Professional, and collegiate and high school football can be brutal. Players smash each other every chance they get. Some end up with broken bones and torn this-and-that and concussions.
On this Thanksgiving, a big day for football fans in Detroit and around the country, Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press weighs in on violence in the sprt with a column headlined "Is Watching Football Immoral?"
Death and suffering are the lot of all living creatures, but we've come to disdain them as spectator sports. It has been nearly a century since most civilized countries executed condemned prisoners in public. In the United States, even cockfighting is now considered barbaric, not to mention illegal.
Yet tens of millions of Americans will spend at least part of this Thanksgiving weekend transfixed by the spectacle of grown men bashing one another's brains out. We call it professional football, but it's getting harder and harder to pretend that those of us watching are much more civilized than the ancient Romans who thrilled to the spectacle of Christians being dismembered by wild beasts.
Deaths on the gridiron remain extremely rare. But the evidence that players are literally beating one another senseless is accumulating at a disheartening pace. . . .
At the very least, those of us who can't resist watching should demand that the NFL and the collegiate conferences that incubate its talent prove that the steps they're taking are dramatically changing the odds for today's players. And we should be prepared to respond if the evidence continues to demonstrate that the risks of long-term brain damage remain unacceptably high.
As for me, I continue to watch — for now. But more and more I find myself imagining what it would be like to sit before my big-screen TV in a cognitive fog, unable to figure out who's winning, or maybe even who's playing. And it makes me more than a little uncomfortable to know that some of the players I'm watching may face precisely that fate.