Yesterday I sent this tweet: “Look at the NFL injury report and then justify being a fan of the league’s product. That league should end.” Here is a summary of this week’s injuries, if you’re interested (beware the autoplay). I don’t think the NFL will ever go away, but below I offer a solution that will virtually remove all serious injuries from a game I actually like.
My tweet didn’t elicit much response, but not very many (of my) tweets do. However, an old friend of mine (maybe trolling), suggested that my tweet implied that we should also ban cars because more people are hurt in auto accidents than tear their ACLs in football games. This is not a good argument. My problem with the NFL is partly the profit that is generated by selling the athletes’ skills to consumers of the league’s product, and what seems like lip service from the league to the risk the players are taking. Nobody is selling my driving ability. The analogy might work better for auto racing, and it would be interesting to see a comparison of injuries between the NFL and NASCAR, and some analysis of how serious the leagues are in protecting their employees on the field and track.
A bigger problem is that this entertainment is putting people in the ICU. Just because people like it, that doesn’t make it good. Well, except in capitalism, I guess. This isn’t an original argument. Some people think the brutality is the fun, and the players know what they are getting into, anyway. Other people question the violence of this game (here’s another good example) that is so popular in U.S. culture. It’s just as easy, however, to find people who celebrate the violence as a part of the game’s tradition and fans who think the game has gotten too bland because of efforts to make it safer for players.
But, this might come as a surprise. I actually like the game of football. I think the strategy and skill is fun. I loved playing in the street when I was a kid (my glory days came to an end at about age 15), and I’ve always enjoyed football video games. In fact I just acquired Madden 25. I like the game, but what I like the most is playing online with my above mentioned friend and my brother. Buying this game was as much about hanging out with them as it was about finding the game itself fun. The game is actually sort of boring, and I almost never play against the computer these days.
What I can’t tolerate about the NFL is the thought of being entertained by players I know could end up in the hospital at any moment, and whose post career quality of life is likely much diminished. Yes, they chose it and get well paid, but why do we live in a society that makes this an attractive path to riches? You don’t even need to be bleeding heart anti-capitalist liberal to feel this way. A crasser argument about why injuries are bad is that the outcomes of games and seasons quite often come down to the best players getting hurt. The injuries make for a lower quality product that turns on bad luck more than skill.
Is there another option available that gives us the fun without the life altering injuries? Yes.
I’ve got a solution that blends our American love of football with our equal(?) loves of democracy and technology. Why not televise competition between the best football video gamers? With the graphics we get from today’s systems displayed on HDTVs it’s hard to tell the difference between real and virtual. In fact, with the improved player animations, you can even see players doing realistic TD celebrations and writhing in pain on the ground (please read that link because it’s someone complaining, I think seriously, about too many injuries in Madden 25) . Plus, with the investment of just a few hundred dollars for a console, a TV, and Madden 25, every football fan in America could participate in the production of the excitement they consume. We can have Playstation Football Night in America, and it can be every hour of everyday.We could have countless numbers of leagues, with the best players rising to the top so that Bob Costas can say something subtly condescending about them. Best of all, no athletes going to the ICU, nobody’s post career quality of life hampered. Unless of course the game ruins their relationships.