Earlier this week there was a shocking report on an NFL football player, Chris Conte, who opined that he would accept a shortened lifespan in return for a career in the NFL. He loved NFL football that much. I fully expected Conte’s sentiment to be quickly repudiated by the politically-correct ESPN, but instead ESPN interviewed two thoughtful, former NFL players – Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards – both of whom agreed with Conte. Both suggested that the quality of their lives was more important than the quantity.
Amazingly, this story has developed little further controversy. No one is questioning Conte’s sanity. And no one is suggesting Conte shouldn’t have the right to make this decision.
But this morning’s SA Express-News contained a Roy Bragg column that attacked the issue from a different angle – i.e., instead of criticizing Conte, the column criticized the American public for idolizing sports and its heroes. Indeed, Bragg compared sports fans to drug addicts:
- “Comparing sports fans to substance abusers might seem ham-fisted, but there are some similarities to consider. Addicts want to get high or drunk right now, and damn the consequences. They want to get high all of the time, and damn the consequences. We, by the same token, want sports all of the time, damn the consequences. Our addiction has created a juggernaut sports economy that feeds off our addiction. Hence the proliferation of sports platforms — paper, online, broadcast, cable — reporting the same trades and injuries and arrests, over and over, 24 hours a day. Occasionally, as a bonus, they mix in some scores and highlights.”
I disagreed with Bragg and left him the following on-line comment:
- “Roy, at least you take an unexpected tack by blaming us instead of blaming Chris. But I think you are wrong because your assertion is based on a hyperbolic exaggeration of America’s love of sports in general and football in specific. I know lots of sports fans and none of them is consumed by their love of the game.”
Regarding Conte’s thought-process and analysis, I expect most young athletes would come to the same conclusion about an NFL career. Giving up some vague future is easier to do than giving up the glorious present. And although I would be disappointed if any of my four sons felt so strongly about an NFL career, I suspect that my only son who played high school football would make Conte’s decision in a New York minute.
As George Bernard Shaw said – “Youth is wasted on the young.”