I’m not sure when it started, but at some point I realized I didn’t like football that much. I liked college football because I liked the Huskers. I liked the Huskers because of being born and raised in Nebraska, and immersed in the Husker football culture. I have blogged at length about Husker football games the past few seasons. While the Huskers have been my favorite sports team, and thus I said college football was one of my favorite sports, I’m not sure this is the truth anymore.

I haven’t been a fan of the NFL for awhile, and this past season I gave it up as part of The RID Project. What was interesting was the amount of feedback I received about giving up the NFL.

I can only imagine what it might be, with locals, if I did the same with college football.

Why is this? A combination of factors. The big factor is the issue of health. As more data and research comes out about the correlation of playing football and adverse effects of health, I’m less inclined to enjoy the game. Football players are sacrificing years of their life for the game…for my entertainment. Until recently, most players and fans weren’t properly educated on the long term effects of playing football. Now? Most are aware that professional football players life expectancy is roughly twenty years younger than the average male. The quality of life, as players deal with the effects of the game, is usually substandard. A number of ex-players, like Kurt Warner, and current players, like Bart Scott, are uncertain of letting their own kids play because of health concerns. Tom Brady’s father said he isn’t sure he would let his son play now because of it.

Today’s players are bigger, faster and stronger than those that comprise the data and research coming out now about NFL players and health. Today’s players are pushing their bodies to the limit, while usually taking in all sorts of chemicals, to be an elite football player. Ten years from now, what will the data and research say? One could say medicine has developed where injuries could be treated more effectively than a generation ago. However, we’re only now realizing the effects of repeated blows to the head, and this is at a time when players are hitting harder than ever before. What will the results be?

With that as context, I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t want my sons to play football. This thought has been brewing for awhile. I blogged in 2010 about my growing unease with my boys playing football.

Now, if there are changes made to the game, and there will be if football is to continue as a dominant force in American culture, perhaps I’ll revisit allowing my sons to play. Right now, I don’t want them to play. I want them to live a long and full life, if possible. I know people who only played football in high school that have life long health issues because of playing.

I understand there is risk in any number of activities we choose to do. There is risk in any number of sports as well. As someone pointed out to me, there is risk every time I get in my car and drive to work. I get that. However, these activities do not cause me to receive sub-concussive blows to the head on a repeated basis. These activities do not reduce my life expectancy, and quality of life, because of my involvement.

If I don’t want my sons to play football, and I’m fully aware of the health dangers with playing football, why do I support a sport in which young men (someone else’s son) sacrifice years off their life for my entertainment? Especially when players today are only now receiving information about the dangers of playing?

When I see a football player get hurt now, I think of their future. Not of their future playing career, but of their future after the game. I think of the injury and the impact it will have on their families. Because most players will be forgotten. The players are easily replaced, and many fans will not remember them. Oh, they’ll remember a name, or perhaps a play, but the memories of a former player will usually be pushed aside by the current players. Players will be forgotten, which happens, but they are also diminishing physically and mentally because of the game.

Parents need to be educated. Coaches need to be educated. The end cannot justify the means when it means rushing an injured player back into a game when they shouldn’t be playing.

I think it’s a bit different if people playing now, and in the years to come, choose to play after being properly educated on the risks of playing. It also would make it a bit easier to follow the game.

Are there other reasons why I’m not as passionate a fan of football? Of course. There are scandals, the college system is a joke, I think college players should be compensated, I don’t like how high school football players are sometimes vilified for innocuous things…like choosing to play at Stanford over Nebraska.

And, I’m tired of hearing about all the good football does in teaching young men life skills. Do we think football is the only thing that can teach men how to be men? It’s the only thing that can teach discipline and teamwork? Really?

I’m not advocating a ban on the college game, like Malcolm Gladwell, but hopefully changes are made to the game to improve safety. Not just in the NFL and college levels, but it has to be nation wide when kids are first learning how to play. Proper tackling technique. Improved equipment. Coaches need to be held accountable if they risk a player’s health in the aftermath of a concussion/injury, and the player is unaware. It has to be consistent at all levels of the game. It has to be a generational commitment.

The greatest threat to football in America isn’t another sport. The greatest threat to football is football in its present state.

Related articles
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What Would the End of Football Look Like?
The Fragile Teenage Brain
This is your brain on the gridiron: Are sub-concussive hits the most dangerous of all?

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