Football’s Long Eclipse




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ORIGINAL POST

POSTED BY Ed (10 days ago)
I don’t watch much football anymore—the N.B.A. playoffs are, for me at least, an infinitely greater pleasure—but, hypocritical as it is, it’s hard to deny the excitement or the beauty of the game when I do tune in. But the beauty is the beauty of a car crash in an action movie—only here there are no stuntmen, no C.G.I. As N.F.L. players often say, nearly every play feels like a car crash, a real one. Even after an “injury-free” game, players soak themselves in ice baths; they are, head to toe, an enormous contusion.

After covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I remember driving one Friday night from New Orleans to the airport in Houston to get a flight back to New York. For hours, all I could find on the radio was high-school football, and everywhere I looked, along the road in Louisiana and Texas, there were illuminated stadiums filled with cheering fans and kids slamming into one another, revelling in the game of football. Now the ratings for the N.F.L. are starting to decline.

Some Pop Warner and high-school programs, particularly in wealthier communities, have diminished or shut down. Parents are asking the question once asked of boxing: Do you want your kids to play football?

https://www.newyorker.com/sports/sporting-scene/footballs-long-eclipse

COMMENTS

Ed (10 days ago)
The crisis surrounding football’s brutality at the turn of the twentieth century was so great that it eventually inspired Presidential intervention. Greg Aiello, the N.F.L.’s present-day spokesman, told me, “You should research Teddy Roosevelt’s involvement in changing the game in 1905.” Roosevelt, whose son was then a freshman football player at Harvard, summoned college coaches to the White House to discuss reforming the sport before public opinion turned too far against it.

Eighteen people had died on the field that year. The idea, or hope, was to preserve the game’s essential character-building physicality (“I’ve got no sympathy whatever with the overwrought sentimentality that would keep a young man in cotton-wool,” Roosevelt wrote) without filling up the morgue.

The next year, the forward pass was legalized, thereby transforming football from a militarized or corporatized rugby to something more like “contact ballet,” as Oriard calls it.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/01/31/does-football-have-a-future


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