I used to be a huge NFL football fan. Sundays were days for meeting friends at noon EST and watching the early game then the late game then NFL Primetime (later to be replaced by Sunday Night Football). I felt joy when my team won. I felt physical pain when my team lost. In either case I stretched the limits of my vocal chords from cheering and yelling. When it came time for the Super Bowl I was one of those rare creatures who was more interested in the game than the commercials. Now, I rarely watch a game.
No, I haven’t stopped watching football because of the NFL’s lax and inconsistent responses when players are involved in domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes, although that certainly doesn’t help.
I also haven’t stopped watching football to protest the fact that the NFL profits from images of its cheerleaders while paying them less than minimum wage and often dictating many personal details of their lives, although I don’t like that either.
I stopped paying much attention to football long before deflategate, so that’s definitely not my reason.
The reason I stopped watching football is I have a son. I have a son, and I don’t want him to play football.
I didn’t quit caring about football immediately when my son was born, but I’ve found myself wanting to watch football less and less as my son grows older. It feels hypocritical to glorify football by watching it week after week when it is something that I don’t my own son to do.
I didn’t think I’d be the sort of mom who would steer her son away from football. I actually assumed I’d be the opposite.
My favorite player for many years was Jerome Bettis, in part because of his relationship with his mom. When Jerome Bettis was playing football Gladys Bettis came to every game. Jerome would sometimes run to the stands to give her the ball after a touchdown. I thought that was so beautiful. I thought it would be fun to someday have a football star for a son.
But my view of football has changed.
In the years since Jerome Bettis’s mom watched her boy win a Super Bowl, we have learned a lot about the serious, long-term effects of the repeated head injuries common from playing football. Recently, even Mike Ditka stated that he would not let his children play football.
All sports have a risk of injury, but a traumatic brain injury is far worse than having to spend the rest of your life with a bum knee. I do not want my boy (or my girl) to take that risk.
Football players are sometimes called “gridiron gladiators.” That’s an apt analogy. Both football players and ancient gladiators put themselves at risk for an audience’s amusement.
I used to yell undignified things at the TV during football games.
Even sometimes “Kill him!”
I am not proud of that.
I no longer find it amusing to even jokingly wish harm on another person’s son, even if he has committed the grievous sin of signing with a football team that I do not favor.
I am not yet to the point of a full boycott of the NFL. I still watch football sometimes, but it no longer has a permanent spot on my calendar. I still do fantasy football although on many weeks I’m barely paying attention.
My son may at some point express an interest in football. If he does, I don’t want him to be encouraged by the fact that football is his mom’s favorite sport. And it was. But now it’s not.
Because of all these things–the injuries, the scandals, the sexism, my son–watching football just isn’t fun anymore.
What will I be doing on Super Bowl Sunday? Probably going to sleep early, and trying to pick a new favorite sport.
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