Maybe football is similar to nicotine or crack cocaine or heroin.
I don’t know. I’ve never smoked a cigarette or tried cocaine of heroin but know all are very addictive. So is football.
I first watched football as a kid in the 1960s. I don’t recall the first game but it was certainly on a small black-and-white set with rabbit ears on top and it might have been before the invention of instant replay and was certainly long before that wonder of technological wonders – the super-imposed yellow first down line.
The first game was like a gateway drug, opening me up to more and more powerful doses.
I always needed more. Another game. Another long touchdown pass. Another stirring Hail Mary pass to win a game as time expired.
On 1960s Sunday mornings in the fall I watched taped highlights of Notre Dame’s Saturday games. It was amazing. At least back then. Highlights of the previous day’s game on TV on Sunday morning!
This was long before ESPN, of course. Not to mention the Internet. The football habit remains ingrained in me, something beyond my power, at least so far, to kick.
Yes, I know now more than ever that football is very bad for human brains and bodies. I know about CTE and concussions and I have read the stories and seen the television profiles of former players now dying or dead from ALS or other degenerative diseases.
I know about the early onset of dementia in many players. I’ve read about players who suffered so severely from CTE that they killed themselves.
I wince at the brutal hits and gasp when players stagger about woozy from blows to the head or a thudding headfirst plunge to the grass or artificial turf in some faraway stadium.
Yet, I can’t pull away.
Oh, I’ve cut down on my viewing but haven’t been able to quit totally. Not yet. I’m headed that way. I think.
I’m not alone. Tens of millions of other Americans are also addicted. That doesn’t make it right.
If I were a better person I’d kick the football habit. But I’m not that good a person. I still need my football despite my concerns.
This past weekend I was back to my old habits despite thinking of dropping football altogether.
There I was Saturday evening on the couch in the Hovel, my little book-cluttered Fort Myers condo. The Tennessee-Florida game was in the fourth quarter. It was close, the issue undecided until the clock clicked to 0:00..
The pageantry of the college game was on full display. The Gators won on a miracle 63-yard touchdown pass rom quarterback Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland that stunned Tennessee. and gave the Gators a 26-20 victory.
This is why I watch. This is why I’m addicted. It was as exciting as sports get – the game on the line and an implausible play to win as time expires.
What will happen to the young men who played in that game? I suppose most will be fine. The very best players in the game, the ones good enough to reach the NFL, will face more years of vicious hits. They’re the ones most susceptible, I imagine, to cumulative brain trauma, to the horrors of CTE.
But I watch. …
On Sunday I was back to my NFL habit. Oh, I didn’t watch much, not anything close to an entire game. Just snippets of a few games.
But I watched.
Yes, I weary of the hyper-macho posturing of so many monomaniacal football coaches, men who apparently care about one thing and one thing only – football. Nick Saban springs to mind.
But I watch and will watch again.
It’s my habit, my drug, something I just can’t kick.
I should but I can’t kick it. My football drug is so easy to access and doesn’t involve meeting armed drug dealers in dark alleys at 3 a.m. It doesn’t involve needles or breaking laws or sitting with smoke swirling around my head.
Simply press down on the power button on my remote, click to the right channel and watch again and again and again. …
Watch again as brains are scrambled and knees shattered and bones broken.
I should quit the habit. But I can’t. I’ll watch again.