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Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto (2014)

Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto (2014)

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4.1 of 5 Votes: 5
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161219415X (ISBN13: 9781612194158)
Melville House

About book Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto (2014)

"Football is the most popular thing in America. Not the most popular sport. The most popular *thing*." -- Scott Van Pelt* * * * *Football and I have a long-standing history. I've spent the last twenty years attempting to care about it, and it's spent the last twenty years being totally incomprehensible, completely inaccessible, and downright boring to me. I really did make an effort, too. It just never paid off. When I went to years'-worth of games to watch my brother play on his high school team, I spent the time he was on the field fuzzily trying to follow the action while wondering if he would get hurt; I spent the time he was off the field being bored and cold and, as often as not, damp from perpetual rain and fog and drear. When I went to friends' homes to watch a game (which, admittedly, did not happen often), I would try to watch the screen, try to pay attention to their explanations, but would invariably find my mind wandering at the boredom of it all. I spent my first Super Bowl rooting for the wrong team. (I wanted to root *against* the team that had beaten the Philadelphia Eagles, because I'm a Philadelphia native, but I screwed up and ended up cheering on the team that had beaten the Eagles and cost them a chance in the Super Bowl. Oops. If I had cared more, it might've been really embarrassing.)Football and I are not meant to be, is what I'm saying. I've tried, and failed, and tried and failed again, and I'm finally coming to accept that I will forever be on the outside looking in at this particular national obsession. Which is not always a particularly fun place to be. So it has to be admitted that I didn't pick up this book because I was a football fan hesitantly asking some hard questions. I picked it up because I got sick of feeling like I am the only person on the planet (or at least in this country) who doesn't think football is Awesome On Toast, and I was hoping to soak up some smug vindication from the read. Maybe I can't force myself to join the football fandom community, but at least I could feel superior for not liking it in the first place. Opa!So maybe it was kind of my just deserts that this was such a tough read. The building research that points to football resulting in serious (and permanent) brain injuries drove sports fan Steve Almond to write "Against Football," and that issue is the backbone of the book. But he touches on many other issues, too, none of which made for easy reading. There were stories of injuries that were graphic enough that I had to set the book down and turn away. There was information on the incredible lengths gone to by the professional football industry to become the financial giants they are (do you know that the NFL is registered as a *non-profit*?), which was, to a non-fan, shocking and infuriating. There were questions raised on issue of racism, sexism, homophobia, and a cultural love-affair with violence that had me trying to decide upon answers that I didn't have.And Almond doesn't necessarily have the answers, either. At several points in the book, he compiles whole *lists* of questions that he does not answer -- but his intention, after all, is to raise the issues for discussion, not necessarily lecture on what he personally thinks the answers are. And, to be fair, his opinions certainly do come through, and they're not opinions I always found myself agreeing with. He mentions being the son of two psychoanalysts; it didn't surprise me that all of his theories on the deep-seated issues of our nation's football obsession were always ones I agreed with. On the other hand, as someone who just simply *does not get* football, does not get the *appeal* of it, it was interesting to read one lifelong fan attempt to dissect what made the game so beloved to him personally, and his best guess as to the appeal it has for the football fans of the nation.Ultimately, the back of the book spells it out: football is one of our nation's sacred cows. It is not a thing to be questioned, even with mounting evidence as to the harm the game does to its players. So I respect Almond for asking such questions, and I hope that books such as these help us start moving towards some answers.Because, much as my little football-hating heart might love it, we don't actually need to get rid of football. We just need to dial back the dangers. Weight limits for players, make tackle football a game for older students, get the freaking NFL out of the "non-profit" status. It could work. It could be better.For my part, no matter what they do, I still won't like football. But that's my problem. A larger issue than that is addressed in this book, and it's an issue worth being looked at by all us Americans.Even by those of us that prefer baseball.* * * * *[From the book:]"[Sports pundit] Bill Simmons is a smart, compassionate guy. And like a lot of smart, compassionate guys, he is genuinely troubled by the damage done to football players. But what he's doing here is pretty bush league. He's performing that old American jujitsu: using acknowledgement of a problem as a form of absolution. He's letting himself, and the rest of us, off the hook."But Bill Simmons knows the truth: *we* set the line. We, the fans. Not (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell. Not Congress. Not some squad of avenging lawyers. Us." I’m in the same boat as Almond, I’ve been struggling for years to quit the NFL. I was able to go cold turkey for a time last season after watching PBS’ excellent documentary “League of Denial.” But once the playoffs started I fell apart, and this season I’m now back to my old 2-4 games per week habit. Never trust a junky.Almond’s arguments against football go beyond concussions. He’s also fixated on the NFL’s nonprofit status, the league’s undue influence on education in high schools and colleges, and the political clout it has nationally and locally. These arguments aren’t new, but they are well packaged and delivered with a list of demands fans should start making in order to chip away at the NFL’s power. On the other hand, I’m writing this with one of the Sunday NFL pregame shows on in the background. Never trust a junky.

Do You like book Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto (2014)?

If you already see the world this way, the book outlines succinct arguments.

nothing new. little on the topic of solutions. boring.

Difficult but valuable to read.

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