Football as Ordered Violence

Writing at The Catholic Thing, philosopher Francis J. Beckwith raises tough questions about football:

I’ve begun to entertain the question: should I like football? There is, of course, much to like about it. It is exciting; the players are amazingly gifted; the coaches are like military tacticians plotting to out-maneuver their adversaries; and there is a special pride that arises when you experience your city’s or school’s team on-field accomplishments and the positive national attention that they receive.

And yet, there is the intrinsic brutality of the game. For unlike sports in which physical contact is tangential (baseball, cycling) or organically connected to the players’ performance (basketball, soccer), in football the intentional collision of players is the whole point. For example, a concussion in baseball, cycling, basketball, or soccer is unfortunate, but it is not treated as an expected consequence of the game’s point. In football, it is, as they say, part of the game.

… At what point does a sport’s physicality shift from an impressive display of athletic excellence to gladiatorial exhibitionism choreographed by ambitious entrepreneurs for a jaded public with an ever-increasing appetite for ordered violence? Again, I do not know. But I do think the question is worth asking.

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