Some of my favorite memories at the University of Florida are going to football games. I’d roll out of my bed in Tolbert Hall on Saturdays, and go over to Florida Field to watch the Gators and see them win, more often than not. I will always cherish the memories I had with my friends and my parents, in a couple of instances, at games we attended. Tomorrow, the Florida Gator football team takes on New Mexico State to start their season. For the first time since 1982, I will not be rooting for Florida or any other football team.
After thinking about whether this was a sport I wanted to support in terms of morality, I read Steve Almond’s Against Football last year. He was a big fan but turned against the sport for a variety of reasons. I think for me, the most important one is that of rooting for a sport that is inherently dangerous by its very design and that teams are able to win or be successful through a physicality that hurts people. If you have read about or seen what has happened to some of your favorite players years down the line (in my case, the 1985 Chicago Bears), it is heartbreaking. The toll of concussions and other brain injuries are exponential.
I enjoy watching football; in many ways, it is one of the most exciting games to watch. The traditions are tremendous, as I realized once again when I attended the Mizzou/Florida game two years ago in Columbia with Lisa. A beautiful fall day, crisp air, the cheers, the camaraderie, the worn fan gear, the marching bands, and great plays all made the day great (except we (Florida) got beaten badly!). It was so much fun to be with Lisa on the campus that day. But, for right now until the game or the equipment that protects players is changed, I feel I cannot in good conscience continue to enjoy a sport that injures so many. There are other aspects of the game as well that are bothersome, including the machismo that has made coming out for gay players so difficult.
I will miss this game. It will be weird not to follow what the Gators are doing. I’m sure I’ll probably turn on the TV, perhaps steal a glance. But I’ve decided that Florida, which has one of the best overall programs in all of America, can gain a fan for another sport, e.g., Florida soccer. I’ll still be rooting for Gator hoops and Gator baseball, but this is an opportunity for me to find out about other great Gator athletes (I’m thinking about Abby Wambach, who I was clueless about when she was at Florida, or Ryan Lochte, the great Olympic swimmer who is a Gator). This won’t be completely easy for me. Perhaps if things change in the game, I’ll come back to it.
A final thought is of my mother. Mom came into the room one day when Dad I were watching boxing in the mid 70s. Perhaps it was a Muhammed Ali fight. Of course we were into it. My mother said “I believe that what you’re watching is a sin against the fifth commandment.” My Dad and I snickered. But years later, I realized she was right. Although football does not have the explicit goal of hurting someone so they can’t come out of the corner, thus allowing the other boxer to be declared the “winner,” the injuries sustained in trying to get a ball across the goal line cannot be ignored by me at this juncture in my life.
I respect people who disagree with me, and I may still look at your football posts on FB. Some day I’ll probably take Lisa to visit “The Swamp” and the rest of the campus, to relive some of those great memories. I wish the Florida Gator football team well—not to necessarily win, but to remain injury free in pursuit of a goal that is ancillary to the overall goals of a university education.
Thanks for reading and peace,