Football and War: The Greater Good of the Win


In October 2010, Jason Whitlock, a sports blogger,  criticized the death of a videographer who was killed because he was fifty feet high in a scissor lift  on a very windy day filming the Notre Dame football team practice. The writer expressed his concern about the sacrifice of this 20 year old for the sake of analyzing the practice. He asks, “Where is the outrage over this student’s death?”  The coach put the success of the team over the safety of all of the participants…not just his players. Whitlock speaks of the lack of any feeling being portrayed during the newscast. The announcements of the speakers were scripted and read with blank faces.

Perhaps it is because the kids in my home neighborhood quit playing games together by third grade. Perhaps it is because of my asthma as I grew up that I could not participate in any sports. (In the dark ages before inhalers). Perhaps it is just me, but I never learned to understand the “winner-take-all mentality” of the games we allow our children to play  on our sports fields and yes, in our military. It is a mentality that reduces all participants to “things”. The individual’s  humanity is of no concern.

In my humble opinion, we allow and even encourage too much risk taking and lack of concern by the coaches and the captains for those involved.

We act as though the players and soldiers are disposable. In the military, the term they are called is collateral damage. I listened recently to a story on NPR about a young platoon leader who was killed in Afghanistan. Originally there was blame put on his superiors. Then it was put more on him. The script was rewritten. A father is left trying to absolve his son.

Concerning football,  there are the practices of head-butting and  practicing in temperatures that are high enough to cause dehydration and sometimes death. I’m sure there are too many other practices on the football field and the battle field to mention. Winning comes first, safety come second. If they die, it is for the greater good, the greater glory.

Football and war are often conducted with the same intent. In both, the “winner-take-all” philosophy is predominant. The players are used and discarded. The lives of the soldiers are not always the first concern. Players who have only one skill are handled by agents, coaches, and trainers then let go to fend for themselves. Cast out. Soldiers are released from VA hospitals.  As a result, thousands of lives of soldiers and players are squandered. Sports and wars. It’s all the same.

There appears to be no difference to me between the young videographer and the young soldier. They both have families who were left to grieve when death came much too early.

Super Bowl Sunday is next week. It is being held about fifteen miles from my home. There has not been a newscast in the past ten days that hasn’t broadcast the activities taking place in the entire metroplex. ESPN is camping downtown, less than ten miles from my home. The public is being revved into a frenzy. People are coming from  all over the world (the ones who can afford it). They will identify with one team or the other. They will cheer the conquering heroes. Not unlike the people who wait at the airport to cheer the returning soldiers. The football player and the soldier. Is there really a difference?

My life would not be safe if I advocated not allowing our children to play sports, especially football in Texas. Coaches would be outraged if they couldn’t videotape the practices. It was much more difficult to coach before modern technology.

I am simply saying that coaches and captains should have the safety of all …players, soldiers and all others  in mind at all time before the “no guts, no glory” “winner take all”  mentality of testosterone driven minds comes into play. Everyone trusts the coaches and the captains. They should always be worthy of that trust.

There will probably not be any deaths in the Super Bowl. There will probably be injuries. The players will be sidelined and the game will go on. If there are any videographers on scissor lifts broadcasting the performance, there will be no wind in the Cowboys Stadium. Here’s hoping there will be no “collateral damage” during the game. If there is, will there be an outrage? Or will the outrage be muted by “the greater good” of the win?

At least if someone dies, their family gets a hunk of metal to console them.

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