Friday, November 21, 2014

Football Ambivalence

Anna June is growing up in a weird place: an ambivalent household in a land of football culture.

Ben and I have always been sports fans, but only moderately. Baseball is clearly our favorite sport, and even though I'm a Braves fan, through the magic of the internet, we've been watching Brewers games for the past couple of seasons and AJ and I can certainly name more Brewers players than Braves.

Let's pause for a moment while I sigh a resigned sigh.

Anyway, football has been fine, but there's always been something about it that has been a little off-putting.

We're Alabama fans when we have to choose, but honestly, we root for UAB, our alma mater, when it comes to college football. Our program is in danger of closing, through a complicated political and financial assessment process that is ongoing. There has been a lot of buzz in the past few weeks about saving it - and athletics in general at our university - and it almost feels like a battle cry. On top of that, I got free tickets because I'm an employee. I almost feel like I HAVE to go to the game tomorrow.

Except I don't.

It's No-vember, after all.

I do believe that one person makes a difference, and a sea of UAB green will both intimidate and impress visiting undefeated Marshall, a conference rival.

Earlier this season, I read this article by local blogger Wade Kwon, and I tweeted to him that I wish I had written this myself. I can identify with his disgust with all the aspects of the game he mentions.

Then, my high school friend Matthew Goldenberg wrote this piece in the Yale Daily News. If you can get past how Yale-specific it is, he makes the point that we should be doing more to make the game safer.

And I am even working with a grant that partners with the NFL, interested in advancing the health (and safety) of young African-American men. Because the grant was awarded in Minnesota, the partnership is specifically with the Minnesota Vikings (hold your booing), but should expand across the NFL in time.

I don't hate football.

But I may have better things to do.

Like nothing.


Anonymous said...

W3ll I don't get college football. However. I do think it is time for AJ to. Spend more time with her Wisconsin granny! We,all put an end to this ambivalence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think that I have calmed down and can now process this heresy: not one fact about football being too dangerous and violent and taking a terrible toll on the players as re : head injuries and the long term effects of them can be disputed! AND, in the past , I have decided to terminate my participation as a fan because of those factors. ANd yet, here I am , anticipating the Packers DEMOLISHING another rival today! I have been drawn back to this game BIG TIME, despite my awareness of the VIOLENCE ! What exactly IS this pull???????? I am not quite sure , and yet I KNOW that some thing unsavory in me LIKES this !!!!!!!! (How would you like to make a statement like that about yourself ? Not a very good feeling) There are many many reasons NOT TO SUPPORT FOOTBALL as it is presently played. The local paper just ran a big article about the great Brett Favre on the front page. When he recounts the long term effects of his play on his body, as well as his own well publicized memory deficits........well! He says that if he had a son , he would NOT WANT HIM TO PLAY!!!!! WE SHOULD BE listening to this! And , football engenders more problems than just the physical toll: What of the seduction of fame and money on the inflated egos of many players? THe great Brett Favre is another example of a player who has visited the dark side of fame ............ and I,m not talking about his Vikings debacle, either! So, the bottom line is : Will I continue to watch Football? Probably! And why? Because I AM A HYPOCRITE!!!!!! All I CAn say is : AJ is still young and malleable; YOU CAN STILL SAVE HER!!!!

Wade Kwon said...

Laura, thanks for sharing your thoughts and linking to my essay. Even today, I thought about watching the Iron Bowl on Saturday with so much at stake. But I realized that is exactly why I put my thoughts out in a public forum: so that I couldn't talk myself into ignoring my own dictum.

I've been teased and insulted for my views. It's not easy in a state and country that can't get enough football. I believe that it isn't possible to make it safer. All attempts to date have made things worse for players in the long term, even if slightly safer in the short term.

One writer pointed out that boxing was once a national pastime, but the sheer brutality and damage eventually pushed people away. Perhaps, in 50 years, we may see a similar decline in football.

The problem with the UAB situation is not football itself, but the lack of institutional self-governance. It's one thing for UAB to keep or dismantle the program; it's quite another to have jealous trustees wipe out the program just because they can.

Laura Gallitz said...

Wade, you are absolutely right (as usual). First of all, I apologize for not letting you know I linked to your article. It stuck with me since I was still thinking about it months later.

Secondly, the fans are definitely part of the problem. Why can't people have opinions that differ without the insults? It is ridiculous here.

I am repulsed by the violence and injuries that occur in nearly every game.

But at the same time, I DO want UAB to not only have a program, but a successful one. As a legacy, an alum, and an employee, I am keenly aware of the politics behind what is going on. I actually do get a big swell of pride in my chest when I see the green and gold take the field. I am old enough to remember before we had a team, and I am proud our program has come so far under such ridiculous circumstances.

It turns out that I did not attend the UAB-Marshall game. I took a nap instead. It was what was best for my family - I didn't want to force my husband and child to go, even though I am sure we could have had a good time. There are enough family forced fun events on tap for the holidays, so I let it go.

Maybe next year I will have resolved this issue in my head - that young people are risking their health for our entertainment. But if Alabama can profit off of this sport, then UAB should have the option, also.