Dear Americans: Whatever You Do, Don’t Ban College Football
Why Malcolm Gladwell doesn't know what he's talking about.
May 26, 2012 - 6:00 am
Banning college football is un-American.
Being European, I can’t help but wonder over recent debates in the United States about the NFL and college football. Increasingly more analysts believe that these sports should be banned, or at least ‘reformed’. The latter of course meaning that they’ll lose what makes them unique and appealing to sports fans everywhere.
Now, make no mistake about it: I’m just as convinced as the average Joe that football is a very dangerous sport indeed. But why did this fact take analysts by surprise? Why do they make such a big issue out of concussions and other football-related problems? Is it a matter of them wanting to wash their hands in all innocence?
I still remember the first time I watched the NFL: I was shocked – shocked. These weren’t athletes, they were gladiators. Anyone not blind could see that they were out to hurt each other and that the crowd loved them for it.
Once I got into the NFL, I started watching college football too. It was just as great, if not better, simply because it’s less commercial. These youngsters were trying to prove themselves; they wanted to be the best they could possibly be, while hoping for a professional career in the NFL. They were willing to run through brick walls to reach their goals.
Of course, they too were taken off the field regularly. One had a concussion, another a broken leg. Some of the injured players were probably scarred for life. That much was clear.
But that’s their choice. What’s more, their freedom to make that choice is what makes America… America. That’s what that great country of yours stands for: the freedom to pursue your own happiness, regardless of what know-it-alls think.
That’s why I can’t quite wrap my head around articles such as this interview in Slate about college football. The interviewee, Malcolm Gladwell argues that college football should be banned:
The factor that I think will be decisive is the head-injury issue. Colleges are going to get sued, and they will have to decide whether they can afford their legal exposure. That said, the issue ought to be how big-time college sports subverts the academic mission of university education.
College football has become indistinguishable from professional football—which is the problem. The only justification for college sports is that they are structured in a way that enhances the social and academic experience of getting an education. A sports program using semiprofessional athletes, and running on a budget of $50-plus million a year does not fit that description.
Not true, Mr. Gladwell: the only needed justification for college sports is that they teach students and athletes to be the best they can be. That’s a skill they can use in every career. Yes, in professional sports of course, but also in business.
Like many others, I share the concern for football players’ health – be they NLF or college players. But to outlaw college football, just because it may not be as healthy as, say, fishing is, well, simply un-American.