I grew up watching and playing violent sports. I play them for the thrill of winning, the accomplishment and satisfaction you get from it, but it never made me a violent person. Many people argue that by allowing people to watch violent sports they tend to become violent themselves; I disagree. Violent sports are a way to vent stress and anger in a contained manner. American football is considered a violent sport, which raises the question if the sport should be watched.

I have never played American football, but from a rugby player’s perspective I understand the importance of the sport in people’s lives. Not only do the players have a close emotional connection, but the supporters feel the same way. What’s this importance you ask? It varies from sport to sport. In American football, however, tradition is key.

American football. It has been played for hundreds of years with its origins stemming from as far back as the 1600s, during the time of the civil war. It was a way to pass time, until 1869, when two colleges met for the first ruled official match. Even now, this tradition between all American colleges exists, also allowing the navy, marines and air force to join in. With the origins set by a war that many people feel is a sign of strength and freedom of Americans, it’s hard to say no to football.

College Football

One of the first inter-college games, Yale vs Columbia game painting (Stewart, 1995)

Today, the stadiums are huge; people get together before the game for parties and barbecues to enjoy the excitement that comes with the sport. To add on, the super bowl is one of the biggest events of the year, not only in America, but internationally. Even as a person from Hong Kong, who has never played football, I watched it. With a culture so rich, the question is, why cancel it?

It may be dangerous, however, season-by-season the rules get stricter to mitigate the injuries. In fact, football is one of the first sports to require protective helmets. I wanted to see how the rules changed, so I compared current football rules to the 90’s football rules. The rulebook has been modified a lot regarding tackles and penalties, especially regarding the protection for the quarterback, as he is the most valuable player who was also injured the most. There was new rule established during the 1996 season where any player cannot hit the quarterback after he has thrown the ball, if the opposition does not have a clear sight and is further than 5 yards of from the quarterback. Moreover, to protect player’s spine and neck, any tackles deliberately aiming the head or pulling the neck or face was changed to a penalty or suspension if serious enough. With this yearly development towards safer games, football may even become the safest sport.

However, I feel the positives of football are constantly undermined by the negatives. Two great examples would be the Washington Redskins controversy and off field incidents involving players. As a “sportaholic”, I follow many sports and their controversies, upsets and all the headlines, but these stick the most.

Washington Redskins Logo

The controversial Washington Redskins Logo (Washington Redskins Logo, 2007)

The Washingting Redkins. That name itself should not be used. Not only is this a racial slur, but for the children watching or supporting the franchise, it creates a mentality for them that racial slurs can be socially acceptable. When I heard this, I was outraged. With a country surrounded by incidents involving race, this would be the last thing needed in a national league.

This problem has such a simple solution. Change the name. There’s no need to take away a whole sport just because a single franchise does not want to change the name for the sake of tradition. I completely understand. I argued before how tradition is important for football, but there has to be a way around it. With a league as big as the National Football League, it would seem as if the directors should have some common sense to understand the people’s standpoint and how the name “Redskins” should not be used for any team. If I ever have kids, I would never want them supporting a team who’s name is racist; it’s just something that’s not supposed to be.

Now consider the off-field incidents involved with various football players for drug use, domestic violence and other offences. These players are also role models for children wanting to join the sport, however, with the incidents surrounding the players, children may eventually follow in their footsteps. Take for example Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, two elite football players that children will be looking up to. Ray Rice has been accused of domestic violence to the point where his wife was knocked unconscious, while Adrian Peterson has been accused of domestic violence towards his son, causing major injuries.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson from the Minnesota Vikings (King, 2014)

As the players are elite, these incidents do not go unnoticed and are broadcasted on national television where children who look up to them can see what the players have done. Many children want to become these players in the future, however, I fear these children may follow in their footsteps by committing criminal offenses. I know this is a far-fetched argument towards why football should not be viewed, but as role models the players need to think about their actions before committing them. Who knows the children that look up to the, may turn out to be the next star for football with a different controversy.

With these diverse perspectives on the matter, it feels as if these problems can be solved over time. The off-field incidents by players only can be solved by their own discretion, however, the league based problems such as team names and safety can be met by developing the game as it has been over the years. This way the tradition built throughout the past hundreds of years canalso progress in to something bigger.

Jacob Lobo

References

American football and its heritage. (2011, August). Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~samuelpe/history-american-football.html

A Brief History of the Game. (2014). Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://www.hornetfootball.org/documents/football-history.htm

Evolution of the rules: From hashmarks to crackback blocks. (2013, August 2). Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000224872/article/evolution-of-the-rules-from-hashmarks-to-crackback-blocks

King, A. (Photographer). (2014). Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings [Photograph], Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://q13fox.com/2014/09/12/vikings-adrian-peterson-indicted-on-felony-charge-of-injury-to-a-child/

American Football  [Photograph]. (2010). Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://www.sport.ox.ac.uk/sport/american-football/

Stewart, B. (Author). (1995). Yale vs. Columbia [Photograph], Retrieved November 15, 2014, from: http://wesclark.com/rrr/yank_fb.html

Washington Redskins Logo [Photograph]. (2007). Retrieved November 15, 2014, from http://www.sportslogos.net/logos/view/im5xz2q9bjbg44xep08bf5czq/Washington_Redskins/1983/Primary_Logo

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