELONGS. EVERYTHING ABOUT GRIDIRON FOOTBALL IS CORRUPT – TOP TO BOTTOM.

  47. Martin Mackay

    I imagine that once read, your words will forever change how the reader experiences our North American “cult”ure. In Canada we have the NHL as an equivalent to the NFL as well as the CFL on a lesser scale. As you so aptly write it is a reflection of our society and not just about football. Your words ring true and I am grateful for them.

  48. Joe B.

    I just finished reading your book after reading “League of Denial.” Both were recently reviewed in my local paper. I grew up on football even though my father couldn’t care less. Played throughout my youth and in high school. Been a college and NFL fan for many years. Like you I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with the NFL for a long time. To me the NFL has grown into an uncontrollable monster. They’ve taken a lot of the joy out of the game by commercializing it to the hilt in their effort to maximize their profits. I refuse to pay to see a game in person and watching games on television is a chore given all the advertising and breaks in action. TV time out, score, injury, TV Time out, extra point, TV time out, kick-off, TV time out, play, Two Minute Warning, TV time out, play, inter game ad for new television show, play, Half-time. We’ve all lived through the routine. I imagine when NFL owners meet they must say, “How much shit can we throw at our customers and have them keep coming back for more?” Full price for pre-season games, $8 beers. Move your team to a new city. And on, and on, and on. Big time college football is almost as bad, arguably worse, given what college’s primary purpose is supposed to be. I’ve tried to limit my intake of games but haven’t cut it off entirely. Instead, when I want to watch football in person I go to DIII college games and high school games. A much purer experience. Solid action. No play stoppage. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Seats close to the field. Inexpensive tickets. It’s still a rough game where players can get injured and brains can get damaged – but I believe if players’ health is monitored and rules are enforced to protect players from doing dangerous things to one another, and players are trained how to play properly, the game can go on relatively safely. Can improvements be made to keep the game enjoyable and make it even safer – absolutely, and many changes wouldn’t reduce the entertainment value. We are a bloodthirsty people and football is clearly a violent game, but I think there are ways to address many safety issues. So – if you want to boycott the NFL, or big time college football, more power to you, but instead of eliminating the sport entirely, let’s work on ways to make it safer for future boys and young men.

  49. Ed Chambers

    Mr. Alford,
    I am in my late sixties and a lifelong football fan. My greatest allegiance is to my beloved NC State Wolfpack, whose football legacy is, well, mediocre. I love the university because of the education I received in the 1960s, and, more importantly, my time there expanded my mind in many ways. For example, I became aware how terrible my racist feelings were. It changed me. This love of “my school” translated into love of its sports teams. As a kid, I also became a Redskins fan because in the 1950s the only pro football on TV in the south was their network, so my dad and watched every Sunday.
    I disagree with precious little in your book. Professional and big time college football has become too important, too dominant, too influential. I am now struggling with the decision to watch no more. We’ll see if I can do it.
    I have become less interested in football during the past few decades but the reason was not mentioned in your book. What has troubled me is the player histrionics on the field, usually occurring after a play. The over-celebrating, the taunting, the trash-talking, the chest pounding, the strutting. And much of this is after making a routine tackle or picking up 2 yards when its third and one. The TV cameras focus on this immature behavior as does the print media. Not too long ago our local Sunday paper had eight color photos of football players from the previous day’s games. All but two were pics of celebrations, not real snapshots of the sport itself. What has happened to modesty?
    I think this phenomenon is somehow linked to the sport’s escalation of violence and created an overhyped, overstimulated atmosphere around the game that has permutated all the way down to peewee football. Players of all ages now are encouraged to make that big hit, pancake the opponent, hurt him . . . so they can strut their stuff while the fans roar and the camera zeroes in.
    Thank you for having the courage to write this book.

    Ed Chambers

  50. Dan

    I just finished your book, and found it thought provoking, albeit short on solutions. I think the sport of football is symbolic to many of the ills that face our society-greed, power, corruption, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the biggest problem of all-money!!! Am I a fan? Yes. Am I conflicted, for sure! I find lost in a game as a means to avoid other things in my life, to escape. Do I care about football players? Not really, no one makes them play. I care less about the owners and their constant p.r. spin tactics. It’s like Hollywood, it’s not real life, it’s make believe and it is entertainment.

  51. Jon

    I used to be a sports fan until 2012 when the Steelers lost the Super Bowl against the Packers. Then I’m like, “That’s it I quit watching this crap!” I then moved on to better things. Before 2012, I didn’t watch football unless the Steelers go to the Super Bowl, but not anymore. I then heard conversations from some of my friends about sports, including NFL football being fixed.
    Learning from them and some evidence on the internet, sports is actually fixed. This football season, I learned about the Ray Rice incident and how much bad role models football players can be. I just don’t know why many men look up to these losers as a proper male role models when they’re not. Since I’m not into sports anymore, I’m just now annoyed by most people when it comes to wearing football jerseys and social media posts about their favorite teams playing. I’m stuck in a world where people care about these games and treating it like a tribal war while there’s real problems to worry about instead.

  52. Frank Smbizik

    I loved your book. I have not watched football for many years. My thoughts to my football friends are that the sport depends on the three B’s.-brutalit;y, booze and betting. But the real reason I do not watch is the fact that you cannot watch 22 players, each of whom has a different assignment, and make an intelligent assessment of the failure or success of the play. You can only comment on the end result with little or no knowledge of what happened. It is a complicated game and that’s why baseball is my favorite sport, Yes, I do live in Pittsburgh, Go Buccos!!!!!

  53. Steve Thompson

    What an insightful and powerfully troubling work. I offer information about two books that I did not see mentioned anywhere in “Against Football.” There certainly are more in the growing chorus of those who are troubled by our love affair with football, but these are favorites:

    http://www.amazon.com/Youre-Its-Just-Bruise-Outrageous/dp/0312136277

    http://www.amazon.com/Academics-Plus-Athletics-Equals-Failure/dp/1441547401/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413145847&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Athletics+plus+actemics+equals+failure

  54. stephen barsotti

    From personal experience a serious culprit in football is the equipment designed as “protective gear”.
    Your natural instinct to protect you head neck and shoulders is overcome by the false belief the gear enables your to ignore that instinct
    The equipment itself particularly shoulder “pads” and helmets are actually weapons that enable and promote the hits that cause the injuries.
    The addition of helmets significantly increased the violence of the hits in ice hockey.
    Rugby is a rough game but has a lot less head to head and shoulder crushing contact because the hitter invariably gets the worst of it.
    Take off the helmets and shoulder pads and you will change the game.

  55. Ivan Lennon

    I believe it was the Eagles Chuck Bednarik who derided current players for not going both ways
    I can think of no other sport w/ such specialization

    Returning to such a system would eliminate 350 pound behemoths, level the playing field, encourage athleticism
    and foster sensible dietary habits

    Perhaps even eliminate D3 rosters than have run out of numbers

  56. Steve Durham

    Hey, Steve:
    I, just heard you on Maria Armoutian’s show, “The Insighters,” on KPFK, FM 90.7, in Los Angeles.
    I was shocked to learn that the NFL is tax exempt: what a joke that is.
    I think your arguments are right on point: that story about the coach and the red jersey that he didn’t want the concussed player to wear sounds just about right for those fascists.
    And I don’t use that phrase lightly.
    I grew up with football, and it was brutal in the seventies: it’s worse now.
    Have you read Hunter Thompson’s article about the Oakland Raiders?
    Thompson talked about the dangerous precision worship behind pro football’s popularity: I agree. My Dad coached college football in the seventies, and quit because of the injuries: broken legs, knees…
    I’m going to buy your book. Thank You for Your work: I’m glad I heard You on the radio.
    All The best,
    Steve Durham.

  57. Gary

    Great book which has helped me to understand both why I’ve been a fan and why I hate being a fan. I gave up college ball several years ago but have been clinging to the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens in particular, by the thinest of threads. Now, I think “Against Football” has cut that thread.

    I can’t believe I missed Steve’s reading at the Baltimore Book Fair this evening would have loved to have participated!

  58. richard norris

    This poem was written by RN Jan. 12, 2013
    [THUMB DOWN] 1. Is the past now the present am I dreaming what’s been—I see men still dying just like they did then–By war in a jungle at sea and on land–
    On the coliseum floor by violent hands 2. Entertainment or thrill it’s the rush we buy–For most are addicted to the adrenaline high– Thumb up or thumb down it’s the emperor’s call– Will he let the lions roar or allow them to maul 3.Today it’s the grid iron where the folly is sold–Where men trade their youth for not growing old–
    Where there bodies are broken in quest for the fame–And heads are battered for the sake of the game. 4. So the merchants the owners of all the teams–
    Put aside the fact they’re men not machines–Who cares if the warrior fatally falls–Or if his mind is jostled into little recall 5. The stadiums fill as the fans come in floods– To take in the carnage and get high on the blood–The emperor’s thumb points down at his shoe–While he’s taking our money and civility too. End

  59. Dan Litchfield

    Steve, I heard a terrific interview with you on This Is Hell and I found myself shouting out loud “amen brother!” The time has come to have this discussion. You are the zeitgeist, man. Very timely. I am proselytizing and trying to convert at least one fan. He has offered the only pro-football argument I can halfway buy: it’s nice every once in a while in a busy lifestyle to zone out, turn your brain off and watch some football. But there are other things to relax even better. Having two young children, I know this is a healthy decision. My 5 year old is learning to ride a bike, and I’m going to be there for those highlights.

  60. Amy

    So grateful for your courageous stance. I’ve been sorely in need of conscious company (esp amidst all the post-Superbowl/new season hype and zealotry). Thank you for providing this forum. Very much looking forward to your Seattle visit.

  61. ray lyle

    [Jane needs grammar and spelling ed]
    Great work, Steve. Now my job is to find the courage to confront yet another ‘icon’ and try to bust it. Where I live in Mississippi, being anti football would be as bad and rare as being for Obama.

  62. ExHuskerFan

    Nebraska fans, deemed “the greatest fans in college football,” attacked a party bus that they suspected of transporting Miami fans before last Saturday’s Nebraska-Miami game. Granted most of the rioters were students, but most of them would be too young to remember any of the animosity Nebraska felt towards Miami for consistently beating them in the Orange Bowl in the 1980s. Few of any of them would probably even remember the 1995 Orange Bowl where Nebraska finally beat Miami. But yet you have drunken college kids whipped into a frenzy of hate and violence over football games that took place before they were born. This is ridiculous.

    journalstar.com/news/local/party-organizer-ashamed-of-rioting-fans-indian-center-planning-changes/article_b4dcbedd-e0f2-5111-8b2f-bfd19a64de0b.html

  63. Bob Schueler

    I heard you speak, bought and read the book. I was already familiar with most of the issues you raise through the Fainarus and others, but you have put things eloquently and insightfully. I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable as a fan, and I started early, playing tackle football obsessively as a little kid (no HS football or organized football where I grew up in New York, and a lifelong NY Giants fan of 66. A friend of mine suggested that the game might be saved through adopting rules similar to Rugby, which doesn’t allow head-to-head or shoulder-charging contact–as I understand it, you have to wrestle the player to the ground, as we did when I played the game at 6-10. There would be similar equipment (no helmets or shoulder pads). I wonder whether rules couldn’t be developed for American football that would accomplish that. It could then be piloted in division III, say in the NESCAC.

    I would hope that more public school systems will drop the sport, and they could be another place to pilot a modified version. don’t watch the sport for the collisions, and I never played it to hurt any of my friends–wasn’t an angry kid, and didn’t hang out with an angry group. I think the game is beautiful, and will miss it, but am dropping it from my life now. Thanks for a terrific book.

  64. William Cerf

    I like the idea of individual fans publicly announcing their abandonment of the NFL and professional football as it is currently played in the US and would like to see a mass movement for change in a number of areas:

    1) Extreme violence of the sport. Are there other versions of football, such as Canadian or Australian Rules Football that offer any alternatives? This should be explored as a way to reform the sport.

    2) End virtual monopoly granted by Congress to the NFL and get municipalities out of the business of providing various freebies, tax forgiveness and other benefits to billionaire owners

    3) Mandate that team nicknames that are racist in nature, such as the current nickname of the Washington, DC. NFL franchise not be treated as a “business asset” that can be traded by the owner for various benefits. Such nicknames and logos need to be changed immediately by the NFL or US Congress with NO BENEFIT TO THE OWNERS!

    4. If the game cannot be played safely then there must be a social movement to make it as unpopular as possible or maybe illegal. Is a “sport” that is known to cause serious physical and mental damage subject to regulation via the Interstate commerce clause?

    I love Steve Almond and have an extreme dislike of the NFL and NCAA football programs

  65. Miss Marquis

    FINALLY! Is there a case price for this book? If you aren’t married you are going to get laid 18 ways from Sunday, my friend. Nothing sexier than an evolved man.
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. XO

  66. Doug Shea

    Funny, after 55 years of playing/watching, considered myself a huge fan, last month I quit — finally had enough. Three days ago I found your exceptional book, and you have reinforced my resolve. It is not the game I fell in love with at age five. I know the feeling and it’s very real: to this day I cannot watch boxing after seeing what the sport did to Muhammad Ali, and it’s now the same with football. The economics and business practices you brought to light are just nails in the coffin, and then when I saw red zone advertising being tested in the preseason — well, all things considered the NFL has gone too far on too many levels. I’m looking forward to seeing what life is like without football…
    Many thanks for your fine work, Steve, and I hope you can be the catalyst for change.

  67. Elaine

    I feel ill. I just finished a library copy of AGAINST FOOTBALL, but I will be buying my own. I have been following studies of CTE ever since Junior Seau’s suicide, but your exploration of football’s capitalist, racist, sexist, homophobic, sadistic, etc. elements reinforces my fury. Never a die-hard football fan, I now feel compelled to become not even a casual consumer of this sport. There is an I LOVE LUCY episode where Ricky and Fred and every male in New York City in 1954 are obsessed with watching “the big fight.” I saw it recently and felt relieved that boxing had faded in prominence. You’re right — we the fans make the choice to exalt a sport, and we can take that reverence — and our dollars — away. I hope Ray Rice’s horrific acts further elucidate the culture of aggression football promotes and condones. I, for one, am tired of it.
    Also, on a personal note, heard your mother speak on her book tour and adored her book on maternal ambivalence. I was so sorry to read about her episode of acute dementia. I wish her well.

  68. Jon carson

    We get the sports we deserve. We deserve football. It perfectly reflects our American “exceptional ism”. It’s a sport as corrupt as it is filthy rich. The more dough the worse the corruption will get.

    Didn’t know about the concussions? Sure.

    Never got the 2nd Rice video? Sure

    Really weren’t sure what happened in the elevator from 1st video where he drags her out of the elevator unconscious? Sure you didn’t.

    It goes on and on. We have devolved into a meathead culture and this sport reflects that. We are the only country denying climate change. We have the weakest safety net in the industrial world. We are about to vote into majority control of the senate the party that has repeatedly shut down the govt and threatened to default on our sovereign debt.

    We are football. Football is us.

  69. ExHuskerFan

    I haven’t read this book, but I have read some articles written by Mr. Almond about football. We seem to be on the same page about the game. I was a Nebraska fanatic for nearly 30 years, but I haven’t sat down and intentionally watched a game since 2011. Occasionally I watch part of a game at a family event. It gets easier not to watch every year. I like having my Saturday afternoons free during the fall. I can get things done, relax and and even take a nap.

    My rejection of college football was an accumulation of many factors — jingoism, militarism, the wasted time and money, the expenditure of tax dollars, the fan approval of dangerous hits, the veiled racism, the Penn State scandal – conference realignment was the final straw. College football is supposed to be about tradition, yet Nebraska has a home conference game against Rutgers this year. What is traditional about Nebraska playing Rutgers? The salaries of college football coaches are ridiculous period and obscene once you take into consideration that the players are playing a violent and dangerous game for free.

    The sad thing is that college football is part of your heritage if you grow up in a place like Nebraska. If you aren’t at Memorial Stadium on Saturday or you aren’t in front of a television you’ve mentally moved to Portland or Brooklyn. I don’t miss watching the games and I am not interested in the social media commentary on the games or the “Husker drama” whenever they lose or Bo Pelini acts like a jackass. But it pulls at me emotionally when I see pictures of my friends and their kids at the games. I was that happy kid at the stadium 30 years ago. I learned to read reading about the history and lore of Nebraska football in Nebraska media guides. I can’t fault other Nebraskans for having those emotional connections to the team that I did. I don’t think berating football fans as idiots does any good. I think the best way to turn people against football is to 1)play up the benefits of giving up football fandom and 2) mockery of the more outrageous aspects of the game and its fans. I

  70. Michael

    Haven’t read his book but he’s totally on target. Football has become an evil industry, exploiting Americans’ lust for passive entertainment. As fans get fatter on the couch, players’ wallets get fatter and the entire industry becomes a giant cesspool of corruption.

    Unfortunately football is not unique but rather typical of the decadence and perversion of the American way of life.

  71. TWW

    Recently I saw several videos of groups of young (I think) African-American males attacking people they came across. The way they acted reminded me of a team sport like football where a bunch of people try to grab someone and knock them to the ground and then celebrate. Last Sunday I heard about your book on a Wisconsin public radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge and read it hoping the book would help explain what I saw in the videos. Unfortunately it did not explain the violence I saw in the videos directly. But as a outsider to football I now have a better understanding of why people watch it so the book was well worth the time spent reading it.

  72. Bob Anderson

    We are part of the problem. We’ve demanded nothing short of mayhem and destruction on the field, every play, every game, every season. Then, as soon as the game is over the switch is supposed to turn “off”. However, it is often left on, and players continue the mayhem elsewhere. Whether it’s a bar fight, confrontations with fans, or violence against women, the cultural line drawn between the game and life is frequently blurred. If you’re tired of this behaviour, stop feeding the beast. (Ray Rice is the only person responsible for the assault on his wife. I’m only suggesting that we can change the culture. “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” – Don Meredith/Willie Nelson)

  73. Jeanne

    Sorry, I left out “introspection.” Not many people have the desire or ability to be introspective these days. We are right where the powers of BIG media, BIG pharma, BIG ag, and politicos like the Koch brothers and C Street want us: Lemmings!

  74. Jeanne

    Dear Steve, As with so many others, I was blown away by not only your bravery but your ability to ably articulate what I have thought about the business of sports in general, but football in absolute abject particular, for years. I was involved in the Olympics starting in 1985, on the sponsor side. I entered full of the feeling of altruism–humanness, goodwill, untainted, the spirit of honest competition between stellar athletes. Boy was I EVER wrong! The corruption of the IOC and National Organizations, and the ill-spirited competition between athletes was palpable. But the fawning and homage bestowed by the Captains of Industry (the male sponsor CEOs, presidents, CFOs…) upon athletes was absurd. I saw psychopathic CEOs grovel at the feet of athletes, almost come to tears. I could envision them licking their sneakers. I was, actually, disgusted. I was a competitive athlete in high school and college, and loved it, but this was the beginning of the end of my love affair. I now have a husband much like the football fanatics you describe…much like you. When we married late in life a few years ago, I said I would try to renew my long ago love of football, but I could not keep it up. I believe football is the bane of our modern day lives. I feel it has taken over almost every man I know. I find that I so admire the men who are not driven and run by the game. I have been texting and emailing the link to your book to many of my husband’s friends. Ire is too strong a word for their reaction, but clearly they look at me as an enemy because, who, after all wants to be intellectual any more! I feel the whole world is moving to the simplicity of Fox News. It’s all so entwined! In any event, I have bought one online copy and 5 hard cover copies of your book. I will be giving it as Christmas gifts to my husband’s friends. Thanks for writing it. Best.

  75. George

    I heard your NPR interview a few days ago and IMMEDIATELY purchased your book.

    For years I have thought I was something of a Luddite as I could never get my arms around the “football thing”. The best I could muster as non-fan is a grudging willingness to watch a few post game highlights when necessary.

    To me football represents the worst of America for all the reasons you state in your book. Of course, the most shocking part is are the recent revelations about brain injuries as reported in the Frontline piece. After viewing that I posited to several workmates, all rabid fans, the end of football was near. I was immediately labelled as crazy, of course. What I do believe, however, is that you will see the demise of high school and perhaps even college ball as savvier parents finally get their oar in and prohibit their sons to play what amounts to Russian roulette with their brains. With fewer, or no young players to seduce the pro game with wither on the vine.

    As mentioned by others above, other “sports” such as hockey, may not be immune from scrutiny either.

    The whole sports scene speaks volumes about the intellectual status of the fans in my mind. As another example, who would want to waste a beautiful day sitting in a stadium with crappy seats watching 20 or 30 cars go around in circles for hours? If you really care who wins, why not go about your business then turn on the TV for the last 5 or 10 laps to see the guy who’s been in 2nd or 3rd place charge ahead of the pack for a win at the last moment. That is, of course, unless he is killed or seriously injured in a flaming wreck. But I digress.

  76. Clay Bonnyman Evans

    Why you dirty, low-down, rotten Commie-pinko hater of mothers and the flag and fuzzy duckies and bunnies!

    Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

    Thanks so much for “Against Football.” It is, truly, written as a manifesto, and while manifestos tend to be short, I wish the book was longer and more in-depth.

    I am a writer, former daily journalist and still occasional book reviewer for my hometown paper. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear about “Against Football” before a friend sent me an email with a link to the NPR interview just last week.

    Serendipitously, this is the latest season — not that I haven’t tried before — in which I’ve vowed, if not to completely abandon football, but to scale way back. (I always want to go whole-hog, but I have sensible friends who say, “You don’t have to do everything in black or white). The book resonates deeply with me.

    Like you, I consider myself something of a football “addict.” My father took me to my first college game at age 6, and though he is no longer living, I still have those 50-yard-line season tickets. In theory, you and I despise each other sight unseen, because I am a lifelong Broncos fan, as well. I’m also someone who truly enjoys — or at least long enjoyed — simply watching the game, which translates to: San Jose State vs. Buffalo (the college, people, the college)? Hell yes, I’m watchin’ that!

    So why quit, or severely cut back? Pretty much everything you write about, though I feel like an insensitive jerk because (I’ll say 10 “Hail Lombardis” in penance) the brain injury issue barely factors into it. These things, among others, disturb me: misogyny, the jingoism, militarism, the fleecing of taxpayers, the celebration of violence as amusement, the overweening tribalism, the money, the truly bizarre verity that we are cheering for “brightly colored laundry” and basically, I am deeply suspicious of anything that society elevates to the status of a civic religion.

    I’ve been writing a book about my grandfather, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor after he was killed in the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. I am prone to going on and on about this project, which I won’t do here, but suffice it to say that one part of the book is looking at how we now define/use the word “hero” and how that fits into a highly militarized culture. I mention this only to note that the militarization of the game is a key factor in my decision. (Like you, I’ve been reflexively trashed by people whose “religion” — in this case blind military hero worship; but NEVER by anyone in the military, not once; it is virtually universal that people who insist all members of the military are “heroes” is a civilian who never served, quite often men who could have…. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25602-calling-the-troops-heroes-is-a-lie-that-puts-them-and-democracy-in-danger).

    But I also recognize that as I get older, I have less time left in life (I’m 52). When I attend a game on Saturday, that pretty much kicks the whole day. I can go for a run in the a.m. if it’s a 1:30 start (irritatingly, just one home game scheduled this year for a team that was once a national powerhouse and now may be permanently on the skids, thanks to – what else? – moneymoneymoney – has an actual starting time) that’s about all I’m going to do. And I realized how much time I waste watching the Broncos (disclosure: I was leery of that Super Bowl and publicly said so, but that broke my spirit) or some other random game — Hey! N.C. State is taking on Wake, gotta see that laundry! — that I wondered, what else can I do with that valuable time? Write? Run? Climb a mountain? See a hospice patient?

    My first attempt at shedding football was actually in 1986. I was traveling to Asia all fall, so I knew I wouldn’t be going to or seeing any games. But my college team (I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but I’m ashamed to say that I’m ashamed to be a fan – CU Buffs) was on the way back up after a complete collapse; they’d been No. 3 in 71 and very good through the 70s, then collapsed utterly in 79 with Chuck Fairbanks at the (ahem) helm. Try as I might, I couldn’t let it go. The two women traveling with me mocked me mercilessly because on Monday morning I had to fly out of bed and go find the International Herald-Tribune in Delhi or Bangkok or Hong Kong to see the line score — I paid for a paper to read one stinkin’ line and I whooped like a fool on a crowded Indian street when I read that CU had beaten Arizona 14-13.

    But it’s fair to say that despite my love for the game (I played only in junior high), most of what comes along with it stands in direct opposition to my values.

    So here I am again, trying to quit — and so far, I feel fine.

    Thanks for a great book. I note you are coming to Denver in December — will this be for a public signing? If so, I can talk the Boulder Camera editor into letting me do a review.

  77. Mary Thornley

    Steve, I read your book and thought it was great! I have never watched football but I’ve known others who did. After reading your book, I went out for a walk, and saw something I had never seen before–a group of young black boys being readied to play football! How coincidental. You noted that the sport was predominantly black, and so it was all these persons were African American. You provided good suggestions for amending the sport–if it must be kept. All sports that damage the brain should be abolished. Additionally, we should all seek activities and learning styles that reduce competition and violence.

  78. Matt

    Just heard you on Press Play today, but haven’t read the book yet. Quite frankly, I don’t want to read the book because I feel like I already know the inevitable outcome and I don’t want to lose my favorite game. I played 4 years of high school football and got my share of concussions simply for not having enough air in my helmet or just because it’s football. Now you see commercials like “Heads Up Football” trying desperately to show parents that the NFL is taking safety seriously. I wish I could take those commercials seriously, but it doesn’t take an economist to see right through them. The feeder system is evolving, and Friday Night Lights will have quite a different temperament in the near future, which will transfer slowly to college and the pro’s. Ignorance truly is bliss. But it reminds me too much of big tobacco, and change is needed. Thanks for taking a stand.

  79. Steve Almond Post author

    Michael,
    In what way is my decision to not watch football interfering with your decision to watch the game?
    What you’re really trying to say, I think, is, “Stop making me feel guilty for consuming as entertainment a game that can lead to brain damage.”
    I think your comment about knitting or becoming a vegan is meant to suggest that it’s “feminine” to question football’s morality. But it’s not. It’s human. Deal with it.

  80. Michael Trost

    Hey Steve leave my football alone. If you don’t like it then take up knitting or become a vegan!

  81. Doug Spoonwood

    I haven’t read your book. That said I did hear something about NPR on football the other day, and I’ve written a letter to the editor of my local paper which you might find interesting (I don’t know if they’ll publish it).

    End American Football

    Listening to the radio, they talked about how violent football is and how there is no safe way to take a male to the ground. On every play in football there exists an attempt to push males (by blockers) to the ground. On every play which is not a touchdown or field goal there exists a male who gets thrown to the ground in often extremely violent ways. In just about any other context such behavior would qualify as assault.

    I don’t think that baseball should end just because collisions do occasionally happen. That sort of violence happens incidentally and seems more of a result of competitive activity. On the other hand the violence in football happens, because football gets designed to have such violence occur.

    School football programs should get defunded, and we should stop watching football games on weekends.

    I realize that the ending football programs makes for a challenging proposal. I grew up playing in the marching band and supporting the football team in that way. But going into the future, I simply see no point for our culture to continue to condone violence like that of football for the sake of “fun”.

    Has a single group ever protested football? Why don’t we start doing so?

    Concerned parents, students, and citizens should organize and protest football games outside of stadiums with posters saying things like “end football”, “boys matter”, “men matter”, and “no more violence”.

  82. Sheila Martin, MSW-ACP

    I heard you on the radio today and am looking forward to ordering and reading your book. I anticipate that it will shed some light on society as it relates to the culture of football in the U.S. Being an alumni of a highly regarded university, for football… I find myself hesitant to jump on the college football fan-bandwagon. This is partly due to my observation of how “fans” or groups of people form in society to take sides and “hate” other teams, etc. I don’t have a personality for living in a state of opposition against other groups in the name of fun. I hope to see more research on the underlying social undercurrents of this and what negative )natural or un-natural) instincts this encourages in us.

  83. Lex Renda

    Steve,
    I don’t disagree, in the abstract, with much of what you said on NPR and in some articles of yours I have read. But it seems to me that you are overreacting and asking us to throw out the baby with the bath oil.

    For example, Congress can demand more from the NFL in exchange for its exemption from antitrust laws. It can prohibit teams from moving to other cities; it can end the non-profit status of the league. It can require the league to lower its minimum age from 21 to 18 so as to undermine (at least partially) the league’s free development league known as college football (which at the very least will allow young men who are interested in football as a profession not have to participate in the charade of becoming “student-athletes.)”

    As for brain injuries, there are in fact ways that this game can become a lot safer without eliminating its excitement, difficulty, or the element of human confrontation (which like it or not, has a certain appeal). One thing that can be done would be to eliminate the face-mask, thus rendering the helmet less effective as a weapon. This is only a guess, but I surmise that there were fewer head injuries and long-term brain diseases to players who played before the face-mask was invented. Even in the 1960s, the face-mask was simpler than it is today — and while it offered less protection to the face, it didn’t solidify the helmet like it does today. The replacement of astro-turf with grass and synthetic turf in most stadia probably makes the game safer today than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. The league could also bring back bump and run coverage, which, by allowing defenders to touch the receivers more than 5 yards down the field, would make blanket coverage more likely and spearing less likely. It can require the safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

    Not to be a jerk, but I also think that this is a fair question: If your Raiders were perennial contenders, instead of perennial doormats, would you be this disenchanted with the game? Would we even be having this conversation?

    Respectfully,
    Lex

  84. Michael Herrmann

    Steve, just finished the book, thought it was brilliant. Congratulations! We would love to have you come to Concord NH to talk about it and sell some copies. Email me if you might think about coming. You’ll be interested to know (if you didn’t already) that Bob Ryan has a chapter on football in his forthcoming memoir, “Scribe,” entitled “I Can Hardly Believe It’s Legal”–he also writes about the Tuck Rule game–you’ll want to have a look. Anyway, congratulations on Against Football. You absolutely nailed it. Best regards, Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

  85. Ross

    Very interesting and thought provoking book. You did answer the question I’ve recently asked regarding sack dances, “Predator” poses and bloodlust grimacing. These guys have to be angry and exhude anger, even if they’re winning. It’s always been violent, I guess it was easier to swallow when everybody knew it was a game, not a battle. I suppose the non-contact sports still provide an outlet for the antiquated concept of sportsmanship.

  86. Debra Pyka

    I’ll tell you my opinion of the NFL (non-profit) organization. The research they started 20 years ago, which to this day they have never been forced to reveal, have let people suffer and die. The NFL is a sponsor of pop-warner and USA football, I as a parent would have liked to have known of their research and studies of brain diseases among players, before my son died of suicide and later to have been diagnosed with CTE at the age of 25 and never played college or pro-sports. I hope one day all is revealed and there will be hell to pay for those who knew and said nothing and tried to cover up the lies. After 1 year of trying to get people (politicians, media and attorneys) to listen to my complaints/concerns I always come to a dead end, no one cares unless it’s an NFL/college player. When the research is revealed, I hope there will be fines, prison time and banning from the NFL. By the way, the kids who play in pop-warner and middle/high school are not adults, someone needs to speak up for them before it’s too late, or the parents will be standing in the cemetery looking at their childs headstone as I will be for the rest of my life. Thanks Steve for the insight and hopefully people will wake up.

  87. Cathy

    Interesting that the most scathing insults leveled against you are implications that you may be female.
    Kind of reminiscent of The Sand Lot’s “you play ball like a girl.”
    Ouch! Good thing you’re not, you know, one of Those.

  88. Susan

    I can’t wait to discuss the interview you gave on Here and Now in the seminar I’m teaching on sports and society. I love football, but like you I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile my love of the sport with my awareness of the troublesome racial, class, and sexual dynamics created by the business of it.

    And it’s so telling that people who don’t like the argument you’re making resort to the typical homophobic slurs (Hershey highway, cocksucker, etc.). Ad hominem attacks reveal you have no counterargument.

  89. Sean

    Hi Stephen,

    Great book– thank you for writing it and sharing the inherent hypocrisy that so many of us experience: a genuine enjoyment of the game and the moral quandary that comes from supporting such a violent sport.

    I was curious as to why you did not go into the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier (and others). That was and is a huge scandal that isn’t talked about much anymore from what I can tell.

  90. Robin Toler

    All my life I have not understood or enjoyed watching the game. I grew up in a violent household in South Louisiana. I could not understand it not ever and I never once watched a game. I felt awful on game days at LSU where I went to college and the library was closed on game days. It was really telling when the players got all new everything and the art department was and continues to fall apart. Thank you for uncovering the madness and the elite who chose and bait the players with money and wreck their lives; the macho-ism is homophobia personified. I loved the interview on NPR and you know the subject so well your points were very well taken. Football relates to sexism, racism, classism, and ableism and promotes violence against woman. Thank you thank you thank you.
    You did a great thing blowing the whistle on this golden egg.

  91. Rusty Sweeton

    I heard Steve on NPR yesterday and agreed. In the 70’s, my brothers and I loved to watch football and other sports because we played those sports. Even then, I thought it ridiculous that the pros made more money than my teacher or a fireman. This was before sports was completely commercialized and militarized. The extortion of money from cities by owners is heinous. I am a casual tv game watcher, but I don’t plan my day around it and I darn sure wouldn’t pay to see millionaires play a game. The game lost its allure when we quit playing.

  92. Ann Yourism

    Great job Stephen. Very thoughtful and insightful. I heard you on NPR and what you eloquently put in words have changed my fundamental belief in the game. I’m taking your challenge and removing my support from such savagery.

  93. Melissa Cronin

    Hi Steve. I read your book as soon as I returned home from the post-grad conference at VCFA. Thank you, thank you for sharing the facts, as disturbing as they are. Before I read it, I was anti-football (I suffered a TBI 11 years ago when an old man sped through a farmers’ market, mowing me, and 72 other people, down). After reading the book, I’m that much more anti-football, if that’s even possible. I’m curious to know … how do you talk to your children about football? Do you allow them to watch the sport? Are they old enough to understand the risks involved?
    Again, Thank you!
    Melissa

  94. chris

    Unfortunately, for most people football is just a TV show. We don’t see the aftermath for the players and the cripples they become after their brief playing careers. But as long as it is profitable it will stick around.

  95. Stevebut you

    I just heard you on NPR and it was great. You echoed my thoughts and feelings about football. It took a lot of guts to trash America’s favorite sport but you did it eloquently. I spent my young life playing football. My father went to college on a football scholarship and thought I should play. I spent too much time on the football field but much of it was good. However, at the professional level it does indeed resemble a circus where trained athlete’s do tricks for the fans and people idolize the heroics. Such a shame.

    Keep writing, you’re great.

  96. David I

    Not much difference between the gladiator battles in Roman times. What is sad is that parents now subject little kids to this obviously violent sport where there brains get concussed and can not develop properly. (don’t get me started on youth hockey…)
    Cheers!

  97. betsy

    i love your writing, no matter the subject matter, so i’ll be buying and reading this. i will then pass it along to a friend who is a rabid, lifetime college football fan and a new fan of yours. RAWK!

  98. Laurel Leigh

    Dear Steve,

    Thank you for writing a book that will prompt a few divorces that should really have happened a long time ago. I was once married to a guy who had season tickets to the Oakland Raiders, so I learned a lot about football and who not to marry:

    1) Black and silver is a style statement and perhaps shouldn’t be.

    2) It is quite possible to fall asleep in the stands during a live football game. More than once.

    3) Football would be a lot more interesting if Derek Jeter played it.

    Does this mean at live readings you’ll have cheering soundtracks in the background instead of Toto and we have to do the wave? Just asking.

  99. Erin Almond

    I love when those big sexy guys bash against each other in their tight pants! I love when they grunt and squeal and slap each other on the ass. I love when they make a pig pile and someone gets bloody. Football roolz!

  100. Jane

    I don’t know why your such a pussy. anyone who plays football is a ADULT making a decison and its a free country and if you want to get the shit kicked out of you its your right and anyway those NFL players get paid a lot of money to do there job so its worth it and most of them are fine and dont get concussions. why r u such a cocksucker. Maybe you need to get lade sometime LOL.

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