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The Super Bowl is coming up and… you know this. And the only way you might not know it is if you have been walking around with cotton balls in your ears and a bag over your head for the past 8 months…
And even then, the NFL’s insidious reach is so potent, it probably branded the inside of the seemingly innocent, standard bag you bought from some Podunk store in Indiana to cover up your vision.
It also probably slipped ear buds inside of those cotton balls, which will start playing a subtle reminder the day of the Super Bowl. Something like:
“Hey don’t forget to watch the Super Bowl! If you don’t watch it, of course that’s okay.. It just means you’re an un-American, unpatriotic little bitch. Also have fun with FOMO loser.”
I feel as comfortable about the NFL as I do about the NRA. Which is as comfortable as I feel about a horrendous case of hemorrhoids. Why are you here? Who are you helping? And if I can’t completely eradicate you, how do we co-exist harmoniously and eliminate any future flare-ups?
And guess what? You should feel this uncomfortable too.
Because 75% of people will suffer from hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. And considering that somewhere around 100 million people watch the Super Bowl each year, you’ll likely suffer from the effects of the NFL as well… and just like hemorrhoids, by the time you notice it, it’s usually an inflamed mess.
I know I’m sailing into dicey waters by targeting the NFL and everyone’s beloved football. And I know because so many humans have decided to link their personal identity and subsequent self-worth with their favorite football team (and possibly the NFL in general) that this may feel like a personal attack. Thus it will likely be very challenging to accept (probably cueing some sort of rigid fact-refusal per cognitive dissonance) but… I’m going to continue anyways. Because it’s important. So please understand I write this with the intention of bettering things that I see aren’t serving our best selves nor those of the fellow humans we care about – and not to strip you of your warm validation Snuggie of a personal identity label.
I also write this because I am simply outraged (but many things in our society but this is a big one). I am sick and tired of us – a group of loving, thoughtful, progressive, wonderful people – accepting harmful things they way they are. We’ve been derailed from our own best interests by companies and corporations and I’m looking forward to us getting back to serving our best needs as humans.
This is an interesting point in time…
When you or your kids were young, we didn’t know what we know now… We didn’t know this stuff that I’m about to convey. We didn’t have this breadth of knowledge at our fingertips. We didn’t have the insight and transparency. We didn’t have the studies. Football was just a sport. A rather brutish sport but, just a sport nonetheless.
However, now we know. And once you know, you can’t go back.
What’s So Bad About The NFL?
Almost everything is the answer.
From the people who fund it, to their shady business practices, to their historically pathetic responses to racial injustice and women’s rights, to their treatment of the massive 300lb humans they pump full of drugs so they forget about their broken bones and concussions… so they can get back out on the field and continue making them money. The NFL’s overarching harmful societal influence bleeds far and wide. But I’ll try to break it down as concisely as possible.
The NFL is Corrupt and Intentionally Duplicitous
A lot of information is flying around these days so I want to set the record straight with some facts about just how corrupt the NFL really is. I used legitimate sources, including files and reports from an investigation done by Congress itself, like this one.
Basically, when scientists started publishing their discoveries about a link between playing football and traumatic brain injuries that resulted in an array of horrible symptoms including early death, the NFL tried just about everything in their power to make everyone believe that it wasn’t true, including: restricting funding to research projects for CTE, creating their own erroneous “studies” that stated that there was no correlation between brain injuries and football, omitting key facts and studies, and using a slew of other scare tactics and threats targeted at scientists and companies (including ESPN) that spoke out against the NFL, in an attempt to damage their credibility.
I really don’t need to connect the dots here but I will so no one gets lost: The NFL tried to cover up the evidence of the link between football and horrendous brain trauma because of their own personal agenda of (likely) greed. In 1994, many key football players started going into early retirement because of scares prompted by information related to concussions and head injuries sustained from playing football. This was undesirable for the NFL for a number of reasons. So they did what any corrupt industry would do: lie, cover it up, and deny – so players would keep playing despite their horrendous head injuries and so the general public would keep supporting them. The NFL’s priority is not honesty, science, or the well-being of humans – it’s clearly something else (status/money/greed). And this is nothing new. This tactic is unfortunately highly effective and has been (and continues to be) used by the tobacco industry (“Cigarettes are harmless! Just go check out all of these “scientific studies” we’ve made up! Also anyone who doesn’t believe us is a quack!”), the meat and dairy industries (factory farming), and big Pharma.
The NFL & Tobacco
Here is a really in-depth report by The New York Times that is definitely worth reading. It discusses a chronology of sorts surrounding the NFL CTE scandal and some other really important associations between the NFL and the tobacco industry. But the gist is: The tobacco industry is to the NFL, as Trump is to his growing list of appointed staff (some of which are now in jail). They work together in any capacity they can, share advisors, members, and lawyers, and probably discuss and share shady business practices. Also, the NFL sent a threatening letter to the NYT trying to force them to remove the article through legal scare tactics. The New York Times kept the article up and stood firm in their assertions.
The Maltreatment of the Players
The NFL is like a mob boss who is looking to pimp out anyone and anything.
They entice young exceptional athletes with appeal of status to join the NFL (because society tells us that the ultimate success in life is fortune and fame). Then, when the players, inevitably sustain head injuries and broken bones that would normally render them unable to continue playing, they pump the young athletes full of prescription drugs to stay “competitive” and remain in the game. Then, once the players are no longer of value to the league, the NFL sends them off to cope with their degenerative brain diseases, (many already poverty-stricken and suicidal). And if said players band together to bring a lawsuit against the NFL? They lie, deflect, and postpone the trial and or associated payments owed to players who won their cases… generally until after they have passed away.  As completely heinous and unbelievable as that sounds, it is the uncomfortable truth. You can read about this entire process in depth here but that is the summary of facts that have been corroborated by numerous studies, lawsuits, and players themselves. The simple fact is that the lives of football players are seriously diminished after their stint as an NFL player is over, many with associated drug addiction problems, most with CTE, and many without the ability or resources to self-sustain.
The Punishment of Kaepernick & The Deliberate Disregard of Racial Injustice
At this point everyone is aware of Colin Kaepernick and his bold stance for justice and equality by taking a knee during the National Anthem.
This is an entirely different topic so I will keep this short but after he started taking a knee in 2016, (and after many associated and troubling ramifications by the NFL) Kaepernick hasn’t be signed since he became a free agent in 2017. Last year Kaepernick (and Eric Reid) filed a grievance against the NFL, charging that the owners conspired to shut him out due to the protests.  After many players joined in on Kaepernick’s protest, taking a knee during the anthem, the NFL owners decided last May that any players who didn’t stand for the anthem would be fined…Unless of course they wanted to protest by staying in locker rooms during the anthem, away from public eye… which defeats the purpose. After, the players filed a grievance against the NFL for infringing upon their rights, the commissioner, a particularly unlikeable character named Roger Goodell, relayed that the NFL would hold the policy until further notice.
Again, to connect the dots – The NFL tried to silence and punish players both through covert tactics (not signing free agents that otherwise were still valuable football players) and by issuing a policy that tried to encroach upon their rights.
The NFL’s Tolerance of Violence Towards Women, Treatment of Women in General, and Lack of Gender Equality
The NFL has been particularly pathetic with their regard and treatment of reports regarding gendered violence against players, concerns and efforts to prevent and address domestic violence, and criticisms about “mismanagement” of funds regarding donations towards breast cancer awareness. This is all in addition to, problems with sexual harassment and (here’s the biggie) discriminatory treatment of the cheerleaders based on gender. At this point, none of us should be surprised. Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar given that we are living within the bounds of a patriarchal society. However here are some things you should know:
- The NFL has had a long history of treating it’s cheerleaders like garbage. From objectification and hyper sexualization, to extensive/overbearing rules that reach into their personal and social lives (including social media), pay that is hardly above minimum wage, and oppressive conditions like regular weigh-ins and “jiggle-tests.”
- The Saint’s Cheerleader handbook states, “if a Saints cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player arrives afterward, she must leave.”
- The New York Times reviewed cheerleader handbooks, some of which included rules that forbid the use of sweatpants in public and any social interaction that was “above and beyond cordial, polite, professional interaction” with or dating of the NFL players including texting and social media. Not shockingly, there are no such rules for the NFL football players themselves.
In short? The NFL is about as trustworthy, righteous, and morally driven as Voldemort… or Trump and his band of serpent cronies.
What’s So Bad About The Super Bowl?
Almost everything is the answer. The main issue is that it is a product of the NFL. The thing is: conceptually, getting two of the “best” groups of people together to compete against one another to discover which one is somehow “better”, kind of makes sense. Let’s absolutely celebrate and watch extraordinary humans demonstrate their athletic ability through teamwork and strategy! But that’s not really what the Super Bowl is all about.
The Super Bowl has become this giant display of nationalism and consumerism. It’s become a steroid, botox’d version of a sport championship that bukakkes the spectators with unhelpful subliminal messages and corporate agendas through propaganda. When we watch the Super Bowl, we are not just being entertained through supreme athletic displays, half-time performances, and funny commercials… We are allowing companies and corporations that largely do not have our best interests at heart to grab ahold of our subconscious minds and cram them full of messages that tell us, in varying capacities, that we need them (and whatever they are offering) to be happy, complete, and fulfilled. And in between those messages, we are gathering information based on what people are wearing in commercials, what they are eating, how they are treating each other, and a slew of other subliminal messages we don’t cognitively recognize at the time. The worst part about these messages? They are being approved and selected by the NFL itself… As though the NFL would ever somehow be the beacon of what we want to mimic.
What’s So Bad About American Football?
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in violence. In other words, it is war without shooting.” – George Orwell
Two main things: The violence and CTE.
Humans are complex and kind of, really violent. I believe we all fall on some type of masochistic/sadistic scale of aggression. We like to see fucked up shit… and some of us more than others. Whether we admit it or not, we are psychologically triggered by seeing people cause harm to one another … not only do some of us want to see it, but we want to see more of it! We know it’s not helpful from a personal psychological standpoint and we know it’s literally destroying the physiological composition of these humans we often idolize, but… we continue anyways and then try to attach excuses as to why and divert from the truth. Because as Freud points out, aggression is, in and of itself, rewarding. Aggression is apparently as rewarding as sex. Whether we are watching or directly partaking in the aggression, we are feeling the rewarding effects. Which may point to why we get so enthralled by participation of (both playing and watching) violent sports. And this is something we’ve been doing for a long time… like a Roman gladiatorial combat type of long time. I draw a world of comparisons between the two but I’ll stick to the point and say: Not much has changed other than fashion and the length of time between the deaths that occur because of the “sport.” Cue CTE.
What is CTE? According to the Boston University CTE Center, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920’s (when it was initially termed punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica).” In short, CTE is a devastating brain disease that is directly caused by the repetitive brain injuries sustained while playing American Football both professionally and non-professionally. Which I am sure many of you are probably aware of at this point.
Here’s a fact to latch onto: A neuropathologist examined the brains of 111 NFL football players and found that 110 had CTE.
The scientific evidence is flowing towards it not being a question of whether an NFL player (or others who have sustained numerous head injuries) will get the disease that renders people with memory loss, confusion, dementia, depression, emotional instability, suicidal thoughts and tendencies – but when and to what extent. Which is inherently disturbing. This is where we begin to realize this might not simply be a recreational game or simply a sport for enjoyment. We might be watching people slowly killing themselves. The issues with CTE are far and wide and we continue to see former NFL players who suffered from CTE committing suicide, murder, or demonstrating violence against animals and family members. This is by no means a small issue that we should be dusting under the rug, as much as the NFL would like us all to do. Which begs the next question…
Why Do People Watch The NFL?
Of course there’s a range of reasons, but many of us watch professional sports because of vicarious living in some capacity. We want to witness exceptional displays of athletic superiority that we may not be capable of ourselves. We want to feel like we are apart of some community of extraordinary humans. We may want to escape the mediocrity of our own lives. Skill, strategy, teamwork, entertainment, and of course, aggression are all elements that interest us.
Here’s the deal with humans: Although we rewarded by aggression, we feel less good (less rewarded) about the aggression if it’s not “contained” in a way that we can morally accept. Basically, it has to be on our terms and done in a way that we can justify to ourselves. To witness or partake in aggressive behavior that we feel is disorganized and inhumane, diminishes the levels of reward we feel. We need structure, organization and some basic types of rules for this aggressive outlet. This is where violent sports come into play. That’s why we have rules and regulations against how many times and in what ways you can pummel someone in the ring, on the court, or on the field. So we aren’t instinctually all unscrupulous violent sociopaths, we also have another side to us. A side that wants to support humanity, encourages humility, and embraces camaraderie and athletic superiority in a way that supports a “healthy” outlet for organized and structured aggression. We want to be aggressive, B E AGGRESSIVE! – but at the same time, not overly aggressive and to an extreme that oversteps our morality.
How Can We Start To Make Changes?
Call to Action
- Boycott the Super Bowl – Don’t watch it. Don’t buy merchandise from the NFL.
- Show your support for honest, scientific, and open medical research. Even if it diminishes a sport you love– Voice something through social media, have open discussions with friends, and voice your support for others who are doing the same thing
- Hold the NFL accountable with your purchases or non-purchases – You could purchase things that are anti-NFL or not purchase NFL things.
Here’s the deal: I know very few of you will actually do all three of these because, well… an assortment of reasons but they all point back to elements of confusion, familiarity and selfishness. We are all woefully selfish, subject to the confines of our comfort zones/familiarity, and unfortunately, easily confused and misguided. And I get it, I belong to this category as well. Though I’ve never supported football, my hypocrisy translates to a public, vehement disapproval of rap music that glorifies violence and “thug” behavior. Yet I’ll immediately throw on some DMX after any particularly emotionally frustrating circumstance – Cuz even though I love to be culturally progressive and pay attention to the signals being sent by violent rap music, people be getting on my last nerve and if I’m not gon’ give it to them, I know X will.
As much as we’d like them to be, big societal changes are slow to be adopted and even slower to be practiced. So if you aren’t ready to boycott the NFL in totality, I get it. That might be a big ask. But at the very least be open and honest with yourself and others about what is really happening. Maybe generate or partake in honest discussions about CTE, the fucked up brain trauma these talented humans are suffering for no reason other than the entertainment of other humans. Maybe start to gradually disassociate your identity with your favorite football team. Your worth is far greater my friend. Maybe start to gradually disassociate your patriotism and nationalism with football in general. America is far greater my friend. Maybe start to focus on generating and creating those warm fuzzy feelings of camaraderie, respect for your country and fellow humans, and community with things that enhance our society and enhance our human experience.
You don’t need a reason to get together with your friends, eat too much, live vicariously through others and form playful rivalries. But if you’d like one, you have the power to create one or subscribe to one that has a positive effect on our culture… and not the opposite.
Do the thrills and excitement we gain from observing or playing football justify the cost?
We know better so let’s do better America.
Rest in Peace Junior Seau- You were an awesome player and we had no idea what this sport was doing to you.
Rest in Peace Aaron Hernandez, Fred McNeil, Dave Duerson, Frank Gifford, John Mackey, Adrian Robinson, Buzz, Tim and the many, many others.