As a football fan, one of the things that excites me when I sit down to watch a game is the sheer brutality and physicality of the action unfolding before my eyes.
I love the X’s and O’s and the intricacies of the game, I play fantasy football, I gamble on the games and I’m pretty big into my stats too, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t cheer when I see a defensive back deliver a perfect hit on a receiver or when I look on as a running back mows over a linebacker.
The large majority of NFL player are guys in their 20’s and 30’s. Like me. Plenty of them have young children or are expecting children. Like me. They have partners and parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends etc. Like me, but I forgot that on Sundays.
I saw guys with names that I recognised wearing helmets and shoulder pads, that’s it. Nothing else registered. All that other stuff about them being young men with families never used to cross my mind, but that’s started to change.
All of the recent reports about concussions and CTE have had an effect on me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the game; I spend the majority of my free time watching, reading or listening to NFL-related content, but, and this might sound odd, I kind of feel guilty about being a football fan.
Even now, fully aware of what CTE is and the dangers of concussions, when I see a huge hit, my involuntary reaction is one of excitement and happiness and, to be frank, that kind of makes me feel uncomfortable.
Sure, injuries are a part of sport, that’s just a fact but there’s a huge difference between a pulled hamstring and a hit to the head that can cause long-standing damage.
It really hit home when I saw Bennie Fowler of the Denver Broncos stumbling about after hitting his head on the floor. I felt so uncomfortable watching it and my involuntary reaction was to turn my head from the TV, like something in the back of my mind decided that I didn’t want to see it, probably because that man was putting his body on the line to entertain people like me.
That makes me feel very uneasy. I love the game, I get huge pleasure from watching it but deep down, I know that I’m watching guys potentially putting themselves into early graves.
I’m a hypocrite and I’ll continue to watch, which might say a lot about me, but that uneasiness is always going to be there.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same way?