by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Rachel Lu explains why in a Federalist column.
All sports are not equal, and all do not embody the same excellences.
I have nothing against tennis or golf, but those sports cannot replace football, which brilliantly combines high-level strategy, intricate teamwork, and raw physical power. No other modern sport can quite measure up to football for simulating warfare. Beyond that, football is a great American tradition, and traditions by nature are not the sort of thing one can simply choose to replace.
Although he doesn’t think the sport should be banned, [Jonathan] Tobin laments the allure of fame and fortune, which will sorely tempt any young athlete (but especially ones from non-privileged backgrounds) to put his brain at risk. This, presumably, is why he would like fans to stop watching. If the fans give up on football, young men won’t be tempted to play. And isn’t it somewhat exploitative to get your thrills from watching poor kids throw each other to the ground, if you wouldn’t want your own sons doing the same?
I would answer that Tobin is overlooking the enormous good that football has done, not just for the elite athletes, but also for more ordinary boys, especially from hard-luck backgrounds, who found a lifeline to order and discipline in their football team. Many teachers, school counselors, and pastors have reflected on how important sports can be for enabling troubled boys to pull themselves together.
Those boys needn’t all become stars; in fact, they’re likely better off if they don’t. (It’s hard to manage fame and fortune with grace when you’re 23 and lacking a decent home and support structure.) But the experience of playing football teaches kids about work, discipline, and being part of a team. Those lessons may set some up for a much more successful life than they would otherwise have had, knocks to the head notwithstanding.
Tennis and golf aren’t going to accomplish this same end, at least not for very many people. Even basketball has less potential in this regard, because the teams are so much smaller. Football really is extremely good for this purpose, as a physically demanding team sport, which taps into a long American tradition