Is Football worth it?

While we gear up for the Super Bowl (I say “we” but I will fully admit I’m not a sports guy) my co-host and new Balloon Juice commenter Dacia Mitchell added to the TWiB! Radio news docket the question about the impacts of professional football and how it leaves it’s players. There was a recent article discussing how injuries in the NFL has  a racial component since over 67% of players are of color. Our resident Football expert Aaron Rand Freeman doesn’t believe we can look at injuries in Football in that particular light. The discussion was really interesting and the call-in section towards the later half of the show was pretty awesome.

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And on TWiB! in the Morning we had  New York State Senator Kevin Parker on discussing the perils of governing in a 24/7 news cycle in addition to a landscape completely changed by social media. He argues that it has less of an impact that we would think.

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Tonight I’m going out with the Wife but I’ll jump in the comments when we get back. Dacia Mitchell and Aaron Rand Freeman will hold down the comment section while I’m out being a good husband.


32 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    For a second I perked up, thinking this was a thread about the Africa Cup of Nations or the EPL season, but alas, no.

    Carry on.

    (Where is Randinho??)

  2. 2
    Dee Loralei says:

    I love college football. I watch the Superbowl, mostly because it’s a social occasion. I was immensely grateful my son never had the inclination or the size to play football.

    But knowing what I know now about the horrific brain damage it causes, I enjoy it much less. They really need to do something about that.

  3. 3
    Loneoak says:

    This is a bit whingey, but I was hoping Elon and fellow TWIBers would be sharing some writing with us rather than always posting audio that I could just subscribe to anyway.

  4. 4
    RedKitten says:

    Up here in Canuckistan, we’ve been having the same discussion about hockey. Say what you will about Sidney Crosby…at least he’s inadvertently created much more discussion about concussions in sports and how devastating they can be.

    All I know is that we will definitely NOT be encouraging our kids to play hockey. Between the concussions, the expense, and the incessant travel…no thanks.

  5. 5
    Loneoak says:

    Anyway, when I chat with Aussie friends about our culturally-preferred violent contact sports, they always imply that US Americans are weenies for wearing padding when Aussie-rule rugby players hit just as hard with no helmet and no body armor. I’m skeptical of that claim, but don’t watch enough rugby to judge it; it just sounds like a Frenchman complaining that Americans don’t have any good cheese when they’ve never had Humboldt Fog.

    So do Rugbyers have the same concussion problems or discussions of taming down the sport?

  6. 6
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @RedKitten: Isn’t telling a kid up there they can’t play hockey like trying to take their guns away down here?

  7. 7
    replicnt6 says:

    Uh, oh. The G-word. Is Cole going to explode? cf.

  8. 8


    At the moment we’re not doing heavy writing (my poor blog space over at The Root is a bit bare right now) but I assure there will be some writing on the future. The idea behind posting shows was to create a space here for conversation around some of these topics while introducing some who aren’t familiar to what we do. TWiB is primarily a media space as opposed to a straight blog space.

    Sent by a late man in a cab who prays his wife won’t kill him

  9. 9
    Brachiator says:

    There was a recent article discussing how injuries in the NFL has a racial component since over 67% of players are of color.

    I suppose, but it’s more about the specific sport and the risk of injury.

    In America, we have concussions. In the UK, they have paralysis.

    In rugby it is spinal injuries from scrums that are the most dangerous (110 rugby players in Britain have been paralysed by playing the game).
    Rugby players are made of tough stuff. Take England’s captain in the last World Cup, Phil Vickery. By the time he retired from rugby, there wasn’t a part of him that hadn’t been bent, banged, broken or twisted.
    During his incredible career, he suffered a shattered cheekbone, broken arm, torn knee ligaments and various strains, sprains, open wounds and shoulder damage and having to cover his face in cellophane in 2007 to prevent scrum pox (a contagious skin infection). That is all before we get on to the three major back operations and a neck operation, which left him in so much pain that he was unable to lift his baby daughter from her cot. He recovered to play in the World Cup in 2007. Then, in 2009, he injured himself so badly he had to retire from the game.
    Since rugby became a professional game in 1995, players have become bigger, stronger and faster. The average impact a player takes in a match now is like being hit by a truck at 75mph, compared to the Nineties when the impact felt more like a mini at 50mph.

  10. 10

    The conversation we has was pretty fairly balanced. Aaron actually played a lot of sports so we had a discussion as opposed to a “boo, this sucks, boo” put down of the sport.

  11. 11
    General Stuck says:

    Is Football worth it?

    Absolutely not, since Art ‘benedict arnold’ Model stole the Browns. total non fan now, but the recent tragedies of suicide linked to brain disease, do command some very righteous attention.

  12. 12
    Loneoak says:

    @Elon James White:

    Cool, I look forward to it.

  13. 13
    burnspbesq says:

    No sport where contact is permitted, and no sport with a small, hard ball that travels at >80 mph, can ever be inherently safe.

    Rotnei Clarke, the point guard for Butler, came within millimeters of a catastrophic spinal injury when he crashed into the basket support in a game two weeks ago.

    My next door neighbor growing up, who was at Dartmouth in the mid-1950s, once told me about seeing Jim Brown break both of an opposing face-off guy’s legs in a lacrosse game.

    It wasn’t too long ago that batsmen in cricket didn’t wear helmets or face-masks; the head-hunting tactics of West Indian fast bowlers in the 1980s took care of that.

    It’s probably statistically inevitable that someday a baseball pitcher will get killed by a line drive.

    It’s probably statistically inevitable that someday a soccer goalkeeper will go up for a cross, get knocked off balance by another player, go head-first into a goalpost, and suffer a catastrophic brain or spinal injury.

    What we can and must do is always err on the side of too much safety if we’re going to err. And we’re not close to that point yet in American football, either code of rugby, the AFL, or hockey.

  14. 14
    geg6 says:


    What could one possibly say about Sid the Kid other than he’s fucking awesome? Seriously, I can’t imagine why you’d phrase that that way.

    I’m so torn on this. I love football, especially the NFL and even more especially my Steelers. But I also know Mike Webster’s family, we saw a lot of Webby locally as he was going downhill mentally because he lived here in Beaver County, and his death and the manner of it and that whole years long saga of watching him fall apart affected me a lot. I’m not one who wants the game to go away or be outlawed, but I am convinced that it will and should be forced to change in some way.

    One of the things that bothers me so much about these conversations is that it is usually only football that is discussed in regard to these sports related brain injuries. But from what I’ve seen in my reading about it and on tv shows that have reported on it (Real Sports on HBO has been on this for almost a decade now), footbal is only the tip of the iceberg. This is a danger in pretty much every sport there is. These injuries are being found in soccer, rugby, diving, gymnastics, baseball…name a sport and there is a cohort that looks a lot like the Junior Seaus of football when you look at their brain scans.

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:


    This is a danger in pretty much every sport there is.

    The risk of injury and the type of injury at greatest risk is not the same for every sport. It may be, for example, that there is a higher risk for paralysis in rugby than in American football.

    But apart from that, each sport needs to be reviewed for how safety can be increased. And yeah, maybe some sports (boxing, for example) should just be outlawed.

  16. 16
    Mattk says:

    @geg6: I hear ya that all sports involve risk, but I think your latter paragraph is a bit of an overstatement. Football is getting talked about more because it absolutely is more of an issue in the sport than in most of the others you listed; I mean, I’ve never heard of long term brain injury issues coming up in baseball or diving – which makes sense, as there are WAY fewer concussions happening in those sports. Sure, they can happen from time to time, but not in any comparable degree – at least one player gets concussed (that’s a verb, right?) in pretty much every single NFL game.

  17. 17
    Trinity says:

    I love football. Watch it all of the time with my husband. My team is even in the Superbowl this year!

    However, if I had a son, I would do all within my power to keep him from playing football.

  18. 18
    MonkeyBoy says:

    “Is football worth it?” – it all depends upon how many opportunities to be “reproductively fit” the current football players would have without football. In some cases getting brain damaged might be a worthwhile tradeoff.

    This is related to analysis of how “live fast die young” makes sense in poor black ghettos. If blacks have a good chance of dying young (or being permanently incarcerated) then reproducing early and often means that at least the population will survive.

  19. 19
    MazeDancer says:


    Agree. Print is easy to skim or dive deep, reader’s choice. One is in control of one’s participation and can determine quickly if one is interested.

    Audio and video require much longer, non-controllable time commitments. Would love to read more from the new guys. But am highly unlikely to click any sound bytes.

    But appreciate the bringing up of the football situation. Even the President expressed concern.

    Saw TNC on “Up with Chris Hayes”, where they discussed the seriousness of the injury level, including with a player who has Parkinson’s. (Which is much more prevalent in football players than general pubic, apparently.) TNC seems quite genuine in his just saying no to watching any football ever again.

  20. 20
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Brachiator: Which really implies that the idea of having player leave their helmets off in hopes that they will play safer is a bad one. The injuries are going to be there regardless.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Dave says:

    @burnspbesq: heck, that almost happened in soccer. Petr Cech had a guy run his knee into his head and it almost killed him.

  23. 23
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Elon James White: Speaking of, do you do transcripts for those of us who can’t (or don’t have the time to) listen? If so, how do you have them done? If not, any way to get a longer synopsis?



    This is a bit whingey

    This is a bit Balloon Juice.

  24. 24
    Brachiator says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Which really implies that the idea of having player leave their helmets off in hopes that they will play safer is a bad one. The injuries are going to be there regardless.

    The notion that players leave their helmets off is not only bad, it’s ridiculous.

    But it is also not true that the injuries are going to be there regardless. The risk of injury may increase due to the type of plays and the fact that players are bigger and faster. Then it’s a matter of physics. More force increases the risk of injury. Padding and helmets help dissipate the energy.

  25. 25
    TooManyJens says:

    While we gear up for the Super Bowl (I say “we” but I will fully admit I’m not a sports guy)

    I eagerly await this year’s “Sportsball Tournament,” sir.

  26. 26
    J.W. Hamner says:

    I’m not exactly an uninterested party, being a football fan and a person who works in traumatic brain injury research at Harvard… but the NFL did just announce a $100 million dollar grant to Harvard Medical School to help determine the health effects of playing professional football. I guess it is fair to view it cynically, but that kind of money will do a lot of good.

  27. 27

    @Loneoak: Apologies for the lateness to the party. My kid exploded.

    I’d love to share some writing, if you’ll have me ;)

  28. 28

    @Brachiator: The reason why I thought removing the pads and helmets might prevent this epidemic of brain injury stems from simply, players are more exposed than if they’re protected under helmets. But after reading about Rugby injuries, now I’m not so sure.

  29. 29


    I eagerly await this year’s “Sportsball Tournament,” sir.

    I’ll totally tune in…for commercials…I know. I suck.

  30. 30


    @Elon James White: Speaking of, do you do transcripts for those of us who can’t (or don’t have the time to) listen? If so, how do you have them done? If not, any way to get a longer synopsis?

    We currently don’t have transcripts but I’m totally open to any transcribing software suggestions. I’ve played with the one on Youtube and it’s just TERRIBLE for my speech pattern but again, I’m so open to ideas.

  31. 31
    brantl says:

    Is Football worth it?


  32. 32
    Cassidy says:

    Is Football worth it?

    Depends. If my choices are football, severe injury at some point, and possible brain and/or spinal damage….and a college education and a comfortable living if not millions of dollars vs. no college, no oppurtunity, and being just another *black man in the South, you’re damn straight it’s worth it.


    some sports (boxing, for example) should just be outlawed.

    I guarantee, that the long term detrimental health of football is significantly worse than that of boxing. I also guarantee that there are far more football players with negative health repurcussions than boxers. Statements like this display not only a fundamental lack of knowledge about boxing (and combat sports), but the world and business of boxing as well.

    *I’m not AA myself. Just attempting to articulate what I imagine the POV.

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