Thursday, October 22, 2009

We Might Need to Stop Using the Term Dog Pile

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great piece in the New Yorker comparing professional football with dog fighting. Gladwell's point is that dogfighting and football are like because both are predicated on fact that the participants court severe injury to please others. Football players are particularly susceptible to severe long term brian damage. Eventually society deemed dog fighting illegal and abhorrent because the culture at large could no longer stomach getting its entertainment at the price of suffering dogs. Gladwell wants society to look at the immense suffering professional football players go through and wants to consider if our entertainment is worth the suffering of other people.

I find myself torn. I played and continue to like football. However, I have long been aware of the brutal damage the game inflicts on its participants. As the article points out there are few good solutions to stop the brain damage football players endure. The NFL tries to modify its equipment and change its rules to keep its players safe. I applaud this effort and the intent to keep the players safe.

The problem, though, seems to be one of physics. NFL players are bigger and faster then were just a few years ago. When the collide they collide with great force. I once had the opportunity to watch an NFL game from the field, and the speed and violence of the game was frightening to behold. The only way to counter the inherent violence, and the damage it causes, is to shrink and slow down the game. Only by limiting the size and speed of the players can the basic physics of the game be changed.

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