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Why is Football so popular?

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  Football is everywhere. It dominates advertising, culture, and even one day a week. It’s as popular and brutal as gladiatorial fights in Rome; albeit not as deadly, but nonetheless still cruel to both the body and mind. However, even with the violent nature of the game, there is no hesitation by most parents to put their children in Football. Some parents even opt out the option of putting their children in statistically safer sports like Baseball or Basketball in favor of Football. How’d a game of two teams trying to get pigskin across the field become such a phenomena? Well it mostly has to do with America’s own self-reflection.

  As a nation, we have always idolized sports stars and admired the violent nature of sports like Football, Hockey, and Boxing. Yet with the increasing awareness of the dangers of Football, *ahem* CTE, it would seem the popularity of the sport would decrease, but it has been quite the opposite. The NFL has seen tremendous growth, especially in TV viewership, with the average amount of viewers on a Monday night football game (even one with the the pitiful Jags and Bucs) exceeding 15 million viewers. What about our culture wants to see athletes hit each other over and over and over again? Well it’s the American culture.

  America was found on the principle of hard-work, grinding it out, and both individual/ team success; all in which reflect the values shared by the game of Football. It seemed that America and Football went together like Peanut Butter and Jelly, but what about the safety part?

  People often forget that Football was nearly banned early on in the 20th Century, only to be saved by unlikely hero Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, in 1904, America was appalled by the gruesome, and often sadistic injuries football players received so much that newspapers and universities everywhere united together to ban the game from America. With 18 confirmed deaths and over 156 serious injuries (in 1904 alone), Football had become the deadliest sport in the world. However, Theodore Roosevelt sought to change the safety of the game by introducing new safety rules-that sharply decreased the number of injuries, but still failed to decrease fatalities- and it wasn’t until 1909 that real safety regulations came into effect that deaths went down.

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Travis Lindemoen lining up against Roland Story’s #27

  But even during the period of fatalities and violence, Roosevelt did not waiver. He insisted that football should be preserved because it was a “a manly, tough sport. And America is a tough country.” His passionate love for the game, resonant of fans today, prevented the game from getting banned, and that spirit lives on in the millions of football fans today.

  Although, there are many dangers in the game, it’s just so addicting. There’s no better feeling than watching your team (let’s go Colts!) dominate on a Sunday night. Or seeing your most hated team (looking at you, Patriots) get beaten. Even I forget about the safety of each and every player on the field, and usually, just interested with my team winning. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with loving the game because we all love football, but the safety concerns that the game faces should loom over the minds of players, teams, and fans alike.

  So now the NFL faces similar safety problems as it did nearly 110 years ago, yet there’s no outcry from universities or newspapers, as there was in the past, about the complete ban on the sport. Is it because the deaths aren’t as bloody as before (many players died on field with their own ribs protruding through their heart, blunt force to the head, and even from dogpiles that would basically squash a person to death) or is it because the injuries players are dying from now aren’t physically seen?

  Last year, 76 of 79 deceased players were diagnosed with CTE and this year, over 87 of 91 deceased NFL players were also diagnosed with the disease.  The new epidemic that is CTE has been brushed under the carpet by the the NFL for a number of years, and was only recently acknowledged after the tragic suicide of former Chargers’ player Junior Seau nearly 4 years ago. CTE (or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a progressive degenerative disease in the brain, caused by repetitive brain trauma. Many victims of the disease suffer from deep episodes of depression, rapid cell degeneration, memory loss, and fits of aggression.

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Football player Frank Aschenbrenner in 1949.

  So now the question is what will the NFL do to protect and secure the safety of children and athletes alike from becoming another premature corpse? I have no answer besides the investment for advancement in all safety gear and apparel, but that is an obvious answer. I expect there to be a better answer, and hopefully more than just one to a problem that is taking a game that many love, and turning it into a literal warfield. But no matter what the NFL does or says, the sport association Juggernaut will never fade away into obscurity. This is what makes the game so popular.

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Why is Football so popular?