The Common Good

'Offensive Play': Why I've Watched My Last Superbowl

Humans drug themselves with violence. Violence has been and continues to be a path for cathartic release and for entertainment. Only when we confess this sin in ourselves can we hope to hear the quiet voice of grace and forgiveness.

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Most of us have heard of Bumfights and are rightly appalled. These videos pay homeless men (sometime women) to fight each other and to commit other acts of violence upon others or themselves. They have been rightly condemned -- condemned as inhuman, condemned as hatred, condemned as exploitation of human suffering. I trust no good follower of Jesus could justify such evil.

I found myself equally convicted when I read Malcom Gladwell's essay, "Offensive Play." Mr Gladwell tracks how football players suffer head injuries due to playing the sport. After reading the article, I felt the prompting of the Spirit to abandon any support for football. The article hit me like ton of bricks.

Now, mind you, I have been a fan of the game since boyhood. I have been a Washington Redskins fan for over thirty years. I rooted for Sony Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, John Riggins, the Posse, and Doug Williams. I think Coach Joe Gibbs was a genius. I think Coach Jim Zorn still deserves a chance to prove himself. Yet just one article made me rethink and give up being a fan.

I think I believed the sport's equipment was protecting the players. It is not. In reality, playing the sport leads to head trauma, leads to lifelong pain, leads to lifelong needless suffering. One would think that the head trauma comes from the spectacular hits in the heat of the battle, and with the right policing, it could be contained. But the reality is even more forbidding. Even just practice has too many damaging head collisions. I simply feel it is immoral to get entertainment from an activity that is so damaging to another human being.

I know the arguments: the players are both aware of the dangers and are paid handsomely for playing in the NFL. I also know that similar arguments can be made for the Bumfights, with the exception in terms of scale of glory and payment. But would paying homeless people millions to beat on each other make it any more moral? I am unconvinced.

I know it is true that the players are free to choose to play or not, but I can't get the images of Mike Webster, Terry Long, and Andre Waters out of my head. They all died lonely deaths after their once powerful bodies where betrayed by too many hits to their heads. Their suffering has become a moral wall I have run into. For me, it is a matter of repentance and following the prince of peace. I have watched my last Superbowl.

portrait-ernesto-tinajero1Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.

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