Sunday, February 7, 2016

Headaches for the N.F.L.

("One Play, Two Sides of the N.F.L." and "The Dark Side of the Super Bowl").

While football is an inherently brutal sport, it is not boxing. While there is an alarming rate of C.T.E. found in the brains of those who played in the league, the game will not suffer the same fate of damnation as pugilism. The reason lies in their difference of purpose.

For fighters, the core of their being resides in inflicting as many concussive blows to the cranium of their opponent as possible. The task is successfully completed when there is a lump of humanity, removed from conscious thought, laying at the feet of the victor.

In football, for all of its long term casualties, at its best, there is both speed and beauty, almost a ballet performed by eleven moving parts. What is intended is not the physical destruction of the opponent (although that may be the by-product) but the scoring of touchdowns and even the almost genteel act of kicking extra points and field goals.

And so, though we abhor the damage done to our gridiron heroes in later days, there is far less immediacy to the harm being inflicted. The image of football may suffer somewhat from the blows of those who charge it with negligence or worse, but like a ball carrier who is strong and adept, it will shrug off the challenges and stand triumphant in the end zone at day's end.

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