In 1583, Philip Stubbes described the English forerunner of American football as "rather a bloody and murdering practice than a fellowly sport or pastime." He went on to catalog the injuries of the players: "sometimes their necks are broken, sometimes their backs, sometimes their legs, sometimes their arms. . .sometimes their noses gush out with blood" and then goes on, in typical Renaissance style, to pile on more disasters that result from this game: envy, malice, hatred, fighting, brawling, etc.
He doesn't mention in his long list the thing that bothers me and many others about the sport today: head injuries. Young men in high school and college, especially, whose bodies are still growing, are subject to life-threatening concussions. The only way this will ever stop is if mothers (as well as dads) forbid their sons to participate. Universities like mine that rely on football to generate alumni support will eventually have to find other means. This won't come any time soon!
When I bring up the violence of football to certain passionate fans of the game here in Florida, where it is almost a religion, they agree with me, and yet, as smokers used to do when reminded of the dangers of tobacco, maintain the status quo by supporting the bloody game.
In a New York Times piece today by David Leonhardt, I learn that in blue America--those urban areas with heavily Democratic voters and better educated citizens--the number of boys playing high school football is down 15 percent in certain states over the past six years. The decline in Colorado: 14 percent. And 8 percent in Mass. and Maryland.
Of course, every part of America still watches football, but it is hopeful to read in this brief piece that sometimes education does bring enlightenment and that the sons of thinking people are gradually being saved from the violence of the gridiron.