"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)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Concern about football while we still watch

We see a major conflict of interest as we try to adjudicate the sport of football. Here in Morris is a prime example: Big Cat Stadium, a state of the art facility for high school and college football. Is it really necessary? It sits there all winter, dormant.
The last Tiger football game I ever covered for the print media was in Henning. There I saw the totally typical high school field from the days before these fancy artificial turf places. Am I suggesting that Henning is just as good? That's not really the point. The point is that we should not be investing in elaborate resources for football at all. We should keep what we have and begin preparing to phase that out.
I saw the movie "Concussion" a few days ago on DVD. I checked it out from our Morris Public Library. I'll insert a plug here for the library: I am very impressed by the availability of reasonably current movies there. You might have to request it and wait a few days - no big deal. Watching the movie at home is preferable to seeing it at the Morris Theater. You can follow the dialogue better. If I'm going to write about the movie online, I am going to want to hear all the dialogue well.
The Morris Theater has historically had sound issues. I have always felt this was because of the sheer size of the place: it's hard to distribute high-quality sound over all the space. The last movie I saw at the Morris Theater was "Tropic Thunder." At present, my system of getting movies from the Morris library is 100 percent satisfactory. Again, kudos to our library.
Word is, our library director isn't going to be staying there much longer. I'm very saddened by that. These plans can always change, as we are learning with Jacqueline Johnson, UMM chancellor. Remember, Bud Grant came back to coach the Minnesota Vikings! There I go making a light reference to pro football. We are so imbued with images and the history of pro and college football.
Football did not have that kind of position in our culture when I was in elementary school. It was almost marginalized. My parents gave the impression that it was a foreboding thing, not to be admired, because of the obvious violence. We saw football enter the real mainstream of our culture in the mid to late 1960s. I would say that was because of TV tech advancements making the picture sharper. Football steadily became an absolute opiate in our culture.
The popularity meant that boys and young men were going to push themselves ever harder to get bigger, stronger and faster, so as to become heroes on the gridiron. I heard coaches at banquets implore their young charges to "lift weights in the off-season." The idea was to knock opposing players on their keister. What a Neanderthal activity.
It belongs in an earlier age, an age when football was consistent with getting young men ready for military service and combat. We possessed the common sense in that earlier time to be fully aware of the dangers of football. Even if those dangers were merely physical and not related to the brain, football was a sport that should have been discouraged.
I will repeat: Any sport that is too dangerous for girls is probably too dangerous for everyone. Maybe it's time we excise this one last "masculine" sport. It's not the way we think nowadays.
I will also repeat: Why can't our entertainment industry do more to erode the popularity of football? It seems the whole entertainment machine slows down and capitulates to football at football's prime times of the week. Those times themselves have expanded, as you all are aware. When I was young and football began its burgeoning trend, football was confined to some quite specific times of the week.
Consider this principle of marketing: scarcity or the perception of scarcity has a lot to do with the popularity of something. The market can get saturated. But is the football market saturated yet? It ought to be. Unfortunately, or tragically, football casts this incredible allure that we just can't back away from. The young men playing the sport, much bigger and faster than they once were, are punishing themselves horribly out there.
I am fortunate in that I never had the potential to play football in anything like a competent way. But what about all the kids who get sucked into this sad obsession called football? Logic demands that we withdraw from the pastime of playing and watching it. If people stop watching, the  boys will stop playing. We are culpable: us fans.
Some people will read this and want to gnash their teeth. So many of us want to gloss over or ignore football's unavoidable dangers. We have watched football with such glee over such a long time. Getting rid of an addiction can be a painful process involving denial. What would our Sunday afternoons be like without football? What about Saturday when the collegians play?
There is so much money involved. There is so much marketing. Towns that invest in these artificial turf fields are going to want to keep feeding the monster. What if the boys, emboldened by the new knowledge, watching the movie "Concussion" among other things, just start walking away? They could so easily find more productive channels for their energies and interests after school. They could be friends with their peers from other communities, those young men who in football would be their "enemies" on the field, feeding pathetic small town parochialism of the type we saw in the movie "Hoosiers" (Gene Hackman).
In the early '50s we accepted the undesirable model. We are well into a new digital, information-infused age in which major wars and football should be put aside as relics. We fight pinprick wars today and even those are sad. There was no conscription for the Iraq War, unless you want to count the involuntary participation of National Guardsmen. The National Guard? Why did we call on our Guardsmen to fight a foreign war? Today there's an ever-growing consensus that that whole mess was a mistake. Including the cost of treating wounded soldiers, the cost to us was something like $6 trillion.
Centuries from now, wars and football will be seen as sad curiosities from an earlier epoch in human history. The movie "Concussion" might be seen as a little quaint because it seemed to be walking a fine line: showing us the obvious about football while still acknowledging its hallowed place in our lives and culture.
Given the demonstrable facts about football, our only conclusion is that it must be phased out as fast as possible. If we stop watching, the kids will stop playing. Think about the kids.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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