Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Super Bowl Rant-Updated

Super Bowl 52 (a/k/a SuperBowl 2018)
Viewership is expected to be down this year, from a peak of 114 million in 2015, 111.8 million in 2016, and 111.3 million in 2017. Blame it on audience fragmentation. Or maybe it's because Pink has the flu.
Super Bowl 50 (a/k/a Super Bowl 2016)
I couldn't find any stats on how many people are expected to watch Sunday's game (beyond Forbes' "about a billion worldwide"), but you can be sure they'll be eating a lot of guacamole. According to the Hass Avocado Board, 278 million avocados will be consumed, and according to the National Chicken Council 1.3 billion chicken wings will be eaten. Unlike half the country, I'll be doing anything but watching the body-slamming fest. And, sorry, I can't even get into the half-time show or Puppy Bowl or Kitten Bowl or whatever they do to try to suck in non-football viewers.
But here are links to only a few of the reasons I find this sport so detestable.     

Super Bowl 2015 
Bets are on that more than 113 million people will watch Sunday's salute to brutality. According to Nielsen the number last year was 111.5 million.

Super Bowl 2013
Can 100 million people be wrong? 

That’s the number of people expected to stuff their faces with junk food and watch grown men slam heads and bodies together in the name of sport.

It matters not that the chronic concussions experienced by football players may lead to early dementia and personality disorders. The NFL has graciously offered funds to research the problem.

It matters not that the administration of a powerful painkiller allows college players to play through painful, otherwise debilitating injuries. The drug, Toradol, led to a heart attack in a 20-year-old. It’s apparently in widespread use in the NCAA and professional sports.

Even well-known sports commentator Frank Deford comes down hard on the sport. "The thrill of watching football is not that players perform with such incredible precision, but that they do so even as they dance in the shadow of collision. Enthusiasm for sport can be a convenient cover to excuse the worst in us," he said recently on NPR. I cheered the morning I heard that on my way into the shower.

Why do young men risk mind and body?

Why do fans support such inane brutality?

Maybe I don’t get the premise: A bunch of hulking padded guys huddle and crash into each other in their attempts to get a ball from one end of the field to another. What am I missing? Should I take a class, as was discussed in a spot on CBS’s Sunday Morning

That’s football in general. But the Super Bowl takes it to the extreme: the betting pools, excessive consumption of beer and junk food, glitzy commercial producers trying to outdo each other and glitzier entertainment. And more recently they’re sucking in pet lovers with the Puppy Bowl and Kitty Halftime. 

Then there’s the religious crowd. A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found the 27 percent of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.” I thought it was the Teabow affect but apparently it predates pious Timmy. I’ll save my praying for the Apocalypse.

There was even a suggestion that the Monday after the Super Bowl be declared a holiday because so many people called in sick.

So if you’re among the few looking to escape the madding crowds, check out my classic post for some suggestions. Or give me a call to commiserate! I'm NOT one of the 100 million viewers.

Update – Aug. 26, 2013: Here's a New York Times review of "The United States of Football," a documentary that examines the dangers of head injuries. 
Update – Aug. 29, 2013: 4,500 football players will receive $765 million from the NFL in a suit for damages due to head trauma. The NFL settled out of court, avoid what would be a prolonged PR nightmare. What does that say about the degree of violence associated with the sport? 
Update – Jan. 12, 2014: A judge has thrown out the $765 million settlement stating that it may not be enough to cover the long-term effects of concussions and other injuries sustained by NFL players.  
Update – Jan. 19, 2014: Even though he's a big sports fan, Barack Obama says he would not let his son play football.   
Update – Jan. 30, 2014: An analysis of the $765 settlement in the New York Times finds that the money may not last long enough to compensate those claiming football-related injuries. 
UpdateSept. 5, 2014: Steve Almond, a lifelong football fan, publishes Against Football, which questions the morality of the sport in light of head injuries and NFL greed. He's interviewed here and here. Almond also penned an op-ed piece for the Hartford Courant, again questioning a sport in which "up to 30 percent of former players to suffer from long-term cognitive ailments, and at 'notably younger ages' than the general population."
Update – Sept. 8, 2014: When a video surfaced of Ray Rice pulling his then-fiance out of an elevator by the hair, he had his knuckles rapped by the NFL; he was suspended for two games to the chagrin of many trying to being awareness to domestic violence. Additional footage surfaced of Rice beating her within the elevator (many suspect it had been swept under the carpet by NFL officials in the first place) and at last the NFL finally had the (foot)balls to suspend him indefinitely.  
Update – Oct. 15, 2014: A former NFL ball boy offers new insight on what goes on behind the scenes. Another layer of awfulness.   
Update – Oct. 24, 2014: Steve Almond discusses football injuries on the college level in the Hartford Courant.
Update – Nov. 11, 2014: Another football fan questions the sport. This guy is from my hometown. 
Update – Jan. 22, 2014: Deflate-Gate, yet another controversy. Yeah, there are more than a few balls in the NFL that need deflating.  
Update – Yet another article on the effects of head injuries from NPR.
Update – Why does this go on? 19 young men dead from a sport that turns brains into tapioca (if it doesn't kill them, natch), but has the devoted attention of millions of peoplean NPR story from Nov. 25.
UpdateDecember 2015: Concussion, the film starring Will Smith, is based on the research of Dr. Bennet Omahu, who broke open a hornet's nest when he challenged the NFL, by linking chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain, to repeated concussions.
Update A 17-year-old from a football family calls it quits. From NPR's Youth Radio.
And... on the eve of Super Bowl 50: Stabler's Brain Damage Intrudes on Super Bowl Fun from the Associated Press and published in the New York Times.
UpdateMarch 24, 2016: Of course you would only expect the NFL to shoot holes in the New York Times' report on concussions, which found that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were omitted from the original NFL study.
Update – April 12, 2016: And the hits just keep coming. Study finds that 40 percent of former NFL players have wrecked brains.
Update – July 25, 2017: A study published in JAMA finds that 99 percent of studied football players confirmed CTE in their brains. 
Update – Nov. 9, 2017: The New York Times reports on the brain of a 27-year-old man.
Update – Jan. 25, 2018: Just in time for the 2018 Super Bowl, Reuters reports on bill in New York and Illinois that would ban tackle football for kids under 12, based on CTE concerns; Pop Warner objects.

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