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Why Football Makes Me Sad

I’m starting to feel bad about football.

Ever since my brothers and my dad helped me begin to understand the game, I’ve loved watching football. Tried to learn more and more so I could appreciate the nuances – I still ask probably too many questions between plays – but I truly enjoy hangin’ with the sporting folk on game day. College or NFL; doesn’t matter. And don’t even get me started on game-day snackage. Adds tremendously to the festivities.

This season, I’m holding my own (most weeks, anyway) in a fantasy football league, which makes it interesting to watch additional games and not just the teams I care about. And to me, live sports is true entertainment; human physical achievement is just fun to see. So I’m not sure if it’s because I’m actually watching more, or if play has in fact changed, but now it’s troubling me.

You should probably know that I consider the political impact of my choices. For example, when I learn about a company taking a stand on something with which I disagree – I’ll spend my money elsewhere. When we have options as consumers, I recognize the power that brings. And with that comes a certain amount of responsibility.

Which brings me back to football. Two words are killing the fun for me.

Concussion protocol.

Whether or not you believe the NFL has done enough or promised to do enough to protect its players, there’s no question that the impact of repeated head trauma is catastrophic. And I can’t stop thinking about that every time I see a particularly bad hit. Even if the player doesn’t appear dazed or rattled, is he okay? Is that the jolt that’ll wreak lasting neurological havoc on the player? And his family? Can we really come up with a helmet that will protect the brain against a hit like that?

Post-mortem brain donation for scientific research will eventually provide some answers about how Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) damage brain function. Hopefully we’ll learn enough in the study of this precious tissue – from the brains of those impacted, and by comparing to healthy brains – to do something about it.

In the meantime, I think about my decisions as a consumer. Put simply, I’m aiding and abetting the long-term devastation of a select population by joining the viewership of the sport. May sound a little overstated, but it’s true. And it makes me sad.

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