Monday, September 16, 2013

Fourth Down

It's football season. I've refrained from making my annual "I like football but I can't get into it this year" post mostly because it's boring, but also for the first time there are some plausible explanations as to why: the Pittsburgh Pirates are doing well in September (heck, "doing well" is enough to get me excited*) and the Steelers are probably going to suck this year. For the first time in this fair city, I'm not alone in hearing about the game and going, "eh."

Still, that doesn't mean I'm not going to watch; I still find football to be an entertaining pasttime, and I'll still probably watch more games than I miss.

There's an article going the rounds, however, about a reporter (Fuzz Hogan) who is going to abstain from watching football this year. At first I thought it was just a "I'm bored with football this year" banality of an article, but, no, since he's a journalist it has to be about actual, legitimate, grand outside-the-game reasons. Which is fine, of course, but I think it bears looking at his reasons.

1. Concussions. I'm mixed on this one. On the one hand, I believe that concussions are a legitimate concern and I think the NFL has avoided the issue for a variety of reasons, some warranted but most not. Of course, the NFL is in the midst of a PR nightmare; they're not allowed to act sympathetic (lest they cause themselves legal liability) but if they don't they look like monsters. So I've cut the NFL a lot of slack on this issue because I know they can't say too much. On the other hand, I think the issue is overblown. Players know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they sign up for a young lifetime of gridiron football. It's going to put your body through hell, and it's not going to get better as you get older. You're rolling the dice that any given Sunday you might have your bell rung, and doing that too many years in a row is going to be a problem. Still, it's clearly not enough of a problem that players are willing to quit, or at least listen to medical opinions about it. Every player knows this, and anyone who tells you different is a liar or has an agenda. This isn't like smoking, where there was a question about what its effects are; anyone can quit football any time they like. So I'm effectively neutral on this issue, and it's not going to be enough of an issue that I'm going to stop watching football over it.

2. Performance-enhancing drugs. Really? This doesn't seem to have been a major issue in football, and usually when it happens the perpetrators are duly punished. It's not like baseball, where the entire thing is a mess.

3. The awfulness of the college football system. I agree that the college sports program has to be overhauled; from nearly every perspective it's a disaster for students, athletes, education, and taxpayers. The only ones ahead are the universities. However, I'm not sure the link to the NFL is valid. While I'm sure the NFL is perfectly happy with having a more-or-less free farm team system they get to cull their players from, and actively encourage it, I don't put the faults of the NCAA at the NFL's feet. His point is circular reasoning: he says that the NCAA wouldn't be a problem if the NFL didn't exist. Well, of course, but you can use that sort of reasoning to defuse pretty much any debate.

4. This reason isn't really a reason to not watch the NFL, but to point out that his action, while minor, still contributes to (hopefully) reforming the NFL. Not a bad point--I actually agree--but it's not really a reason to stop watching professional football; it's an implementation of how to do so. I'm not sure what he's driving at here.

Anyway, I find this article to be a little...weak. It almost seems like he's fishing for reasons to not watch football, and this is the best he could come up with (and, um, punted on the fourth point.) Personally, I could find plenty of reasons not to watch the NFL (the insane amount of commercials, the obnoxious fan base, the glorification of thuggery by its players), but none of the article's points really made me evaluate why I do watch it.

*Well, as excited as I can get for baseball.

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