Christianity,  Sports

Strachan on the Morality of Football

Owen Strachan has a serious article at First Things critiquing football as an overly violent sport that causes some players permanent physical disabilities or even death. He concludes:

“No one enjoys legalism, but if the costs of football outweigh its benefits—and they well may—it may be best for many to take a step back from it and point youths to concentrate on less violent sports. Perhaps we should go so far as to consider legislation regarding the physical safety of football players on such matters as concussions. Ideas will vary as to what such a measure might look like. However, such a tangible measure, borne of respect for human dignity and concern for the public good, would help greatly in stimulating the American conscience on a matter that presently struggles to hold its attention.”

Read the rest here, and see if you are compelled by his argument.


  • Charlie

    I believe that it is good to raise these kind of issues and questions.

    But I also believe that it does not have be a all or nothings answer. Meaning that we either reject football entirely or give not concern about the physical toll it can do. (I am not suggesting that Owen makes that conclusion, I am just stating the positions we don’t have to reach)

    I believe that the vast majority of people who are in the high positions of football would do something if certain aspects of football were doing something fatal to the players. We all enjoy the hard hits, but we all, also, enjoy the presence of legendary players. If it was proven that it is a good chance people like Peyton Manning could die because of his participation in football there would be something done, I believe at least. Just think of the death of Reggie White. No one wants to see a great player’s death connected with Football.

    Now, several years from now, the feeling might change. We should never think that the culture we live in cannot descend to accepting a gladiator sport. With the acceptance of gory and violence in movies and games we could be just a generation away from it.

    But with the old guard still over football, I believe the best thing is to explore these findings and present them to the people who want to have the game and keep the players safe. So, lets not hind these findings under a rug. Lets explore how we can keep the players from dying while demonstrating their physical toughness in their game.

  • Ryan K.

    I am torn here on this issue and may be facing a tinge of hypocrisy in the future.

    I played football my whole life and have been an avid fan both professional and college for as long as I can remember.

    Yet now that I am a dad I am not sure if I would ever let my child play the sport, especially after reading this Malcom Gladwell article.

    Every year it seems at least one high schooler is paralyzed or killed playing football. I want my son to live a life that is glorifying to God and devoted to mission and service to the Church and his family. I am hard pressed to think that a few years of high school glamor and acclaim are worth the possible consequences. I am not sure it is wise to gamble our children, who belong to the Lord in such a way, when it is not fundamentally necessary.

    Also Nate I think you are wrong in the way you are looking at the danger of football. While there might be other professions that are more deadly, this survey only seems to take into account pros, which very few of those who participate in football will ever be considered. In addition, the shortened life spans to an average of mid 50’s for football players along with the long term consequences of concussions and head injuries must be factored in.

  • Derek

    I’m a football fan, but it was very interesting to hear Troy Aikman say this in an interview:

    If I had a 10-year-old boy, I don’t think I’d be encouraging him to go out and play football. And so I wonder where football is going to be 20 years from now, in light of some of our youth that may not get involved with the sport because of head injury.

  • James K.

    @ Charlie
    “I believe that the vast majority of people who are in the high positions of football would do something if certain aspects of football were doing something fatal to the players.”


  • Tim Webb

    In the last six weeks Sports Illustrated had a story on concussions and brain damage… there was a recent study on high school football players in which they did CAT scans before and after the season, and the results scared me. Read it!!!

    I bleed college football and loved playing high school, but I’m 80% sure I won’t let my boys play it.

  • Paul

    Darby – yes, I hate it when those darn thinkers get up to their old tricks again.

    Nate – the flaw in your argument is that of those 15 jobs, none deliver any real glory and only two could even go so far as to be seen as heroic – in other words, nobody’s just itching to be a construction worker. However, at least for a second, it’s almost every American boy’s dream to be a football player (I’m an odd duck because for me, it has ALWAYS been about baseball).

    Jason – someday isn’t “next tuesday during full pad drills,” where it’s a distinct possibility anytime you’re on the field that for some reason, you won’t be on the field for a long time to come.

  • Fletcher Law

    Reading in this as I am frozen in at home. I might bust my head walking out side. I am drinking a Diet Coke, which AFA has an article today how it will blind me.
    Bike riding, mountain climbing, archery, firing range, soccer heading? Fill in the peril.
    I have been a high school player and coach. My biggest injuries that may call for later surgery are from pick up basketball and track. Jogging can lead to knee replacement.

    Helmet modification would help as far as any studues are concerned. As far as youth football beware of who teaches proper tackling.

    Football is the only hope for training up large groups of American males in this efeminized culture. The list of Christian coaches who influence vast groups of young men is long.
    You will die and your body will break down.
    Football is only as good or bad as those who run your team.

  • Ryan K.

    The only problem with your logic Fletcher is football is an elective to life, while the other activities are just mundane ordinary tasks that do not carry inherent risk of dementia and brain damage.

  • MatthewS

    Different people see different things, even when they are all looking at the same thing.

    Someone who ‘gets’ football looks at the line-ups, the players, the quality of the plays, etc. They have a sense of what is supposed to be, and what actually is. They also have a sense of what sort of character the players are showing, especially if they have played it themselves. They see families watching the game and enjoy the family traditions. Some folks enjoy the cerebral aspects of the stats, history, and trivia. Some of these folks are the ones who run out play a little football as a family on the holidays, out in the back yard.

    Someone who does not get football sees a bunch of neanderthals going boom and a bunch of ill-dressed cheerleaders (some of whom who will meet some of the neanderthals later at Hooters) cheering them on along with a bunch of idiots in the stands who just collectively spent enough money to solve some significant problem or another.

    Same game, different perspective.

    PS – some might see the benefits of trickle-down technology: the equipment and medical research gets top dollar in the big leagues and the advances there do trickle down to average Joes. True of almost all sports, not just football.

  • Ryan K.

    I disagree MatthewS. I played football my whole life and at very high levels. Malcom Gladwell, whose article I linked to likes football also, but it does not change the harsh reality of the danger that lie within football.

    I love the game, and it is my favorite sport to watch, but if I am honest I do not know if I could let me son play it. The risk of shorter life spans, dementia, and other horrible chronic health problems, I just see a very high risk with little reward.

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