American Glory, American Shame: Why I Don’t Watch Football

By: Hadassah Penn  |  September 19, 2019

By Hadassah Penn, Features Editor

Finally, it’s pumpkin spice season! No more sweating behind sunglasses and praying for a breeze, just sweaters and fall vibes — and football. In the 150 years since the first recorded game of American football, the seasonal sport has become an integral part of American culture. And, honestly? I don’t get it.

I guess this is a good time for a disclaimer: I’m not a sports person. And I’m not here to attack anybody who is. I understand certain aspects of both playing and following sports — the excitement, the strategy, the community. Sports brings people together both on and off the field, and that’s pretty special. 

But these days, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the physical and psychological toll the game takes on its players, as well as the way Americans perpetuate football culture. Within the past month alone, football has been linked to higher risks of anxiety and depression, as well as poor cognition later in life. There’s also chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is trauma the brain sustains after being batted around in the skull a bit too hard and too often — not to mention, the emotional instability that leads to erratic behavior and domestic violence. All-in-all, it’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s downright troubling. 

What is football, after all, but glorified violence? And don’t we have enough violence to handle in this country, without sneaking it in under the guise of wholesome family-oriented entertainment? 

Supporting football means supporting the worst parts of American culture — the gluttonous way we consume entertainment, our ability to tune out unsavory aspects of the things we enjoy, the idea that there is nothing more important than physical strength and the ability to overpower others. 

Accomplishing anything in this country can sometimes feel like two steps forward and one step back, but we truly have come a long way over the past years — we’re recognizing the fatphobia, transphobia, and homophobia of Friends, we’re working on securing a cleaner, greener environment. So why can’t we let go of tackle football, an actively harmful aspect of American culture? Or, at the very least, scale back the violence so it’s less harmful to play and watch. Yes, football is traditional. It’s existed for many years — it’s part of our lives. But in order to progress as a people, sometimes it is necessary to leave things behind — it’s a natural part of any growth process. And it’s not always easy, but it’s truly necessary. 

I’m sick of living in a country where horrific and unexpected acts of violence are happening side-by-side with a somehow-more-acceptable socially-approved version. To condemn acts of violence means to condemn all acts of violence that are not directly for the purposes of self-defense — including the kind that happen regularly on the football field. 

Football exists because we, as a collective, allow it to exist. We buy into the consumerism, the excitement, the distraction. Do you want to be part of a society that perpetuates a dangerous and backwards way of thinking that is completely at odds with the society we strive to become? Or would you rather be part of the solution?