The New York Times has a very strange sense of morality. Abortion at any time for any reason is never savage. When the Kermit Gosnell case erupted, the Times could only editorialize it was irrelevant: “What does the trial of a Philadelphia doctor who is accused of performing illegal late-term abortions by inducing labor and then killing viable fetuses have to do with the debate over legal abortion?”
But on Sunday, the Times Magazine published a column titled “Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl?” Writer Steve Almond, best known previously for resigning an adjunct professorship at Boston College because Condoleezza Rice was picked for commencement speaker, argued that sending men to the NFL was like sending our underclass soldiers off to war in Afghanistan (don't miss the part about the late Pat Tillman):
Pro sports are, by definition, monetized arenas for hypermasculinity. Football is nowhere near as overtly vicious as, say, boxing. But it is the one sport that most faithfully recreates our childhood fantasies of war as a winnable contest....
Over the past 12 years, as Americans have sought a distraction from the moral incoherence of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the game has served as a loyal and satisfying proxy. It has become an acceptable way of experiencing our savage impulses, the cultural lodestar when it comes to consuming violence. What differentiates it from the glut of bloody films and video games we devour is our awareness that the violence in football, and the toll of that violence, is real.
The struggle playing out in living rooms across the country is that of a civilian leisure class that has created, for its own entertainment, a caste of warriors too big and strong and fast to play a child’s game without grievously injuring one another. The very rules that govern our perceptions of them might well be applied to soldiers: Those who exhibit impulsive savagery on the field are heroes. Those who do so off the field are reviled monsters.
The civilian and the fan participate in the same basic transaction. We offload the mortal burdens of combat, mostly to young men from the underclass, whom we send off to battle with cheers and largely ignore when they wind up wounded.
No single episode speaks to this twisted dynamic more pointedly than the death of Pat Tillman, an idealistic N.F.L. star who enlisted in the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2004, Tillman was killed by friendly fire in a bungled ambush in Afghanistan. His superiors orchestrated an elaborate cover-up that included burning his uniform and recast the circumstances of his death as a heroic charge into enemy territory.
But suppose Tillman had survived, returned to play in the N.F.L. and wound up with brain damage at age 50. Would we see him as a victim of friendly fire? Would we acknowledge our role in his demise? Or would we construct our own personal cover-ups?
The N.F.L. and the bloated media cult that feeds off it rely on fans not to connect the dots between our consumption of football and brain-damaged human beings.
The NFL’s efforts to deal with brain injuries mean nothing to Almond, because it’s “not just that the N.F.L. is a negligent employer. It’s how our worship of the game has blinded us to its pathologies.”
Liberals are dead serious about this. Breitbart Sports reports that New York Democrats are trying to ban tackle football for kids under 13.
[HT: Dan Gainor]