The air is starting to get crisp, the leaves will fall soon, and people are relishing in the football season. Fantasy leagues are in full swing and viewers across the country are chomping at the bit to get a little NFL action.
I hate this time of year.
For one thing, I don’t really understand football. The idea of 200 pound men knocking the crap out of each other doesn’t appeal to me, even if they do have on tight, print-revealing pants. For another thing, I used to live in Pittsburgh. If you’ve been to Pittsburgh, you’d know that there is one immutable law:
- You will root for The Steelers.
It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a Ravens household, or if you hold the Dallas Cowboys dear to your heart. When you are in Pittsburgh, you are for the Steelers. Even if you are not a fan of the game, cleaving to the Steelers is a way to find common ground with anyone from the 412. It’s just a part of their culture.
When I moved there in 2007, I was both baffled and amused at how deep the ties were to the football team. I bought some Steelers paraphernalia just to blend in – nobody is going to question your loyalty if you’re wearing a Polamalu jersey. Let me illustrate how real it is: if the Steelers win game on Sunday, on Monday business professionals, from companies like PNC Bank and Alcoa, wear Steelers jerseys over their suits. Only after moving out of the ‘Burgh did I realize that it is not the only place where football is king. America is addicted to the sport.
Among my friends I am the odd woman out. Most of my homegirls love football, and have warned me about what would happen if I interrupt their NFL fix with my chatter. My boyfriend is a rabid San Francisco 49ers fan. On a recently trip to North Carolina my boyfriend and I attended a high school game and while everyone else was in the bleachers caught up in the ecstasy of the blows, I was waiting for the clock to run out.
The reason my relative boredom with the game turned into a full fledge dislike is that a few years ago I noticed an uptick in the press around its dangers. The high-profile suicide of San Diego Charger Junior Seau and other NFL players in recent years have forced American football fans to acknowledge the scary outcomes of playing a collision sport. A recent New York Times article highlighted the findings of the journal Neurology, which indicated that football players have an increased risk of death from diseases like Alzehimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even though professional players are getting millions of dollars, their bodies are still sacrificed to fans and owners who want intensity on the field.
What is even scarier is that it’s not just the pros that are playing rough. High school and college kids are out there playing with force too. I want kids someday, and if I have boys, I fear for their safety if football is still as popular as it is now. Because the sport is such a large part of American culture opting ‘out’ can have an ostracizing effect, and I’ve gotten more than a few sideways glances when say that I don’t want my kids playing football. The reality is that I wouldn’t want my son subjected to the physical hell that professional football players seem to suffer as a result of the roughness of the sport. In my eyes, it’s not worth the sacrifice, and the sport is not a game.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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