Last night, Deadspin shared a brilliant, devastating piece by IronMikeGallego to the mainpage. Trigger warning: it's about a boxer who died after a knockout on Saturday. I'm a casual fan of MMA and boxing (I don't follow either sport particularly closely but I watch and like the big events), but I'm a HUGE fan of football, and lately I've been thinking a lot about the ethical problems shared by football and combat sports. Especially since the NFL is finally, finally having to reckon with the absolute consequences of head trauma (well, starting to have to, anyway), we seem to be at a crossroads in terms of making serious ethical decisions about the limits of entertainment and sports. I've also been having a lot of conversations lately about when (not if, when) an NFL player will die on the field* (probably, it will be a receiver and it'll happen in the next 10-15 years) and what that will change. The question this piece raises for me is: what happens if it doesn't change anything? What do we do with a sport that might be inherently destructive for its players? Boxing may have fallen to a niche sport for a number of reasons (surely some of them related to the brutality of it), but football is right now our definitive national sport (it should be baseball, but I digress). How do we navigate the moral minefield of spectating something that has the potential (or likelihood, in the long term) to kill the players?
I don't have answers for any of this, but I'm glad people are at least making the conversation happen, even though it's with a heavy heart.
*Attentive readers will note that one player actually has died on the field before — Chuck Hughes, incidentally a receiver. He died of a heart attack. I'm talking about death due to an on-field injury.