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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Football and the American Character

As I was looking over the Imprimis for September, the entire newsletter was devoted to a speech by John J. Miller of Hillsdale College on Football and the American Character. He starts the speech off as follows:

When we talk about football, we usually talk about our favorite teams and the games they play. The biggest ongoing story in the sport right now, however, is something else entirely. It’s not about the Bears vs. the Packers or Michigan vs. Ohio State, but rather the controversy over concussions and the long-term health effects of head injuries

On August 29, 2013, the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit involving more than 4,500 players and their families, who had claimed that the league covered up data on the harmful effects of concussions. Although medical research into football and long-term effects of head injuries is hardly conclusive, some data suggest a connection. A number of legal experts believe the NFL, which will generate about $10 billion in revenue this year, dodged an even bigger payout.

Football, of course, is much bigger than the NFL and its players, whose average yearly salary is nearly $2 million. Football’s ranks include about 50,000 men who play for schools or in youth leagues whose pockets aren’t nearly so deep. A Colorado jury recently awarded $11.5 million to a boy who suffered a paralyzing injury at his high school football practice in 2008.How long will it be before school districts begin to think football isn’t worth the cost?

Earlier this year, President Obama waded into the debate. “If I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” he said. He also called for football “to reduce some of the violence.” Others have called for a more dramatic solution: Malcolm Gladwell, the bestselling author of The Tipping Point and other books, thinks football should go the way of dogfighting. He would like to see America’s favorite sport run out of polite society.

So football’s future is uncertain. But the past may offer important lessons. After all, football’s problems today are nothing compared to what they were about a century ago: In 1905, 18 people died playing the sport. Football became embroiled in a longrunning dispute over violence and safety — and it was almost banned through the efforts of Progressive era prohibitionists. Had these enemies of football gotten their way, they might have erased one of America’s great pastimes from our culture. But they lost — and it took the efforts of Theodore Roosevelt to thwart them.

Now at first blush you might think that this quote from the September issue of Imprimis is nothing, but in fact it is. In my mind we are seeing America being destroyed through the efforts of the current day Progressive era prohibitionists. The only thins is they are called Socialists and Communists. Also, in a way football leads to strengthen the American Character, and I will get into that in a future editorial. However, notice what Obama had said.

“If I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” he said. He also called for football “to reduce some of the violence.”

One of the reasons this sticks out to me is the fact that Obama decided to wade into it in the first place. He has many more important things (The economy, jobs, the Middle East) and yet he sees a shiny and is easily distracted by other things.  This shows that he is out to destroy America one principle at a time.

From Pop Warner through high school and onto college and the pro (or semi-pro) level, football was meant to build character not only in others but also in ourselves. I will go through Miller’s speech little by little and pluck out salient points. In the meantime, you can subscribe to Imprimis here and read the September issue here so you can follow along throughout the coming weeks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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