555. Football

I’ve never understood football, and I’ve never really wanted to. Seeing people play it, and seeing people watch people play it, live or on television, I got the distinct impression that it was not my kind of game. It seemed to be a game in which knocking people down was supposed to be a good thing to do. And if a player hurt another player, that was supposed to be even better.
But I know that at least part of my perspective is nothing but my perspective. Football can be played in a way that involves lots of tricky, skillful strategizing, running, passing, and receiving, and no knocking and/or hurting. I know that the object is to get the ball to end up somewhere between and behind the opposing team’s goalposts. But that’s not the way it usually looks to me. It looks like a bunch of men trying to crush another bunch of men.
This morning, I heard someone on the radio talk about why, in his opinion, one of the professional football teams was not doing as well as they did last year. According to this commentator, the good season they had last year had turned them into nice guys who were a little less angry. And being less angry, they were less ferocious, and less likely to win games. As far as I’m concerned, that’s an improvement. If anger and ferocity make a team more likely to win a game, there’s something wrong with the game.
The children I know now don’t play football; those who get involved in team sports play basketball, soccer, and baseball. I’m glad. When I’ve known children who’ve played football, they’ve made a point of trying to be as angry and ferocious as they could. The game attracted and reinforced children who tended to get into fights; it encouraged behavior teachers tried to discourage. Some people argued that this “got it out of their systems,” but the young football players I’ve known have usually been more difficult to manage after playing football.
High schools tend to have football teams – even high schools in towns where young children don’t play football. I guess the people in charge think teenagers are less likely to internalize the roughness of the game. Or maybe they think roughness is okay after childhood – that it’s okay for children to be gentle, but as they approach adulthood, they’ve got to get used to hard knocks.
I’ll keep trying to be open-minded about football, even though my opinion of it is pretty negative now, and always has been so far. The fourth graders I work with now are some day going to be teenagers, and probably, some of them are going to play football. I’ll probably go to some games; I try to support them in their various extracurricular activities. But so far, I think football and I have conflicting goals.

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