Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Food for Thought
The online journal Democracy is one of the best free things on Your Intertubes. The new edition is up and as always, I recommend you check it out. While there are several far more important issues I could comment on, for now I'll riff off of Michael Tomasky's speculations on the future of Foobaw.
Like Tomasky, I'm a lifelong fan. It's just something Americans with Y chromosomes absorb through the pores, and I was into it as a little kid. But now that we know it's turning the players' brains into oatmeal, we have a major problem. We tell ourselves that the new concussion protocols that sideline players until their symptoms clear up will fix it. Well, at least with new rules and stricter enforcement to reduce the frequency of brain injuries. And maybe having kids start later, and have less full-contact practice, and new helmet designs . . .
But maybe not. Probably not. It's not just symptomatic concussions that cause problems, it's the cumulative effect of unnoticed milder head bumps. Maybe the proportion of players who end up with encaphalopathy and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and chronic depression will be lower, but we don't actually know how much lower it can be. Can we comfortably sit in our living rooms snarfing down nachos, knowing that some substantial percentage of the young men performing for our mindless titillation are going to end up veged out or shooting themselves? Yes, this is a problem.
Tomasky envisions future political consequences, not only because of this minor question of traumatic brain injury but also because of the legal and ethical issues swirling around the college football business model and the compensation of college players. He foresees blue states banning first youth football, then high school football. And NCAA football with players getting paid can only work where there's enough revenue, and that mostly means the South and redder states of the Midwest. (Actually he does make one mistake, I think, which is that the liberal Pacific coast could probably sustain big-time NCAA football at such institutions as USC and Oregon.)
The result, Tomasky fears, is that working class families will blame liberals and Democrats for destroying their beloved cultural heritage. I think that's quite speculative, but I do see foobaw becoming more of a divisive cultural and political issue. As if we needed another.
Still, I'll be watching on Sunday.