Is Football Really a Family Sport?

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Is Football Really a Family Sport?
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Suh giving thanks.

I love football. The sheer physicality, the strategy, the solid satisfaction of a good tackle or short run gain, the exhilaration of a perfectly placed and caught long pass.

But on Thanksgiving, the broadcasts turn pious and righteous, pronouncing how football is a family sport. To prove it, the networks run endless blather about multi-generation football families and how the best feeling in the world for an NFL alumnus is to watch a son play football.

Sorry, that comes across as a load of crap.

Those guys go out on the field smelling blood, wanting to rip the opposing players’ heads off. The only family-oriented thing about that might hearken back to caveman days when brutalizing the enemy meant eating for another month.

I think the guys going on and on about it being about family are either just chosen by network marketing flacks to fill air time, or they’re justifying their involvement in a truly violent and unforgiving sport. The long-suspected side effects of the violence, which in fact destroy men (and their families) at an early age, are only now being taken seriously.

Honestly, I have nothing against the essential brutality of the game, except like yesterday when it devolves into sheer bad-sport bullying, when the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh pounded Green Bay Packer Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the turf repeatedly, and then kicked his arm for good measure. Not cool, dude.

Also, these pro-family profiles prominently exclude something essential, at least to me: females.

There isn’t much choice, of course, since for the most part, females don’t play football. Certainly not college or professional football, with all the attached glory and symbolism that define so many men in the sport.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Clay Matthews

Essentially, it’s a great family sport that excludes half the human race.

The only time women are mentioned, usually, is when someone’s grandma or mom was some guy’s “rock,” supporting him by driving him to practice or feeding him plenty.

Of course it isn’t much different in other sports, like baseball, where playing catch with one’s dad was as holy as it’d get.

Then Pop Warner, or Little League, and so on... What would all these boys have done without these structures in place to help mold them into men?

They’d do what girls do. Find other interests and immerse themselves in them not for the greater glory, but for personal satisfaction and enrichment.

Looking at it that way, maybe all these pro players never really had a chance to do what they wanted to, in their hearts. I mean, if you’re someone like Clay Matthews, what chance do you have of actually listening to your heart when every last thing genetically predisposes you to playing in the NFL?

And you gotta wonder how thrice-divorced Terry Bradshaw (and father of two girls) felt listening to fellow boothmate Howie Long (whom I admire) talk reverentially about his three sons, with one recently joining the St. Louis Rams.

Sure, there are other, more pressing issues, like how badly did Nickelback get booed at halftime yesterday before Fox cut away to spare everyone embarrassment?

I’m just calling out the networks for making the NFL into some sort of wholesome entity founded on love for one’s family. That’s bunk.

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