December 2007

Why I Don't Watch Pro Football Anymore

By Tom Vincent

First let me say at the outset, I am a sports junkie. I love watching sports - any kind of sports. Tiddlywinks contests, bass masters, even late night reruns of racquetball tournaments, if it's on TV, I'll watch it. Put me in the stands of Fenway park with a hot dog and a cold one and I am one happy camper. Make it the final game of a pennant race and man I've done died and gone straight to heaven. There is something about the back and forth of a good sports contest that transcends the mere physical realm. Watching two evenly matched contestants or teams at the height of their powers pushing themselves to the limit to achieve victory is like watching the physical manifestation of poetry, music and art and drama unfold in real time.

Now, imagine you go to see Shakespeare and Romeo is forced to retire before intermission due to a concussion suffered when a three hundred pound actor from the play across the street knocks him into next week. Imagine Carrie Underwood has to cut her concert short cause the Dixie Chicks gang tackled her and bruised her vocal chords. Imagine Barishnikov limping from the stage after being blind sided by a hip hop dancer with a boom box sized chip on his shoulder. You see where I'm going with this?

Football has too many injuries.

I know what you're thinking. "Injuries have always been a part of the game." True. However it's undeniable the game has gotten noticeably more violent and injury ridden in recent years. It's gotten so bad that radio and TV sports programs devote whole segments to the "injury report".

Again, I know what you're thinking. "So a few players go down each week. Football teams have forty some players on their rosters." Right again. However, according to CBS's web site, on any given week the typical NFL team reports an average of thirteen injured players. Thirteen. That's more than a football team's worth of guys missing from the line up. If one team has eight injuries and the other has twenty four guys out, (it happens, believe me), who do you think is going to win the game? If even one of those injuries is to an impact player, say a star quarterback, or a kicker, or the defensive back responsible for calling plays on the field and... well, you get the picture.

"Now wait a minute," you say. "There are plenty of violent sports out there. What about boxing? Or Bullfighting?" My answer is simple. Those sports are ok in my book because their whole purpose is physical injury. It ain't "dancing with the stars." You're supposed to be bludgeoning the other poor smuck's face into bloody hamburger. You get points for every punch. Likewise when you go to a bullfight, you expect to see someone's nuts handed to them...literally.

Football is different. The purpose of the game is to score more points than the other team, not inflict injury. In a way, I'd actually feel better about football if the purpose of the game were to injure your opponents. Imagine a football tournament where your team got an extra point for every opposing player you sent off on a stretcher. Heck, you could even have a system that awarded points rated by the severity of the injury. One point for a thigh bruise, two for torn ligaments, three for a concussion. Or maybe the rating system would be based on the size of the player dropped. Kickers wouldn't count for much. They're usually little shrimpy guys. But bring down a guard or tackle, it's bonus time baby!

The point I'm trying to make here is that even though injury is an unavoidable part of any contact sport, it shouldn't be so prevalent that it takes over the game. When the broken bodies pile up to the point where the sidelines look like M.A.S.H. units, the game becomes less like sport and more like battlefield triage. It's simply no fun to watch. As a fan I want to see a good game. I don't want to watch a second string quarterback pass to a third string receiver and I certainly don't want the game's outcome determined by which team received the fewest injuries the week before.

That is why this holiday season I've switched from football. This winter I'll be watching nothing but curling. No one gets hurt in that sport... unless you count frostbite.