Time to Let Go, or, The 24 Hour News Cycle

Maybe football has always been this violent and football players prone to injury. Maybe even forty years ago, 30% of pro football players developed measurable brain damage after their careers.

Lord knows, professional athletes have never consistently been angels; some have benefited heavily from a sympathetic press or some form of image management.

At this point, though, it’s time for me to let go of football at all levels. I don’t actually watch many games any longer; mostly I read about it and try to keep current without actually watching.

Part of me understands that there’s so much money at the college and pro levels of the game because they’ve developed an audience that happily throws money at the advertisers, who in turn throw money at the leagues or conferences. Part of me, though, wonders how authentic that interest is. So many writers and broadcasters who follow sports now inject themselves into the stories. They whip up the enthusiasm instead of just reporting on it to perpetuate their own careers. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but with the proliferation of cable TV channels and now the Internet, the stage had expanded hugely, so the cast of “journalists” injecting themselves into the environment is correspondingly larger.

It’s a chicken-and-egg cycle. ESPN figured out how they could fill 168 hours of sports programming every week. Then they launched a second channel, and now it was 336 hours of sports programming a week. When was the last time they showed Australian Rules Football? The NFL sells in a way that obscure international sports don’t. There’s probably a US cable TV channel that shows Australian Rules Football, but it’s a niche offering, and it probably doesn’t just wait for people to find it; it’s a safe bet that it promotes how athletic the participants are, or how zealous the fans are in the game’s home, or….

So, 32 NFL teams, about 70 major NCAA “FBS” teams, and another 70 lesser NCAA “FBS” teams. That’s a lot of men risking their health, maybe for fun of the game, but surely also in some quest for greater glory and wealth, funded by advertisers hawking movies and TV shows, beer, vacations, and trucks. Also, five-hour energy drinks and other snake oil potions I’m surprised the FDA hasn’t cracked down on.

Sorry, no, I’ll no longer be part of the demand that calls for the supply of athletes to be chewed up and spit out.

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