Friday, May 4, 2012

Am I My Wealthy Bothers' Keeper?

In an April 30 Slate interview Malcolm Gladwell argues that college football should be banned.  When asked about the National Football League, Gladwell responds,
As long as the risks are explicit, the players warned, and those injured properly compensated, then I'm not sure we can stop people from playing. A better question is whether it is ethical to WATCH football. That's a harder question.
Since then, Junior Seau committed suicide, shooting himself in the chest in an apparent effort to preserve his brain to be tested for concussion related damage.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, believes that Seau's death makes the answer obvious.
I'm not so sure that it's hard at all. The answer, at least for those displeased with pro football's response, seems pretty clear. Doing the damn thing is the hard part.
I now know that I have to go. I have known it for a while now. But I have yet to walk away. For me, the hardest portion is living apart--destroying something that binds me to friends and family. With people whom I would not pass another words, I can debate the greatest running back of all time. It's like losing a language.
Coates and Gladwell hit on two important points.  The National Football League dominates America's sports calendar.  It entertains and provides metaphors that organize businesses and individual's social lives.  The League's coaches and star players are some of the most requested speakers.  Any book that bears their names becomes an automatic best-seller.

The men who play professionally chose to do so  and are handsomely rewarded for their efforts.  It is, however, becoming more obvious that playing the game professionally kills many.  The deaths are premature and painful.  In the case of Seau and Dave Duerson, they seemed to become different people prior to their suicides

I spend a huge portion of my Sundays from September through February watching the National Football League. Like Coates, I use it as a language to communicate.  It's a useful one with many students.

Coates and Gladwell are making me wonder if I need to change that habit and find other ways to communicate.  I haven't thought about this as long as Coates, and I haven't made the decisions that he has, but I have difficulty ethically justifying being entertained by people who end their lives prematurely to provide that entertainment.

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