COMMENTARY: Heading off the war on football
I hope that writing this commentary turns out to be completely unnecessary.
Why would a writer ever hope that something he writes really doesn’t need to be written, or read? In this case, it’s because I’m writing about what is reportedly a growing trend nationally that I hope never comes to Tennessee or Coffee County: The War on Football.
That’s the name of a new book by Daniel J. Flynn about what the author says is a growing hostility to the game. Although football is safer than sports such as bicycling, skiing, or skateboarding, Flynn says, public perception is increasingly and unfairly skewed against America’s favorite sport.
In a recent essay for National Review Online, Flynn writes on the inaccuracy of public perception regarding the relative dangers of football:
If you’re wearing a Riddell or Schutt helmet when you die, the Drudge Report surely will highlight your passing. If you’re not wearing a helmet in a fatal riding or skiing crash, Matt Drudge probably won’t notice. The war on football is as much a clash between perception and reality as anything else.
Of course, when players are still in high school, or younger, protecting the health of athletes is critically important. As stringent as they may be, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules for preventing concussions are a good idea.
But there’s no such thing as a risk-free activity, and it is possible to take safety concerns too far. Again, here’s Flynn:
If the debate over football were about safety, then the scolds seeking to prohibit the game would table their ambi-tion until after doing away with skiing, skateboarding, cycling, and dozens of other deadlier sports. . . . Safety works as a false front for what’s really motivating the attacks on America’s game. Rough and muddy football clashes with our increasingly risk-averse, passive-aggressive, unsoiled society. It doesn’t fit in a world of parentally monitored play dates, Xbox babysitters, and trophies for everyone. The war on football is a cultural tic calling itself a public-health crusade.
Another recently released book explains how boys are suffering from a general attack on maleness in our culture: a new and revised edition of Christina Hoff Summers’ classic The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men. The fact that Ms. Summers book is considered controversial in some quarters may indicate just how far the attack on boyishness has progressed.
One of the great benefits of football is that it allows boys to get muddy, violent, and sometimes bloody in an environment with boundaries, rules and adult supervision. Those are experiences a boy needs to become a powerful, responsible man—to develop the ability to exert himself, sometimes violently, according to rules and for a cause that transcends his own personal pleasure. In a culture that increasingly seems to believe the genders are interchangeable, football is one of the few remaining opportunities for a boy to behave like a real boy—and grow toward becoming a good man.