Russell and Duenes

I Don’t Turn On NFL Films to Watch the Place-Kickers

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The Gospel Coalition did an interview with Sports Illustrated writer, Thomas Lake (find it here), and having read his piece on ex-Carolina Panthers’ player, Rae Carruth (“The Boy They Couldn’t Kill”), Lake definitely lives up to his billing as one of our finest long-piece authors. In the interview he said something interesting, something that has no doubt been voiced by others, but has continued to pop up in my mind from time-to-time since I read the interview, particularly now that the NFL season is set to begin. Lake said:

“Football is—we all know by now—terribly violent and in many cases damaging to people’s brains, can leave them with their lives ruined, even in some cases dead much too soon. Basically everyone in America knows this by now, but we keep watching. Why? Is the game too entertaining, we can’t tear ourselves away? I don’t know. It seems like a great national case of cognitive dissonance. I don’t really know what to do about it—do you?”

Lake concludes that, at least for him, the game is indeed too entertaining or compelling. He adds: “Football is one of the last things in America that everyone still talks about. The mass culture has fragmented; everyone has their own niche. It’s hard to talk about things anymore. Everyone has their own TV show, music—but there’s still football. Turning away is unplugging from society.”

Perhaps so, though I wonder if there’s a test case out there, that is, someone who gave up football altogether who could judge whether he became “unplugged from society” because of it. I’m skeptical. But Lake’s words have gotten me pondering the nature of the game of football. These mostly muscle men slam their bodies into each other with frightening force, at breakneck speeds, with intent to inflict physical and mental punishment on the opponent. And that’s just it. When I watch old NFL films highlights, I ain’t tuning in for the show on place-kickers or punters. What I want is something like: “The NFL’s Greatest Hits,” where linebackers and strong safeties are laying the wood to some poor wide receiver or tight end coming over the middle. It’s what we all want to see.

Lake has no answer for why, and neither, really, do I. What I do have, of course, is more than a suspicion that the hunger for bone-jarring hits isn’t burbling up from some well of virtue deep within me. To say I “go back and forth” over whether to keep watching would be false. I keep watching, and have not much intent on stopping, at least at this point. I guess what I’m saying is that the issue has been more in my consciousness of late. Don’t know where it will lead, but thought I’d put it out there.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

August 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

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