Unpopular Opinion: American Football Is Barbaric

Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about health and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, So Well, So Woman.

Related Post Roulette

32 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Sometimes I wonder if football isn’t a sublimation of some sort.

    If it is, I think we might find out that having that sort of thing is important.

    If it’s not… sure. We should totally get rid of it. (Don’t touch pro wrestling, though.)Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    I don’t disagree with any of this. I also feel no small amount of guilt in that I love watching MMA fights. It’s one of those things where i have to admit my hypocrisy. If they ended both sports, I would get over it, but in the meantime I keep tuning into both.

    * Ironically, long before we knew about CTE, football was the one sport we were not allowed to play.Report

    • I’ve always felt MMA, UFC in particular, does a pretty good job overall protecting their fighters and the refs stopping fights quickly when in doubt. Once a fights stopped, it’s stopped, and the governing bodies usually have rules about fighting again after a knock out of certain amount of time.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        I agree that they try very hard to limit damage, but there are some guys that have been knocked out many, many times and the UFC keeps letting them fight. Alistair Overeem, Gray Maynard…these are two guys that come to mind recently. Ben Saunders got KO’d last night and I know I have seen him knocked out at least 4 times. And then there is just cumulative damage. Frankie Edgar has taken a lot of abuse in fights. Tony Ferguson likes to trade punches with people and push a hard pace until they wear out. That stuff adds up. I fear that in the next 5 years or so we will see the older generation of fighters (Chuck Liddell, etc) starting to have the problems we have seen in the NFL. Jason Hairston, founder of KUIU clothing company, recently killed himself and was diagnosed with CTE afterwards. He only played one year in the NFL but had been playing football since his youth.Report

  3. I read an article a while ago about how the rise of organized sport during the Victorian Era coincided with the decline in street riots and brawls. I’m not sure how legitimate the claim was, but it was an interesting article. I wish I could find it.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    I’m a bit angry that in the American Empire we get no bread and have to pay for our circuses. Say what you will about the Roman Emperors, they were at least generous in their subsidies and handouts. Our decadents just want to keep it alll for themselves.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    I used to love football. I played football in school. I wasn’t any good, or very big, we just had a small school, and everyone that showed up was on the team. I pulled a ligament in my back in 9th grade and broke my hand in 11th grade. I didn’t play as a senior, everyone was by then much bigger than me.

    I had season tickets to see the UW Huskies play, and attended Rose Bowl games they played in. (That should date me!).

    It just faded away. Part of it was marrying someone who preferred baseball. But part of it was just tiring of the “great hit!” mentality.

    It’s obvious that I’m out of step with a lot of people. I’m with Jaybird in wondering about sublimation, and whether our obsession with football might be pro-social. But then again, lots of other countries don’t have football (as we know it), and seem to keep it together.Report

  6. InMD says:

    Boo hoo hoo go watch guys with perfectly quaffed hair flop for three hours to a nil to nil outcome. How thrilling! You can even pretend there’s no safety risk in even that sport, just because it isn’t quite as apparent.

    Anyway I will be watching the Redskins, drinking a beer, and being entertained by people taking some gladiatorial risks for the big bucks. Unapologetically, obviously.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    I agree but I also have no love for watching sports. The gene passed me by completely. The idea of spending an afternoon watching sports baffles me.

    The NFL will always win though because lots of people really like sports. LGM has no love for the NFL’s management or the NCAA. They still have weekly NFL open threads because the readers are addicted.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    Your tastes may win out in terms of what circuses are offered, but if that’s the topic you mean to address, then it leaves the bigger question in which you framed it – the (fascist?) capitalist ruling class defusing dissent by providing food and divertment – unaddressed. They’re not without their wiles – they’ll reliably offer circuses that match prevailing tastes as those tastes change. That’s what they’re good at.

    Now, if your issue is merely that the circuses we’re offered are barabaric (because our tastes are), in that case you do a good job addressing that.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      …Do folks differ with this: do you think that if football could be replaced with a more humane spectacle, then the bread-and-circuses form of social control that this piece posits could be significantly disrupted?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Something like Pro Wrestling would allow for moral lessons to be imparted.

        If the Broncos go up against the Patriots, everybody knows that the Broncos are the good guys and the Patriots are evil. But the Patriots might win even though it’s a very important game.

        What kind of lesson does *THAT* teach?

        Pro wrestling can have a good guy and a bad guy go head to head and the good guy can win and then tell the kids at home that they need to be good guys too. Parents can tell their kids “eat your vegetables! Like that pro wrestler! That’s how he beat the bad guy!”

        Everybody’s happy.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          Is that how pro wrestling gets eyeballs today? The good guy winning? (I don’t watch.)Report

            • jason in reply to Jaybird says:

              I was going to say I stopped watching WWE way back when everyone had to job for Triple H and McMahon. It got really, really, really, boring. And the formula was blatantly obvious: teaser matches on cable and only “good” matches on overpriced pay per views. No thank you. (of course, this model works for lots of folks and that’s cool and the ppv’s are cheaper than many pro-sports tickets, and you can buy cheap beer to have at home, so wrestling definitely has that going for it.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to jason says:

                The WWE network has changed things entirely.

                205 Live is the wrestling you remember from the 80’s.
                Every single PPV. Watch the 2001 Royal Rumble again!

                And it’s only $9.99 a month. (Get you a gift card from Wally World and you won’t have to give them your credit card or anything.)

                (Edit: this is not to say that 205 Live is as bad as wrestling was in the 80’s. It’s leaps and bounds better! But it’s the wrestling you *REMEMBER*.)Report

              • Reformed Republican in reply to Jaybird says:

                I thought NXT was the wrestling I remember. Then again, I have not watched much 205 Live.

                Last week’s Crown Jewel was also wrestling I remember. Undertaker, Kane, HHH, Shawn Michaels. A McMahon screwing over wrestlers to win a tournament (that he was not a part of) to be declared the Best in the World.Report

              • I think that 205 Live is amazing. Even better than NXT. (I wish they wouldn’t do a dive every dang match, though.)

                As for the Crown Jewel… sigh. The King asks for a PPV, the King gets a PPV. The King asks for matches that he’s always wanted to see live, the King gets the matches that he’s always wanted to see live.

                I only wish that these PPVs weren’t canon.Report

              • Pinky in reply to jason says:

                I dropped pro wrestling for the same reason that Kate wrote this article. For me, it was the tearful memorial to Eddie Guerrero. A bunch of steroid-bloated freaks saying good-bye to a guy whose heart exploded from all the chemicals and years of abuse. It was maybe a year later that Chris Benoit went insane and killed his wife, his son, and himself.

                As I get older, it’s harder for me to watch football. When I was young, I believed that we recover from injuries. Now my body tells me that every injury goes away for a couple of decades then comes back as joint damage.Report

              • Rick Smith in reply to Pinky says:

                I have at times debated whether or not to keep watching pro wrestling for the same reasons. Injuries still happen. I cannot imagine a way to eliminate the injury risk while keeping it entertaining. However, they have done a lot to address concussion issues, and the wrestlers are less likely to wrestle with major injuries than they used to be. Partying is not a prevalent among the wrestlers than they used to be. Now they are more likely to be playing Madden than getting drunk or high in their downtime.

                There have still be some high profile injuries, broken necks most notably, but I also think that wrestlers know the risks. On top of that, most wrestlers do it because they love wrestling. In that light, I do not feel guilty about watching.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Rick Smith says:

                I’d like to intellectualize my decision to stop watching wrestling, but it was more a gut thing. I couldn’t enjoy it anymore. I started to flinch at, like, every move. OK, not the choke holds, because those are clearly just two guys taking a break, but anything involving the spine and brain.Report

  9. Geoff Arnold says:

    Fifty years ago, Formula 1 motor racing (and many other auto racing variants – Indy, NASCAR, CanAm, Le Mans) were incredibly dangerous. There were many deaths every season.

    Today auto racing deaths are vanishingly rare. There are still crashes, but most drivers walk away from accidents which would have meant certain death a few years ago.

    The change occurred because the drivers insisted on rules and technology that would save lives.

    There’s a lesson here, but I doubt it will be heard.Report

  10. Rufus F. says:

    It would probably be pretty easy to replicate football with CGI at this point. It might be like watching CGI stuntwork though in that there’s no real thrill to it because nobody’s risking breaking their neck.Report

  11. Also, baseball and basketball are better games.Report


    How can football be barbaric if coaches, players, and team owners are calling for time-outs every ten minutes so they can figure out their next move?

    If football moved faster, maintaining brutality, and avoided politics it’d be hella more popular.

    If I wanted a game of chess, I’ll play a game of chess. If I want men crushing each other without regard for anyone’s safety, for something stupid (like a ball) then I reckon I’m stuck with videogames because the NFL and its ilk are sorely lacking nowadays.Report