Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Radical changes to my passion: football

My favorite thing to talk about, think about, and participate in is football. I played tackle football for six years, three of those being at the varsity level of high school, and one of those years including 12 starts. I am currently in a flag football league, and I constantly obsess with how we can become a better team. I play fantasy football as if my life depended on it, and if there is any football on TV, everything else is put on hold. It was a way of life, and still continues to be a main focus of my life, and any news in football, or news involving possible changes in football is very important to me.

As you well know, football means so many things to so many people. It can be school pride for the students and alumni who played there 50 years ago. If you are from a small town, it suddenly becomes city vs. city and all the businesses shut down to support. To some it’s a battleground and proving ground, to others it’s simply a playground. On the gridiron, you learn to sacrifice for the good of others; your character is revealed and then fortified due to the blood, sweat and tears. Guys who didn’t have a lot going on in their high school life found a family, a band of brothers, which would give their lives for each other. Football is more than a game for most of us: it was a preparation for life.

The higher the levels of competition meant better athletes playing. The more athletic football becomes, the more entertaining it becomes – especially for us who had to leave this love behind. When people get bigger, faster, and stronger, the game changes a long with it. It becomes more intense, with the greater possibility of big plays; but it also causes more big hits with greater danger to each player.

One of the reasons why football is so popular is because of the gladiator mentality and the possibility of big hits. There is a quote from Disney’s Remember the Titans that describes many high school youths’ opinion of football. When one of the players is asked if he has a future in football, he responds, “Heck no! I figured as long I'm going to be in school, I might as well hit some people while I'm at it.” There is something about that barbarianism that attracts us. Yet due to recent safety concerns, the NFL has heightened enforcement of its rules.

On October 17th, 2010 there was not one, nor two, but four violent hits on the same day by three different people. By violent I don’t mean someone got tackled hard and got the wind knocked out of them, but a concussion level, needed help walking off the field kind of hit. Due to the recent concern of player safety and the toll the game has taken on the players’ brains, the league has threatened to start handing out fines, suspending players, and changing the rules even more. The possibility has been met by criticism and support, even from former players within the NFL.

There have been several articles, radio shows, and TV shows which have made comments on this new change. Rachel Cohen, sports writer of the Associated Press, wrote an article at Yahoo.com which was one of the first to be reported and a primary source of information on the matter. Before getting to the meat of the article, I would like to look at how it is presented so that we know how we are being affected by the subtle things before we are even affected by the information.

After the title but before the article itself, we see two references that this article was produced by the Associated Press. Now if you are anything like me, you know nothing of what that actually means; however, I have done some research and found information about this group. The self-given, lengthy description can be found here, but can be easily summed up to say a large collection of contributing of news reporters, from writers, radio, TV and other outlets. Now you may be asking “why is this important?” It is simply because it provides credentials. This isn’t @steelerskickyourbutt twitters account, who would be a biased source that is just another fan who knows almost nothing about football. This is from a group of people who know what they are doing. Speaking of people, if you look at the bottom of this article, you see that another four people contributed to this story, two of them being AP writers also; the homework for this article has been done by very qualified people.

Throughout the article, you see quotes from a vast group of people: players, agents, league officials, and team president; you read feedback and information from people whose lives revolve around this sport. These are people who have been around the block or two and know what they are talking about; the players quoted have the first-hand experience of being the hitter or being hit. The only thing this article is missing to show some more objectivity would be to quote the rule of helmet to helmet hits. Oftentimes, in any level of football, we are subject to the referee’s opinion and interpretation of the rules. Had the rule been presented in this article, we could have seen exactly how it applied (or maybe didn’t apply) in each of the situations.

As previously stated, football is an emotional sport. You can’t play without having emotion. And by once playing football, emotions will be felt by most ex-players when watching a game. This article taps into that emotion by showing pictures of the menacing James Harrison, as well as the hit on the defenseless Desean Jackson by the human turned projectile, Dunta Robinson. Seeing these pictures will remind any former player of the big and dangerous teammate, as well as pummeled and punished guy on the team. It is difficult to condemn anyone for something that we have witnessed first-hand, not to mention enjoyed.

The wording in this article creates a polar feeling of the situation: you are either for it, or against it. Using adjectives such as “dangerous” and “flagrant” may cause someone to be on the side of the league. No one wants to see intentional danger and damage. On the other side of the coin, you read that the players were “docked” and how they “lost” money. Had the diction been different and the word “fined” been substituted, it would show punishment. Instead the words use show that the money was taken from these players, and that it may not have been warranted. Further, when describing Harrison, the word confused is used to describe him and how he feels about his job. I’m not sure about you, but I know I’ve been confused before, and by stating that he is confused, there is a slight emotional connection built, a “hey man, I’ve been there too” kind of feeling. Although it is not mentioned in the article, Harrison sat out of practice for a couple of days and contemplated retirement. If you are thinking about retiring from millions of dollars and the sport you love because of how the game may change, confused may be an understatement to what he is feeling.

This article simply states the actions the NFL has taken, and may take over the hard hits that took place on October 17th, 2010. The rules are expected to be more enforced, and maybe even changed. Players will be required to play at a lower speed, and if they don’t, they will be fined and suspended. Several players have been fined already, and several opinions have been given on the matter.

The article doesn’t take sides as to what the NFL should do. It is left up by us, the fans, to take sides. By openly taking sides, any information would be seen as biased and with a purpose to persuade people. By not openly taking sides, but still presenting arguments to each side, the article creates a choice for the reader based on all the information given, and the rhetorical strategies used to convey said information.

I, however, will take sides. By changing football, the very essence of what most people love about this sport will be changed. The NFL (No Fun League…I mean the National Football League) is trying to take the game away from the players even more. The NFL has made videos – and more importantly money from said videos – of the hardest hits in the game. What they’re trying to do isn’t simply wrong, it isn’t simply changing the most popular sport in America and it isn’t simply “trying to be safe”, it is simply being a hypocrite and living a double standard. I believe in safety, but I don’t believe in dressing up the athletes in big frilly clothes and making them playing patty cake with each other to avoid danger.

The athletes know what they signed up for, and they willingly choose to sacrifice their bodies to play this game. If the game continues to change, the game will lose popularity. And this may be drastic, but if the game continues in a downslide, what would happen to the Superbowl? I realize it’s not necessary to how the world turns, but it is a big part of American society. People who don’t watch football watch the Superbowl. That creates a lot of revenue for a lot of different people.

More important than losing money, football will lose its toughness and its ability to teach the youth. Too many things today are designed to make everyone feel good and that they don’t have to try hard; however, football will always teach people the value of hard work, how to pick yourself up when you are down, and how to deal with failure. I realize that being a good person isn’t dependent on playing football, but anyone who plays football is better because of it. We can’t afford to change something that has done so much good for so many people.


  1. note to self... format better. long continuous text = ugh.

  2. Skyler,
    You KNOW I had to read this one.

    Some of your sentences didn't read very smoothly and there were some issues with tense. I also worry that there was a more commentary on the issue than on the article itself, though the section about diction was very insightful.

    Your enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter made this article compelling. I don't know if you did it intentionally, but explaining the importance of football to you informed the audience why they should care: because football is a wonderful institution for teaching young men about character.