Football Debate Questions: Domestic violence. Obesity. Mental Health. Head trauma. Gambling. Patriotism. Social justice. Names of offensive teams and mascots. The shortage of black head coaches. Professional football has led students to debate many social and ethical issues over the years.
But perhaps no issue is bigger than player safety and health — and the biggest story of this year’s football season was also the scariest, when Damar Hamlin , safety for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a cardiac arrest during a nationally televised game late in the year. season. Although Hamlin has been released from the hospital and is now recovering, his on-field collapse shocked the sports world and highlighted the potentially serious danger of playing football.
Students could explore this history and debate whether fans are complicit in the NFL’s violent spectacle. Times Sports columnist Kurt Streeter challenged football viewers in a test following Hamlin’s injury:
Too often, too many of us, myself included, look at the NFL with tunnel vision. We focus on what we can get out of these games, the entertaining fun, while minimizing the risks for those like Hamlin who have toughened themselves to endure the pain and danger inherent in football.
It is unclear whether Hamlin’s medical emergency was related to the tackle that preceded it. But the specter of destruction on the field, let’s face it, is part of what makes soccer such an American appeal. That’s why top shows are full of the most shocking and brutal hits.
We have become accustomed to the suffering, absolving ourselves with a certain version of the internal narrative: Whew, that guy who just got run over and has been lying on the field for 10 minutes just gave a thumbs-up. He will be fine! Too bad for him, but he’s the next man up. …
Will it take a player about to die on national television for us to broaden our view and examine why and how we watch?
Later, he says with passion:
The league can better police head hits. He can penalize or even expel players who hurt their opponents with dirty plays. But violence and danger will remain at the heart of football. Take it away and the game is no longer football.
So we’ll watch, captivated and sometimes horrified: this week’s remaining games, the playoffs, the Super Bowl. We’ll watch, but hopefully we’ll never watch the game the same way again.
What do you think? Do you agree that “violence and danger will remain at the heart of football”? What responsibilities do we have as spectators? Is Mr. Streeter correct that as fans “we are all complicit”? Will you ever view the game the same way after Hamlin’s terrifying collapse? Is it wrong to watch and enjoy the Super Bowl this year?