By Mia Merrill, Sports Editor Aaron Hernandez
is a twenty-five year old who has been indicted for three murders. Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault in two different states. Michael Vick owned a dogfighting ring, and murdered several dogs. Ray Rice physically assaulted his fiancé. Three of these men are still employed by the National Football League (NFL).
So why do we, as citizens of the modern world, still watch football? Why do we gather together once a week and worship at the altar of hyper-masculinity and glorified violence? Can hometown pride really excuse all of the assaults and arrests? Can tradition override human rights?
All right, I know, that’s too many questions. And the American public is probably not going to stop watching football unless God comes down and tells them to – and even then, people would be more inclined to just stop going to church. So we’ve got two unchangeable parts of a system: players who won’t stop misbehaving, and fans who won’t stop rewarding the players. It’s worthless to tell people to stop watching football, to stop buying the jerseys of players who’ve committed crimes or otherwise screwed up in the public eye. If those of us who have grown disenchanted with the game could try to understand why it has remained appealing, we may become less judgmental.
When I returned home for a weekend this semester, I saw my mom go through her usual football routine: donning the jersey of her favorite player, watching the pre-game shows, scrolling through her fantasy lineup online, and then finally settling in to watch the big game. But this time, I wasn’t rolling my eyes and shutting myself up in my room to avoid hearing her victory cheers. I noticed that my mom was more relaxed while watching the game than she had been all weekend. Even though I disliked the game – and was still angry over the Ray Rice controversy, despite my home team of the Ravens relinquishing him from his duties on the field – I appreciated how happy my mom was because of it.
Just as working out releases endorphins and can make us happy, reading a book can make us forget about our worries and taking some time to ourselves can rejuvenate us, watching a team sport like football can be therapeutic. Football provides its fans with a sense of community. The fans are united for a common purpose, and may even feel like they are the ones playing the game and fighting for the cause. It can be a distraction from stress, or just something to look forward to. It can make people feel like they are not alone.
So even though my anger at some football players and at the NFL has not subsided, and even though many people share this anger, I understand the importance of watching football. You never know what some people may need to do to relax and to find peace in their day-to-day lives. For some people, that may be watching a game with some pretty corrupt players sponsored by a pretty corrupt organization. But if it makes people happy and able to live their lives, football may be worth it.