Football is one of the most popular sports in the United States at all levels. NFL and NCAA teams pack massive stadiums week in and week out, while teenagers play for their school teams and in recreational leagues. In the 1950s and 1960s football quickly became a national phenomena and is arguable the most popular sport in the country today. NFL regular and post-season games consistently have the highest TV ratings of any sport.
However, over the past couple of years football has started to run into a major problem, which is the safety of its players. Concussions have recently become a major issue in many sports, but none more so then in football. It is estimated that there is about a 75% risk of concussions for males who play football, which is higher then any other major sport. It is also estimated that professional football players sustain 900-1500 blows to the head during a season. With these numbers it is not hard to see the safety concerns that have arisen. Sustaining multiple concussions can also create long term health issues for players. Some former NFL players have sued the NFL for medical compensation for these injuries and there long term effects. The players claim the league did not do enough to protect them. Although the league is now much more carful about handling concussions then in the past, and has implemented rules to reduce concussions, football is still the sport that puts an athlete most at risk for concussions. The concern about concussions has been shown at all levels of the game including youth football, where some people speculate football will become less popular because of the risk of concussions.
After reading stats about concussions and reading stories about how dangerous football is to a player’s health, I began to question why the sport is so popular and why so many kids and people play it and watch it. Bartlett Giamatti gives us a reason why people play sports in Take Time For Paradise. Giamatti says that people play sports because we are attempting to achieve the condition of paradise that we have lost. He describes this state of paradise as a form of ourselves that we dream of that is better than our actual self. Giamatti explains that we play sports to try and achieve this condition of paradise, which we lost long ago in the past. He says that sport can be used as a tool of transformation to reform the self into a more perfect self.
So if we use sports to achieve paradise then that still does not completely answer the question of why football is so wildly popular because there are many other sports that can also be used as a tool to attempt to achieve the condition of paradise. After thinking about this in the context of Giamatti’s ideas I believe it might be because football is better at getting people and athletes closer to achieving the condition of paradise that Giamatti talks about. Playing football and the moments and process that an athlete goes through while playing, might get the player closer to achieving the state of paradise than other sports, thus explaining why athletes risk more of their health to play football.
Many people theorize that football will soon dissipate in the coming years because of the major health issues related to it. However, I would disagree with this because if football is in fact the best medium to achieve Giamatti’s paradise and self reformation, then it would make sense that people would continue to play even if the risks are higher then other sports.