Football has become more than just a game for many Americans. It is essential to the atmosphere. When the summer dwindles to a close, cool winds blow and leaves start falling, we will know that NFL football is on the horizon. Holidays and weekends are very much defined by enjoying the games. There are parties replete with food, friends, laughter, shouting, alcohol, and a big screen television to complement your Sunday experience so that you can get the most out of the game. Watching your favorite team develop over the years, acquire new players and strive for excellence has always been one of the highlights of your life. As the new season begins, hopes of the fans of even the worst teams will soar as they think that perhaps this will be the year. With all of that excitement flaring, I would like to humbly point out a few things to keep in mind when watching NFL football.
Before beginning, I recognize that many bloggers will attempt to expand their audience by inflaming emotion, especially anger. Attacking football and telling people that they are wrong for enjoying one of their favorite past times is one way that I could achieve that. But that is not what I am doing. I am not saying that it is wrong. I am a fan as well, and I am speaking to my fellow fans, especially to my brothers in Christ, that we should reflect upon everything that we do and comport ourselves to the mind of Christ.
Is Football Exempt From Scrutiny?
I recognize that there is an impulsive reflex to this sort of reflection. Since football is something that you have always enjoyed, and your Sunday is very much dedicated to it, it can be difficult to reflect upon the moral qualities of watching the NFL. There is an impulse to just deny it. If you begin to reflect upon it, then you may come to the unsavory conclusion that you need to surrender your favorite hobby. So you might be inclined to comment on this article in all capital letters about how ridiculous it is and there is nothing wrong with watching football.
If you are that person, then I urge you to remember that this is not a treatise against football. It is merely a few considerations to make. Football may be your favorite sport, but it is not infallible. It did not fall down from Heaven. There is no reason that it should be exempt from scrutiny. If it is somehow exempt in your mind, such that you cannot even think about it or analyze it, then perhaps you should do some self-reflection.
Football Dulls The Mind
When you step outside, you can feel a light breeze of the cool Autumn air, see the clouds hovering overhead and the sun tucked neatly behind. You can go to work, enjoy the day and be at peace. You can go out with friends, eat dinner and laugh until your sides hurt. With the semblance of peace, it can be easy to forget about the injustices in the world. Many of us want to forget about it because we do not want to think about it. People will intentionally avoid the news and difficult topics. Many Christians have consigned themselves to acceptance. The world is full of evil and there is nothing that we can do about it. We willfully forget that babies are being ripped from their mother’s womb, limb by limb, and then their carcasses are sold on the black market.
The reason that this can happen is that there are so few Christians who are willing to stand up to social injustice. All of the propaganda makes them fearful and even lazy. There are several ways to drown in laziness, to forget about social injustices and look the other way as the doctrine that all are created equal slowly fades into irrelevancy. If you want to look the other way, to forget about the things in the world that matter, sports provides a very powerful outlet. You can consume yourself in the hope that the men bearing your favorite logo will prevail over the men bearing the other logo.
I want to be the first to point out that this is not to say that watching sports automatically means that you are apathetic about social issues. Again, this is not a treatise against football. It is a consideration. I am pointing out one of the traps that people often fall into. It can be very easy to consume yourself in football (Or any hobby, really. Stephen King novels could have the same effect) and forget about the injustices of the world. Do not be so focused on football that you forget that we are living in a culture of death, and your absent-mindedness is allowing it to happen. Do not be a devotee. Football should not be your first love. It should be a hobby, if anything at all.
Football Does Not Really Matter
I appreciate what Tim Tebow said many years ago when he was the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and they actually made the playoffs and made a run for the Super Bowl. He said that he was grateful to God for the platform that he has received the glorify Christ. When he bowed in prayer on the field (later referred to as “Tebowing”), he was signifying to the people that all glory is ultimately due to Christ. I appreciated that. However, I do not appreciate the way that many people regard football, as though it were some precious thing, and the fate of a team impacted the fate of the universe.
Players and teams will pray for victory, all of their fans enjoining them. Thoughtful people begin to reflect on this practice, wondering if it is not arbitrary and almost disrespectful to pray about a football team. Why are you so concerned if the men bearing one logo prevail over the men bearing another logo? What is it about that victory that will affect anything at all? Why should you care who will win anymore than you would care if I defeated somebody in a game of air hockey? You could arbitrarily root for me, but whether I won or lost, it would not really matter.
Similarly, think for a moment about what the ultimate purpose of watching football is. Why are you rooting for a team? What is it that you want to happen? You are hoping that this team will have a favorable record, be counted among the top teams in the league and then compete to win the Super Bowl. But suppose they did. Suppose they made it all the way to the top. What, then? What happens next? Is there really anything at the top? What happens next, anyway? The next cycle will begin, and you will hope that they win the big game again. But why does winning the Super Bowl even matter? Further, why do you care if one particular team wins the Super Bowl over another?
Think for a moment about what you are devoting yourself to and why you care about your team. Is it the players? The coach? So if the players and the coach leave, you will no longer be a fan? For most fans (aside from front-runners) the answer is no. Is it the logo, the uniform? So if they change the logo, then you will no longer be a fan? What is it, exactly? Being a fan of one team is as arbitrary as choosing to root for one stranger over another stranger in a game of air hockey. Fanship and devotion to a football team is arbitrary. In summary, you are holding out for hope that an arbitrarily selected team will win the Super Bowl, which does not matter anyway.
Time Is Too Valuable
The NFL has a few television networks. One of them is called NFL Redzone, in which live highlights from all of the games are broadcasted for over seven hours. After you finish watching Redzone, you might want to watch a couple of the Primetime games. If there are two games on (one at 7 PM ET and the other at 10 PM ET), you can look back on your Sunday and say that you spent a productive 13 hours in front of the television watching the games.
Think for a moment about time throughout the week. You go to work in the morning, then you come home to have dinner, and maybe put the children to bed. You probably have just an hour or two to be productive or to do what you need. There are not many hours in the day, and they are wasted easily on television. When you reflect upon your week or your year, you can say that you never got around to reading that book because you did not have the time. You did not build that shed, do home repairs, or do any number of things that you wanted to because you did not have time.
However, proper time management can help productivity. Just as people manage money so that it does not go to waste, they also manage their time. If you actually spend thirteen hours on Sunday watching football, then you are wasting a lot of time. It seems difficult to allow you to complain that you do not have enough time. All of the time that is wasted on football could have been used in more practical endeavors. It could also have been used in more intellectual endeavors. Read a book on Sunday. Study the Bible. Do something productive. Time is too valuable to waste 13 hours every Sunday.
It Is Really Just About Money
Devotees might be inspired by the love for the game of football espoused by players and coaches. They want to win because they love the game. They strive for excellence because they love to play football. You love football as well. So, why not kick back on Sunday and take in a few games? Well, it should be obvious that there is far more to the NFL than merely a love for the game. Football really comes down to making money. That far exceeds the price that it costs to broadcast the games to billions of people across the world. Roger Goodell’s net worth is 75 million dollars.
Of course, we all know that immense wealth and decadence does not extend only to the top executives of the NFL. It extends to the players, too. Many of these players receive outrageous, multi-million dollar contracts. They often refuse to sign one multi-million dollar contract and hold out for a better one. While football players may work hard and exercise a lot and find themselves under a lot of pressure, do they really need to receive millions of dollars to play a game? Do 20 year old kids really need to be paid millions of dollars? Is that really a pure “love for the game”? Or is it a love of wealth?
Being fans makes us complicit in this system. People who do not deserve and have not earned extreme wealth are given it. This very much reminds me of the so-called dancing man, wherein people across the country donated a total of over $34,000 for a single party. We are very wasteful with our money, and when we support these networks and sponsors, we are only contributing to the waste. Money that could have gone to something productive is instead donated to some 20 year old kid, which he will use to spend on strippers and decadence for a few months until he realizes that he spent all of it.
Is this to advocate for some form of socialism wherein the rich are obligated to share their money with the poor? Not at all. I am not saying that capitalism is a bad system. I am saying that it is being taken advantage of. I am pointing out that the NFL is all about money. It is not about a love for football or something pure and righteous. It is about greed. And by indulging, you are complicit.
Long-Term Brain Damage
“Injuries are just part of the game,” we will tell ourselves. We will see players who hurt their leg or arm and later have trouble walking. Many will play through an injury. Perhaps after they retire, they do not have any cartilage in their knees. These long-term injuries are probably not too severe, and it is the price that players are willing to pay. They are aware that they will probably hurt their leg at some point in their career, and that might even affect them for the rest of their lives. But that does not really matter too much. However, there are other injuries that are far more concerning.
Many of us are already aware as a result of the 2015 film titled Concussion, which narrated the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu as he discovered the brain injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Despite that the NFL attempted to systematically cover it up and deny the allegations, the evidence persisted. Repeated blows to the head, as occurring in the NFL, often lead to brain damage. In fact, 40% of former NFL players suffer from brain damage. This often leads to depression, suicidal behavior, drug addiction, dementia, and many more disturbing symptoms.
The injuries that players suffer on the field extend far beyond a sprained ankle or even a torn ACL. Players are at risk for suffering from severe brain damage that will ultimately ruin their lives. Of course, one could suggest that with this new research, players can make an informed decision before signing the contract. It is their choice. But if you offer a 20-year-old millions of dollars and the opportunity to attain celebrity status, he is not going to think about much else. Most young men are not wise enough to weigh the alternatives. Second, there are many cases in which it is appropriate to take the choice away from people, such as the use of narcotics or prostitution. We recognize the damaging impact that it has and therefore have made it illegal. Now, that is not to say that football should be outlawed. It is just to respond to the idea that players are making a choice. Sometimes they should not have that option.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Watching NFL Football
I want to emphasize again that this is not a treatment against the NFL. I am not saying that football is evil or even that you ought not watch it. I am saying that it is not as simple as sitting down and enjoying a game. There are many considerations and angles to consider. There is the problem of overconsumption, dulling your mind, forgetting about the outside world and the injustices out there, giving money to an unworthy cause and being complicit in the long-term brain damage of NFL players. Football is certainly entertaining and has firmly established itself as a western tradition and icon. But we should not be naive. We should not allow ourselves to be blissfully ignorant of the different factors.