I think I've been fairly clear about my feelings on the NFL, concussions, and CTE. But I think it's important to keep tabs on the perspectives of those who are, in some form, a part of the game. Here is the perspective of Deion Sanders, for instance:
"The game is a safe game, the equipment is better. I don't buy all these guys coming back with these concussions. I'm not buying all that. Half these guys are trying to make money off the deal. That's real talk. That's really how it is. I wish they'd be honest and tell the truth because it's keeping kids away from our game."
Below is a clip of ESPN's First Take responding to these comments. To be clear on the facts, please feel free to consult our handy time-line
. I post all of this because I think, more than the fact of brain injury, it was the conversation around brain injury that drove me away. I keep going back to Orwell. To paraphrase, profiting from a violent game in which brain injury is a possibility can be defended, but mostly by arguments that we are unwilling to face.
It may, for instance, be true that we actually need the structured violence of football to satiate something inside us. But this raises the question of what we owe those who give of their brains and body to satiate that need. Perhaps nothing more than the adulation and salaries they receive. I don't agree with that, but it's an argument in a way that "Why aren't you suing college football?" isn't. (It's changing the subject, as well as an attack on motives.) Or "Half these guys are trying to make money" isn't. (That's just ad hominem.)
I find the need to deflect and dissemble much more disturbing than the actual violence. I think violence can be defended in a way that dissembling about violence can not.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power