I live close to the city where the 2016 Super Bowl will be played. I have never been much of a football fan, and I endure football season every year. However, this year, it is even harder to pretend objectivity on the subject. What has changed?
I recently watched the movie Concussion with my husband. The movie tells the story of the doctor who identified a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause immediate symptoms. Prior to the documentation by Dr. Bennet Omalu, the disease was commonly identified in those with a history of boxing and referred to them as being “punch-drunk.”
I was intrigued with this story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that members of my family have experienced repeated concussions in the course of playing contact sports. What makes Omalu’s discovery noteworthy is that the condition is only conclusively identified with an autopsy. Thus, the patient has to die before the diagnosis is confirmed.
When I am interested in a subject, I immediately begin to research it from as many angles as I can. Within days of watching the film, I had watched three to five documentaries on the subject, read the biography of Dr. Omalu, and examined other research papers available online. My conclusions are that, starting from a young age, a child who receives sub-concussive hits (ones that are not identified as actual concussions) and continues to experience them as he matures, will most likely suffer brain injuries that may well result in problems later in life.
CTE was brought to the forefront because of the numerous incidences of professional football players who manifested erratic behavior in their retirement years: extreme mood fluctuations, depression, addiction, domestic violence leading to divorce, and eventual suicide. Since contact sports like football, boxing, and hockey, bring in considerable media and advertising revenue, this information coming to light is not good for business. Thus, Omalu and others who were eager to have this information released were met with extreme, ugly opposition. As one of his colleagues states in the movie, “You are going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week!”
January is the month that football playoffs are contested so that two teams earn their spot in the Super Bowl. Make no mistake about it, there is a link between the highest advertising revenue of the year and the war-like, violent aspect of what takes place on the field. It is acceptable to viewers and sponsors alike that football players suffer repeated head traumas so long as the audience is entertained. We are told that this is the cost of doing business and that no one forces people to play football – it is their choice. January is also the month back in 1973 that the Supreme Court determined that ending the life of an unborn child was the cost of doing business in a society that established godly morality and virtue as an individual, personal choice. Amazingly, the “choice” euphemism is very prominent in both issues – making something dreadful sound acceptable.
If we abandon God’s law when it comes to the pre-born, why should we give consideration to people after they arrive on the scene? Football is as “safe” as abortion is “safe”. Both are safe for those who profit and injurious to those who are exploited. The difference is that there are no advertising dollars to be made from watching the death of an unborn child on national television, yet are considerable for televised football. Much like the negative effects of abortion on both child and mother, there are multitudes of problems in store for those who have been the fodder for the sports industry, not to mention the toll it takes on their families. In each case, powerful lobbies, with the collusion of government, work to keep the truth from being exposed.
Too few Christians examine the cultural practices that have been a part of the status quo for most, if not all of their lives. Examination must happen regarding how any practice lines up with the commandments of God and His law-word. The principle of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness in all matters, will lead to discovering those aspects of life that have been blinded by cultural norms. Assessing the rightness or wrongness of any practice will only be derived by honestly asking and answering, “Is God pleased?”
Make no mistake about it. Football is not the problem any more than abortion is the problem. The problem is that we have failed to fear God and keep His commandments as our entire duty in life. When that perspective is embraced and disseminated, the rest will fall into place.