The thing that made me uncomfortable about this Super Bowl was that, for the first time, it hit me (no pun intended) how terrible this event is for the athletes’ bodies. Human bodies are clearly not meant to be tackled. Although football does damage its athletes’ bodies, I’m not going to focus on that for the rest of this post. Rather, because football looks harmful should be reason enough for it to make us uncomfortable.
I think that most of us have a natural tendency to think that it is good for human bodies to be functioning as they are meant to. We cry if an accident leaves someone paralyzed. We are upset when we break a bone (and not just because it hurts). It made us squirm when we saw replays of Kevin Ware’s leg breaking in an Elite Eight game last year. I think we react this way because we naturally think it is good for human bodies to keep functioning as they are meant to, and it is therefore bad for something to change that. We, as Christians, affirm that human bodies are good (we are made in the image of God) and physical harm to them is bad.
Taking this one step further, I feel like Jesus would even tell us that it is wrong to take pleasure from things that look like they are damaging a human body. I just can’t imagine Jesus not being disturbed by a movie in which, even if he knows that it is just acting, someone’s arm is broken. I think that we should place such a high value on the health of human bodies that we should find any sort of apparent harm to them (at least a little bit) disturbing.
I can hear an objection: “Yeah. But football doesn’t necessarily look like it’s damaging to the human body. Most contact plays look just fine—someone gets tackled and goes to the ground. Everyone hops back up and gets ready for the next play.” And I agree that most plays look fine! But it feels like a game of Russian roulette to me—each tackle is another chance for a body to get damaged. One play in recent history comes to mind: in the NFC championship game this year, Navorro Bowman’s leg did this awful twisting movement. Turns out, he tore his ACL and MCL (frankly, I’m surprised he’ll ever be able to walk again). Most plays don’t end like this, but it seems to be a pretty natural consequence that when stellar athletes hurl their bodies at one another, bodies get damaged.
Before I conclude, I want to briefly pause and say that if you’re a Christian and you’ve considered this and feel no qualms, then by all means keep watching football. I do not think it is wrong for you to do so.
I realize that people get hurt in every professional sport and that football is no different. Heck, I don’t even know if football actually causes more injuries per capita than soccer or baseball. But it just feels more violent to me. It feels like humans would get hurt playing it. And that’s why I feel like we should maybe be more disturbed by it. After this last Super Bowl, I was left with the question “Are the good things that come from the Super Bowl—the camaraderie, the… (I can’t really think of much else: Glorification of consumerism? Getting drunk and flipping cars? Fatty foods that also damage human bodies?)—Worth the high chances of human body desecration?” More and more, I feel my answer becoming “no.”