The Ethics of Football

The Ethics of Football October 10, 2013

The Ethics of Football

This may be one of the most controversial blog posts I’ve written yet. Who in their right mind takes on football in America today? Especially while living in the most pro-football state in America? And yet, that is exactly what an ethicist should do—challenge sacred cows. No, not kill them, but challenge them. Attempt to get people to think reflectively, critically, about them. And certainly football is one of America’s most precious sacred cows.

So why question football? Why raise questions about the ethics of football? I see a few reasons for it.

First, football has grown in importance out of all proportion in terms of the number of people who can actually play it. It is almost exclusively a spectator sport. When I was a kid growing up we played baseball in the good weather and basketball in the bad weather. Baseball was then America’s pastime. Basketball was the favorite high school sport in the state where I grew up. Most boys and men could and did play both baseball (or church league softball) and/or basketball. Sure, boys and men (and even some girls and women!) can play forms of football—flag football, for example. But not that many can or do play “real football.” It takes training, muscles, unusual coordination and equipment to play it. And yet, it has now virtually overwhelmed baseball and basketball in popularity which means most people involved with football are spectators who rarely, if ever, actually play the sport. I think a sport should stimulate people to play it, not just watch it.

Along with that, but secondly, football has become a sport ruled by money. Enormous sums are spent by school districts and institutions of higher education on football. Again, it’s a matter of proportionality. One sport should not be so important compared with other sports and no sport should dominate so much of the money, time, energy and attention as football tends to in educational life. Football players get too much special attention. Football coaches make too much money (in higher education). Anyone who just sits back and looks at it objectively, setting aside passion for the sport, cannot help but wonder whether the amounts spent on one sport are justified.

Third, and most importantly, football is dangerous to players’ health and well-being. A few months ago Readers Digest published an expose article about football and head injuries. This past Monday (October 7, 2013) the television documentary program “Frontline” aired an hour long expose of long-term, serious head injuries resulting from football. The clear indication is that brain trauma is routine, not just occasional, for boys and men who play football. And yet people who have vested interests in the sport are in denial about that—just as tobacco companies were for many years in denial about the deleterious health effects of smoking.

I have to wonder why there is so little outcry about head injury and football when the evidence is overwhelming. Why are health professionals, counselors, in colleges and universities, who dedicate a month each year to raising awareness of eating disorders,  not spending at least some time and energy attempting to raise awareness of head injury, brain trauma, for those who play or want to play football? Could it be because they are boys/young men? Could it be because so much is invested in the sport and it draws money?

Are boys who want to play football in junior high school and high school informed about the dangers of long-term brain damage? Are their parents informed? They should be.

Fourth, in today’s social climate, anyway, football seems to arouse inordinate and even dangerous passions among fans. Every time I have attended a collegiate football game I have witnessed grown men (occasionally women) screaming epithets at coaches, referees and players. I have seen and heard fans standing and shouting “Kill ’em! Kill ’em!” at their own team—about the opposing team. Cursing is common in the stands at football games. It is clearly not “just a game” anymore to many fans.

Sports should be about fun and fulfillment, not winning just for the sake of winning.

So what is my solution to the football ethics dilemma? I don’t suggest dropping or banning the sport—except for children not yet old enough to make informed consent decisions about whether they want to risk the injury to their brains. I don’t think boys under, say, 16 should be allowed to play tackle football. For them it should be flag football. And they should be offered alternatives such as soccer.

However, I think especially Christians should call for a ratcheting down of the intensity of the sport so that it is not so all-consuming in terms of finances, passions, favor (to players), etc. And I think every player should be fully informed about the likelihood of suffering long-term brain injury that is irreversible.

I also think high school and college counselors should promote information about the dangers of football to their student populations. Many college and university freshmen, for example, dream of “walking on” and becoming a star or just being on the larger team. Even if they never play in an actual game, however, they can suffer brain injury just from practices.

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  • Here in Canada, we could easily substitute hockey and it would be all the same concerns. Even though adults are just as rabid of fans as they’ve always been, we are starting to see less youth getting involved because it is ridiculously expensive and even the non-contact versions up to a certain age can still be dangerous. Basketball and soccer (football to the rest of the world) seem to be gaining more prominence instead, and for that I am thankful.

  • Rob

    The NFL and NCAA have definitely recognized the danger of head injuries and introduced new rules to prevent them. The latest round of rule changes in the NCAA went into effect this year. Tacklers may not lead with their head and intentional head-to-head contact can lead to ejection from the game.

    • Roger Olson

      Frequent falling on the head (on the ground) can also lead to long-term head injury.

      • Rob

        Sure but at that point, football only differs in degree from soccer, hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, and basketball.

        The rule changes were made in response to studies indicating where the head injuries came from. Now that the NFL and NCAA have eliminated helmet to helmet, it will trickle down to highschool as there is no point in teaching highschoolers techniques that don’t carry up to the next level.

  • Mike

    Some things to think about Dr. Olson. The last time I attended a youth soccer game, it didn’t lack physical contact. Sometimes, it’s much rougher (and they don’t have the pads football players have). On another note, it doesn’t sound like you voice “Sic’em” much. What would Grant Teaff or Floyd Casey think? Heritic. Ha!

    • Roger Olson

      My daughter was in youth soccer and I recently attended a youth soccer game. I never saw the kind of physical contact one sees in football.

  • Wyman Richardson

    Well, just pull for Clemson. They never hit anybody hard. 😉 (Sorry. Gamecock fan here.)

    You make good points, especially about how sports can bring out the worst in fans at times. (Did I just prove the point, jabbing at Clemson? Nah!) It has always amazed me how vicious and unhinged some folks become over their teams. Seems like Little League is the worst. There you have the normal temptations of fandom infused with excessive parental protectiveness, desires for their kids to be #1, and a good dose of the vicarious living out of the parents’ own frustrated dreams through their kids.

    It’s strange and probably says a lot about the spiritual emptiness of our culture.

  • J.J.

    The scholarships are also very disproportional. By NCAA rules, in Div 1-A (the bowl division), colleges can grant up to 85 (!!) scholarships for football. That’s nearly as many as the NCAA allows for *all* other mens sports combined (no exaggeration). Baseball is allowed 11.7 scholarships, basketball 13, XC & T&F 12.6, hockey 18, soccer 9.9, etc. (at least for guys, the girls numbers are different due to Title IX).

    Think about those numbers. There’s only 11 players on the field at any given time in football. Basically you have 24 starters (11 offense, 11 defense, punter, kicker). So football scholarships go nearly 4 deep for every position on the team. Meanwhile, soccer has 11 players on the field and doesn’t even have that many scholarships. And XC, wrestling, and other mens programs are being cut left and right to achieve gender balance for Title IX since football scholarships are so disproportional.

    • joe23521

      You could argue that without football (to bring in the cash the athletics department needs to operate), most of the other competitive sports would cease to exist in college.

      • BedfordDavid

        I think you could do more than argue I think it is pretty much certain that at most colleges the football program funds all the other sports.

        • J.J.

          Like I mention above, that seems to be a big misperception. The 2010 study showed barely half (68/120) D1A football programs made any kind of money on football. The other 52 lost money on football alone.

          Many football teams lose money on the bowl games too… obviously not the biggies (Rose, Sugar, etc)… the small dot-com bowl games. They don’t pay enough to cover the basic costs for the teams to go, but teams will not turn those down because it means tv exposure which is crucial for recruting and extra practice time that is otherwise not allowed by NCAA rules.

      • J.J.

        I haven’t seen a study more recent than this, but in 2010, 52 of 120 Div-1A football programs *lost* money. The median loss of those 52 was over $2M. And that’s not factoring in the cost for other sports. That’s just making or losing money on football alone.

        • Roger Olson

          I have to delete links I don’t have time to inspect.

          • J.J.

            I understand. I was only trying to cite my source, but I understand your concerns. You do an amazing job posting so often and keeping up with so many comments.

        • joe23521

          That is interesting.

          I mostly follow BCS conferences and teams, and that’s where football generates cash to sustain entire athletics programs at their schools. Basketball is also big and money-making, but is a distant second.

          At the smaller schools where football doesn’t generate as much revenue, I suspect it is also less “big” in terms of culture.

  • Thomas

    This is a timely article for me. I like any other American love sports and particularly football but in recent years I can’t help but feel like the sport has become overtly idolatrous. This was brought home to me a few years ago when the various college football conferences began dissolving and reorganizing themselves all in chase of bigger and fatter revenues generated by television contracts. I realized then that tradition takes a back seat to the almighty dollar. Maybe that has always been the case but at least in the past it was in a hidden-kind-of way. Today it seems like it’s a barefaced reality that people are entirely comfortable with. If you listen to professional football players early in their careers explain why they opt for free-agency you’ll most often hear them saying something like, “I’m just taking care of business.” Loyalty to the team takes a backseat to the dollar. It’s not till later in their career that you hear them saying things like “I want to be part of a winning organization. It’s not about the money at this point in my career.” Again maybe it has always been this way. It just seems like we’ve grown more and more comfortable with the fact that it’s a business and that financial considerations trump everything.

    I think pregame ceremonies say a lot about the state of football too. Watching the pre-game entrances of teams I can’t help but feel like something has seriously gotten out of hand. Football players are put on a pedestal unlike any other. I was trying to remember where I read this but a few years ago there was a Catholic symposium held on this subject. It dealt with how corrosive are the effects of money and marketing are on the ability of sports to instill certain lessons in life, especially the concept of working together as a team for a common goal. We probably can thank Michael Jordan in some part for the present day marketing of the athlete.

    The sad thing is no one really cares. I know this is my experience. I just shrug it off Saturday after Saturday (you can include Sundays too) because it’s so entertaining. It seems like we’ve reached the point where we glorify the athlete and enter into an act of worship every Saturday and Sunday.

  • Steve Ryan

    I may be a little off topic, but the American church seems to accommodate the institution of football. Almost every football team at the college and pro level has a chaplain, at churches for the most part have Super Bowl parties. And we have made Tim Tebow a saint who can do no wrong. We have overlooked how harmful football is. Check out North Dallas Forty to see how harmful football actually can be. Its an old movie, but current in many ways

    • Roger Olson

      I once visited a church on Super Bowl Sunday that had a large screen TV set up in the sanctuary and ended the service early to accommodate watching the pre-game festivities in the sanctuary.

    • AHH

      At my church, a preacher once mentioned in passing “the afternoon worship service, the one that kicks off at 2:30.” A lot of truth to that, I’m afraid.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    This post is like cool water on a hot day.
    Actually, the only recommendation that I agree with you about concerns the passions of Christians. Christians should understand the point at which they move from being an interested spectator to a fan(atic). Hundreds of dollars, countless hours, for what? Are we about the work of God or about entertaining ourselves?
    Certainly there are dangers to football. But there are dangers walking across the street or being stung by a bee or giving a child a bath. We should evaluate the risks and live our lives accordingly, not according to a concerned, but arbitrary, mandate.

    full disclosure: my son and daughter are not allowed to play full-contact sports like football, hockey, and boxing because their parents don’t want them to get hurt badly.

    • Roger Olson

      My concern is full disclosure of dangers and informed consent. Children under 16 cannot make those kinds of decisions. I have no problem with older than 16 playing football so long as they know all the dangers-including the likelihood of long term brain injury. And I wish to see school health officials educating boys and young men about those dangers and injuries.

  • Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has written some excellent and challenging blog posts on the morality of supporting football. He eventually he decided to tear himself away from football fandom because he could no longer knowingly support a sport that led to so much long-term brain injury and death: As he says in that post, it is NOT an easy thing for a lifelong fan to do: “I now know that I have to go. I have known it for a while now. But I have yet to walk away. For me, the hardest portion is living apart–destroying something that binds me to friends and family. With people whom I would not pass another words, I can debate the greatest running back of all time. It’s like losing a language.” I think this can be especially hard for a Christian who finds the language of football to be a vital connecting point for talking to non-Christians. But it is hard to argue with the evidence. To be honest, it’s something I’m still grappling with.

  • And you didn’t even mention how the NFL fleeces taxpayers for its building programs, etc.!

  • labreuer

    I would caution you against saying/implying that we should temper the fighting spirit in boys and men. This leads to apathy. Instead, we ought to fight for something worth fighting for. I like professional sports as a demonstration of highly tuned skills, but not when people simply live vicariously through those sports instead of being conquerors themselves.

    • Roger Olson

      I don’t know what I wrote that provoked that caution.

      • labreuer

        Fourth, in today’s social climate, anyway, football seems to arouse inordinate and even dangerous passions among fans. Every time I have attended a collegiate football game I have witnessed grown men (occasionally women) screaming epithets at coaches, referees and players. I have seen and heard fans standing and shouting “Kill ‘em! Kill ‘em!” at their own team—about the opposing team. Cursing is common in the stands at football games. It is clearly not “just a game” anymore to many fans.

        Why do people act this way? I’m with John Eldredge in Wild at Heart: God gave us a fighting spirit, and we’re gonna use it to fight for something. Remember Wormwood in Screwtape Letters? The researchers in Hell had been trying for millennia to come up with a desire that is 100% evil, vs. having to resort to perverting good desires.

  • joe23521

    Interesting thoughts. I mostly agree with point number 2. Though I understand and appreciate why college football is as big as it is. For most major universities, football is THE sport that brings in enough money to support the entire athletics department. That’s why it is king. (As for the NFL, it is simply show business. Nothing more and nothing less.)

    Also, let’s not overlook the good values football promotes. Team spirit, camaraderie, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, loyalty, etc.

    Has football become TOO big in some ways? Probably. But is it “unethical”? I’m not convinced. Yes, it may serve as an idol for some people (I once heard a former pastor declare football fans as football worshippers!), but that’s hardly the fault of the sport itself. People can and do idolize almost anything; I think it’s a matter of perspective, or the lack thereof, on the part of the idolizers.

    Go Badgers! 🙂

    • Roger Olson

      I didn’t say the sport itself is unethical. You’re reading too much into what I wrote. It’s unethical not to fully inform players that their brains will probably be seriously, permanently damaged.

  • gp
  • steve rogers

    Roger, you may need more than five stones for your sling on this one. I must confess to being conflicted on the matter. There is more to football than play and amusement. Football can instill values such as teamwork, personal discipline, dedication and more. It can be an outlet for testosterone young men to channel aggression positively. It can provide structure and passion to the shiftless. But, if you play football you will get hurt. In my family the list of injuries include a couple of concussions, two major knee surgeries, a broken vertebra in the neck, a broken collar bone and lacerations requiring stitches. And that is only among 5 players at the high school level. So, obviously, there is something wrong with that picture. I don’t know if the game will survive the current scrutiny, but, clearly, some serious rethinking of its role in our culture is in order.

    • Alice

      Don’t other sports that are less dangerous (in comparison) have the same positive effects as football?

  • As a recovering footballoholic (and I had it bad) I agree with you and good for you for braving the storm. I sure wish I had back all those hundreds (if not thousands) of hours I spent sitting in front of a TV screen or in a stadium seat, watching other people play a game. It seems to me that there is a tremendous cost associated with millions of people sitting indoors staring at a television, rather than going outside, getting some exercise and enjoying nature (or reading a good book, for that matter).
    As evidence of our national obsession, the highest paid public employee (by far) in nearly every state is a football coach. In those few in which it isn’t, it’s a basketball coach. Something is seriously wrong with that picture.

  • Van

    Here in Iowa our football team (U of Iowa) is not so much this year, but watch our basketball team go on a tear. LOL

  • Hey Roger, thanks for “tackling” this subject. 😉
    I couldn’t help but notice that you never used the word “violent” in a critique of football. As a Christian ethicist, how come?

    • Roger Olson

      I like to reserve the word “violent” for intentionally inflicted harm and especially use of deadly force.

  • A few more statistics would help but to address your arguments.

    One, football is “important” because it is popular. Popularity doesn’t make it sinful and you really couldn’t regulate it if it was. Why mention it. And, “a sport should stimulate people to play it, not just watch it.” If we all lived by that rule we couldn’t enjoy watching the Olympics.

    Two, football coaches are paid by the same rule as any other high profile professional and they are held to an enormously high moral standard, constantly monitored by regulatory bodies and subject to the whims of fickle spectators. When they do the job well they generate a lot of money for the educational institutions they serve. Leave the coaches out of it. Baseball players rake in more money than football players. Should we sanction BB too?

    Third, yes, football is dangerous but it is also one the most highly regulated and evolving sports in the world. In fact, many other contact sports are following football’s lead in reviewing and changing rules to prevent injuries. Football is a lot better than the gladiatorial games of the past. We’re making improvements! 🙂 I didn’t see the “Frontline” program you referred to but has anyone researched the increase/decrease of incidents with the new rules?

    Four, football fans aren’t any more obnoxious than any other fans. That is a character issue with fans for any sport so it doesn’t really apply. And there are many very decent people who watch football.

    The only real issue for me is the injury factor. And again, I didn’t see Frontline – I live overseas – but until we can quantify the good football does, and the bad it avoids, it is really difficult to judge just how bad it really is.

    • Roger Olson

      I’ve been to a lot of sporting events and never seen the level of fan vitriol in any sport to match football’s.

      • BedfordDavid

        Went to an NFL game last week, and the behavior of the fans made it almost impossible to enjoy, but look at big time soccer in other countries and our vitriol isn’t really any more out of hand.

        • Roger Olson

          Both are out of hand.

          • Maybe, “all fans are out of hand?”

          • Roger Olson

            After all, the word “fan” comes from “fanatic.” 🙂

    • John I.

      The very fact that football can be referred to as an improvement over gladiatorial battles basically says it all.

  • kertime

    Just sayin’: Had Eric Liddell been a football player he would’ve never played… ie, the impact of the sport on the Sabbath

  • J.E. Edwards

    Another fact is that the NFL has the world’s best all around athletes and it is phenomenal to watch. I like what Lou Holtz had to say regarding all of these head injuries. His solution was to remove the facemask from the helmets. The result of this would be less helmet-to helmet hits and tackling would be what it originally was….tackling. Today, it is tackling plus rip the head off of the guy:) It would still be a violent game, of course, and they will probably never remove the facemasks. As for money, it’s ruining all of sports. Soon they’ll be paying college athletes and playing for fun will be all but over.

    • John I.

      Actually, repeated actual contests and comparisons between football players and those in other sports demonstrate that football players are not, in fact, the `world`s best all around athletes`.

  • Chris Thomas

    You really should stick to less controversial topics such as Open Theism or the old Calvin versus Arminian thing; I think you have really ventured out into dangerous waters here!

  • Peter Stone

    As a Brit I don’t get US Football I will just stick with what you refer to as soccer.

  • Norman

    I don’t have much to quibble with regarding Roger’s concerns regarding football. I do know that in small town Americana it was a right of passage for many but not all boys. I don’t recall any serious head injuries but ankles and knees were always at risk as I can attest. Partly this may be due to our smaller size and the amateurism that we embodied. It was one of the best teaching tools for group dynamics, self giving and disipline upon which one can often draw upon as they encounter life. The issue with serious injury increases as one continues into the more advanced stages where it becomes more problematic but not totally. There are pros and cons and Roger raises the concerns that are out there.

  • 013090

    I don’t disagree that it is dangerous and many get too passionate, but one view which you stated which has questionable merit is the view that at Universities they should invest less money because the money should instead go to academics.

    The flaw in that thinking is that there is a reason the money gets invested in sports. It is because of the rate of return on that investment, which is then directed towards academics. I went to a major University with a large athletics program, and there are buildings/academic programs all over that are funded by the football program that otherwise would not exists. Additionally, football and basketball paid for all the other less popular sports, and made them possible. So if anything, sports at these major Universities actually promote academics/education by bringing in large sums of cash that are almost entirely redirected to the school.

    • Roger Olson

      Perhaps so. But I wasn’t criticizing any university administrators. I was calling for a change in the culture–away from so much attention to spectator sports and more toward participant sports and academics.

      • 013090

        I see your viewpoint, and agree. For many, sports becomes their god and their devotion to that god leads to an unhealthy lifestyle/culture.

        Also, to my initial point, I’d add it of course depends on the school. For my school, athletics proved very profitable, but for others (such as maybe smaller schools, or high schools) that may not be the case.

  • kertime

    Just wondering… Calvinist football fans must be a little less rowdy than the willful Arminian crowd?

    • Roger Olson

      You would think so. 🙂

  • I’d like to challenge just one point here. From what I’ve seen, it can be really difficult to train post-pubescent boys on proper tackling techniques (tackling that can deter head trauma). Could it be more beneficial to help kids learn good tackling when they’re younger and their bodies aren’t already heavy enough to do real damage? It’s my understanding that much of the brain damage and spinal injuries associated with football stem from improper tackling (head-first tackling), and that training kids to tackle shoulder first would go a long way to promoting healthier football.

    I definitely agree about the the inordinate investments (time, money, emotion) that go into a sport that most people can’t play in its fullest without a lot of equipment. My sport of choice requires little more than a ball, a bent stick, a pair of skates, and a helmet to play. To have the most fun playing my chosen sport, simply add some cold weather and an icy surface.

    • Roger Olson

      Much of the head trauma results from falling head first on the ground.

      • Better helmets, then?

        Regardless, I’m with you on the overabundance of a sport none of us can actually fully play for fun.

        Of note—NFL football is the only sport in the States that hasn’t struggled with a ratings decrease (with the exception of NHL hockey, but that sport is currently so small that media outlets and marketers aren’t really interested in capitalizing on its increasing popularity). MLB has dropped rapidly in the ratings over the past couple decades, and NBA basketball has declined heavily since Michael Jordan retired.

        Meanwhile, “Monday Night Football” on ESPN destroyed “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Voice” on the Nielsen Ratings, and the Super Bowl is consistently one of the highest rated television events.

        Football is more than a sport; it’s America’s big money maker.

        C’mon, people! Watch more hockey!

    • John I.

      A similar argument (i.e., training boys physical hitting at a younger age) was tried in Ontario (province of Canada) for the sport of hockey. The results of various changes in the ages at which boys were allowed to “body check” demonstrated unequivocally that having boys learn body checking at a younger age does not lead to lower rates of head injury at later ages. That is, it is not at all “beneficial” to attempt teaching kids good body checking techniques “when they’re younger”. It is very likely that the same holds true for football.

      A five-year University of Calgary study concluded Alberta peewee players were three times more likely to get injured and four times more likely to suffer a concussion than peewees from Quebec (at the time Alberta allowed body contact and body checking, while Quebec did not). The study also showed that, while concussion symptoms were likely to go away in 10 days for 80 per cent of the injured players, others suffered for weeks and even years after being hit.

      Quebec (another Canadian province), didn’t allow body checking until boys were older than the age permitted in Ontario (at least pre-2011 among some provincial hockey federations). The lower age limit in Ontario did not result in any benefit. That is, learning to body check at younger ages did not provide any benefit in injury rates at older ages, when compared to leagues that did not allow body checking until later ages. In 2011 the Ontario Hockey Federation banned body checking for recreational players between the ages of six and 21.

      In 2013 Hockey Canada banned body checking for all peewee level players as of next season. In 2013, Alberta and Nova Scotia also banned hitting between peewee players (usually aged 11 and 12), joining Quebec, a province with a long-standing ban on full body contact.

      Knowing what we know today, allowing children within our care to engage in physical contact that often involves head injury is not only unconscionable, but also immoral.

  • Andrew Watson

    I totally agree with you. Lets play Rugby instead!

  • Andrew Watson

    I agree with you on the money problem, especially in high school. I attended a small rural high school where sports were king if you didn’t play one of the big three (Football, Basketball, Baseball,) you were nothing. and football was the King of Kings. Half of the teachers at this school were coaches who had college minors in subjects they taught so the school could hire one person to do both ( the law has since in most cases change so you have to have a Major rather than a minor to teach, but most coaches in small schools here still do double time). Half of those coaches were involved in football. Even the principle was also the head coach of the Jr Varsity team. I had many many classes where the coach either gave us book work in the class for the period and told the teacher next door to listen out for if we caused trouble while he went to do his coaching stuff or several coaches took their whole classes out to the field and had us sit in the stands so they could keep an eye us while they did their real Job. My family moving to a larger town my junior year was the best thing that ever happened to me, education wise.

  • Hi Roger. Many of the sports news services like ESPN are on top of your concerns: brain trauma injury and verbally crude fans. You might even go a step further and correlate American sports with American politics or even American Business. I think it safe to say that the ethics of Christianity usually conflict with most of our lifestyles. Otherwise, Go BAYLOR! 🙂

  • tmarsh0307

    Though I realize that this conversation may be growing stale, I wanted to chime in regarding your fourth point – the passion of the fans. I believe that we can attest that the passion of the fan base is just as strong in other sports as it is in football. From little league rec sports all the way to national and professional levels, fans are passionate about winning. We get wrapped up in the fact that the outcome is not decided, that our cheering can make a difference in the outcome. Yes, there are those who take it too seriously. However, that is the case in all sports. It was not football, but soccer, where one player was killed for an accidental “own goal” in a major tournament. Soccer seems to have some of the most violent fan incidents of any sport in the world.
    I noticed that Truett now offers an MDiv concentration of Sports Chaplaincy. For the degree, do students engage in theological and ethical reflection on sports? Do they do so from a particular Christian context like a Hauerwasian methodology, or is more Niebuhrian in its methodology?
    This is a great discussion, but let’s please not limit it to American football…