In the Bigger Scheme of Things…
It’s been a while since I’ve offended a large number of people all in one blog post… It’s probably time so here’s my once a year opinion of football and the American obsession with the sport. The focus, at this time, is all about kneeling during the National Anthem. What a great distraction to take a large segment of the American population’s focus off of issues that matter. This is America, if a bunch of young millionaires want to kneel in protest instead of taking their collective wealth into the inner cities, building youth programs, community outreach programs, or building bridges between the authorities and the inner-city youth, so be it. In America people have the right to protest in any legal, non-violent way they wish. If the owners of the various teams don’t like it, they have the legal right to terminate the players contracts. The fans that don’t like it have the right to quit going to games, or to quit buying the player’s overpriced merchandise. Whatever happens, it’s not worth focusing on or bringing to a national debate. They are twenty-something athletes, not world leaders.
The current debate is irrelevant and it will pass when the next interesting thing happens and the public moves on, it’s what we do. Here is a debate that is worthwhile, should colleges be involved in football at all? Many argue that the money involved in college football is the reason behind colleges having teams, but let me breakdown some real numbers for you.
There are currently 774 colleges and universities in the United States offering football programs, including a revenue sharing program they have from television revenue and merchandising, the most accurate number available from the Knight Commission states that there are only seven programs that either break-even or turn a profit. SEVEN! That’s it… more than ninety-nine percent of them lose money. Guess where that money comes from to cover the loss? Yup… tuition from their educational programs.
Occasionally you hear the heartfelt and logical argument that football scholarships and programs help young men obtain degrees and an opportunity to improve their lives. Sure, I can’t argue that at all other than to say I bet there are young men and women in the same neighborhoods that dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, scientists but can’t throw a ball fifty-yards down the field or weigh three-hundred pounds and can anchor an offensive line. Don’t they deserve the same opportunity to improve their lives? Wouldn’t society benefit more from a new surgeon than a guy with degree in communications or marketing regardless of how fast he can run?
There is also the specious argument regarding alumni and endowments. There is an intangible financial benefit to the universities due to the unprofitable athletic programs they sponsor. Yes, there is in fact a certain amount of funds that come to the universities from fans and successful athletes, but that argument doesn’t factor in what might happen if the funds being spent on the athletic programs were focused strictly on education. How many more scientists, engineers, technology gurus, doctors, architects, artists, musicians, etc… would exist and be every bit as supportive to the university that gave them the opportunity to explore their passions? Bill Gates, The Ford Foundation, The Carnegie Institute, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg and JK Rowlings have quite likely given more to the world in charitable giving, college scholarships, endowments and opportunities than all of the college and professional athletes in the history of sports. How many Billionaires don’t exist because their seat at the college table was taken by someone that runs faster, hits harder, or throws farther?
If there is a reason those young men have no athletic outlet to help them become professional football players, the blame lies clearly on the design of the NFL’s development programs. In Major League Baseball, there are minor leagues that are separate from the university system. Soccer and Hockey both have development league that are run outside the institutions that profess to focus on education. Guess what else? Their athletes actually get paid. When did it become okay for public institutions to run minor league development programs for the NFL and the NBA at the expense of educational programs?
Finally, we now all know the term CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) which is caused by multiple head traumas and has been a scientifically proven problem with retired football players. It’s not a theory, or idea; it’s not a something made up to scare people or some type of virus. It’s a syndrome that can be easily avoided by not putting yourself in a position, or a sport, that causes head trauma over and over starting as a child and generally ending in high school or college (The odds of a college football player going pro is less than two percent). It is, for all intents and purposes, a form of traumatic brain damage that results in the following lifetime symptoms:
- Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
- Impulsive behavior
- Depression or apathy
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function)
- Emotional instability
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Other suspected symptoms may include:
- Speech and language difficulties
- Motor impairment, such as difficulty walking, tremor, loss of muscle movement, weakness or rigidity
- Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- Vision and focusing problems
- Trouble with sense of smell (olfactory abnormalities)
These things are scientifically proven, not disputed in the least. So, doesn’t one have to ask if High Schools, Colleges and Universities across America are acting as responsible institutions of EDUCATION, by supporting, promoting and glorifying a sport that causes brain damage?
One last thing… what about the fans? How does football affect fandom? Well, I don’t know the answer to that question specifically, but an interesting statistic came up during my extensive research into the FBoM series (which you can find on Amazon… of course). Domestic violence across the country spikes almost ten percent after football games in the United States. Think about that… something is tripping violent actions in men (many who probably played football when they were younger) after watching football on Sundays. It would be too big of a coincidence for their not to be a connection.
Football soapbox done for another year… peace Y’all.
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