Football & the American Character

by John J. Miller on October 10, 2013 · 5 comments

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

My recent talk on football at Hillsdale College has been adapted for Imprimis as “Football and the American Character.” And it of course is based on my book, The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football.


  • Martha Navarro

    I rarely respond to people’s viewpoints, but I have to take issue with your article in Imprimis. It actually sickens me to think that anyone would encourage football knowing what we now know about the dangers of concussions. So often the players, especially younger players, are not aware of the risks. We get so caught up in the sport that our excitement takes over our logic and reasoning. Why anyone with an ounce of common sense would support people playing a game with such high stakes is a mystery to me. People should have the courage and intelligence to take a stand against football. What a pity Hillsdale College doesn’t see the big picture!!

  • Paul Gardner

    Martha, clearly you did not read (or perhaps did not understand?) Mr. Miller’s article.

    The “courage and intelligence” you call for is at the heart of why Football has made a positive contribution to American life for more than a century.

    Courage and intelligence will be needed to ensure that Football can continue to make a positive contribution to our nation for generations to come.

    Kudos to Mr. Miller for such an articulate, well reasoned argument.

  • JTapp

    I find Mr. Miller’s ideas to be logically inconsistent. I encourage him to consider the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit that many current and former college athletes have signed onto.
    The NCAA has become a profitable monopoly, enriching a few on the backs of the college athletes it supposedly represents. NCAA Division I football players come from households with incomes below the median U.S. income. They are not allowed to earn incomes from their performances, while the NCAA is free to use their likenesses in marketing and video games, and sell jerseys and other gear for years while the players never see a dime.
    Perhaps you’ve never had students in your classes at Hillsdale who were suffering from injuries but afraid to report them for fear of losing their scholarships. Or seen those students passed through so they could remain eligible. What does this add to U.S. human capital? Is this also part of the “American character?”

    (I would also remind him that the NFL gets tax breaks because it is legally a non-profit.)

    His argument about the “American character” breaks down when you look at civilizations throughout history. For example, violent sport is also a historic part of Greek and Anatolian culture, if it correlates with sustained economic success or a “better” culture, I don’t see it. Most ancient civilizations saw their entertainers and athletes as their highest-paid members just before those civilizations declined or collapsed. But you apparently think this will make us “better Americans.”

    Dismissing the scientific evidence of the long-term impact of concussions in your second paragraph as “some data” is fairly disappointing. More blatant is your regurgitation of Greg Easterbrook– an hour practicing football isn’t what harms young people, and shouldn’t be the benchmark for whether it’s harmful(!)– it’s the years of violent collisions that make it dangerous.
    The Imprimis has lost a reader.

  • Rob Ramcharan

    Ok you want to talk about football and the American character, that’s fine. Football brings out the best and the worst of that character, sometimes in the same people. High school athletics programs take young men at the most volatile point in their lives, viz., 16 to 18 years old, tell them that because of their size and strength, they’re special, and then exempt them from the rules that govern the behavior of the smaller, weaker people around them. Some of them survive the challenge without becoming thugs. Others don’t. The odds are worse for those football players who attend schools run by cowardly and incompetent administrators who rely on the football players as a kind of Sturmabteilung to keep the other students in line. I remember that environment during the 1970s, and it shaped the character of a lot of people, not all of them for the better.
    This is how we got to Steubenville and the University of Georgia.

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