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Monday, September 22, 2014

Beleaguered League

Today's post is shared from
For several years now, sports fans of a certain cast of mind have been declaring their intention to quit watching professional football, on moral grounds. What cast of mind is this? A rare or, perhaps, hypocritical one, to judge by the numbers, which show ever-higher TV ratings for the N.F.L., in spite of the drumbeat of grim news from neurological labs, trainers’ tables, and police blotters. Evidently, unease has emboldened only those whose allegiance to the gridiron was notional in the first place. Either that or all the discussion of modern-day gladiators has produced a rubbernecking effect, in which we keep tuning in to see if the decline of the nation’s most popular form of entertainment is finally upon us. (It is not—yet.)
The trouble with football-related brain injury is one of abstraction. The real damage is separated by years from the jarring (but thrilling) impact that we watch in real time—and, even then, it’s a game of odds. Nearly thirty per cent of players, by the league’s recent admission, will suffer from accelerated cognitive impairment. Yet, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, N.F.L. veterans still live longer, on average, than the general population. (They are wealthier, for one thing, and in some senses healthier—less prone to respiratory and digestive diseases, less likely to commit suicide, even.) Those retired linebackers who report...
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