"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Adjusting away from consuming football

There was a time when I'd easily remember to tune-in for the Vikings' pre-season games. It was hard to maintain attention for very long. I knew that going in: all the no-name players, lack of any sense of real drama, would make the game boring. I'd watch for at least a portion.
I remember more than once doing a little online writing after a pre-season game. I remember showing concern about "Menards" superimposed on the TV screen, as if it were printed on the field, and thinking it was too much of a distraction. I remember that was during the Vikings' experiment with Donovan McNabb. I remember writing about a faux pas by broadcaster Al Michaels: he made a comment based on gambling (the "spread"). That was when Joe Webb was playing quarterback as a rookie.
So you see, I paid more than a little attention to pre-season football once. To date in 2015, I think the Vikings have played two pre-season games. They just came and went. Not only did I miss them, I didn't care about missing them. Let's see, when does the real season start?
All you ardent Vikings fans, can you tell me what the team's record was last year? All the time you spend watching, and can you give me the won-lost records of recent seasons? It becomes kind of a blur, doesn't it? Let's call it a habit: something you're attracted to, kind of like soda pop. A guilty pleasure.
We really all ought to feel guilty about this. My guilt, I feel, has led me to pay far less attention to this well-greased, obscenely rich entertainment activity. The players don't represent us. They pull on a purple jersey because of the contracts they were able to get. They move around like absolute mercenaries, which they are.
Gophers football isn't a whole lot more. Jerry Kill gets a raise which in the old days would have been an entire salary. Money just pours out of a spigot around U of M athletics. People come and go as 'U' hires who seem highly questionable.
Larry Merchant once wrote a book called "And Every Day You Take Another Bite." So many of us tune in because we feel a strange sort of stimulation. We shrug off all the problems associated with big-time sports. We're bored. We become stimulated as if consuming so much candy or maybe an illicit drug. Sports as a drug? Quite likely. "And every day we take another bite."
Television has made this monster into a mega-monster. Where money is involved, humanistic judgment can easily be pushed aside. Dollar signs get in people's eyes. How quaint the situation was in 1948, when the NFL's best team, the Eagles, got 9/10 of their revenue from ticket sales. Ticket sales! Today, the NFL will get about $6 billion in TV rights alone, more than half its total revenue.
A sea of casual fans helps keep the monster healthy. It's a respite from the mundane life they experience most of the week. They consume Cheetos. Let's call it passive consumption. We really need to take a hard look and weigh the manner in which we spend our weekend time. What could we mine, to find enjoyment if we were to just exclude college and pro football? What broad vistas present themselves? It does take a little effort.
Without our eyeballs, this gargantuan enterprise of football would have to scale back. It's only because of us that they can bring in such unlimited riches. The money reinforces a game that is increasingly harmful to all who play it. This includes high school. Us fans in Morris could not have conceived of a facility like Big Cat Stadium back in the 1960s. We had a nice, typical field with real grass that was deemed totally satisfactory. These days in sports, everyone tries to outdo everyone else with facilities.
Back in 1968, we sat wide-eyed on the bleachers at our new gym in Morris, which was deemed light years better than what we had. Today we're barely aware of our '68 gym. There's an expansive new one. We saw our MACA boys team lose in the first round of last year's post-season. We were seeded No. 2 and our opponent was seeded No. 7. We lost in front of our home fans. The new gym is no elixir toward achieving success.
Football? Why can't we pay more attention to the voices of concern about the health effects of the sport? How can anyone in his right mind allow a son to play it? Any sport that is too dangerous for girls is simply too dangerous. We don't need a "man's" sport. The status as a man's sport contributes to football's reputation for encouraging misogyny. At the pro and college levels, let's throw in obvious greed. The violence is a given. Perhaps we should recognize the sport is in line with militarism. It's a model for how we go out and get the bad guys, or at least try to. This nation hasn't been so good at that since World War II. But we still have football - men being men.
Courage in the face of injuries. Or is it foolishness? A growing body of medical research has confirmed that football can cause traumatic injury to the brain, not as a rare consequence, but as a routine byproduct of how the game is played. We're no longer just considering catastrophic injuries. Some football coaches tout "concussion testing" as a way of managing. We should be so lucky. We now have to weigh, based on an ever-growing body of research, that incremental (and thus largely invisible) damage is done by the many sub-concussive hits.
OK parents, the ball is in your court. Can you show some judgment, or not? As for all you passive consumers of the game, you all share the blame in what football has become. Without the viewers, football would be at the periphery. The time is now to take a good, long look and to make immediate adjustments in our lifestyle.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment