By Brian Romer Niemiec
As I wait in breathless anticipation for Thursday night’s first NFL game (I have Antonio Brown in one of my fantasy leagues) I was asked a very disturbing question by a friend of mine at dinner this past weekend, “Brian, do you think it is morally acceptable to be a professional football fan?”
Now, I know you are thinking that I need to find new friends. And you may be right. After all, in one holiday weekend I went to the Boston College/Maine game, yelled at the TV screen Saturday night cheering on Notre Dame, and sped home from the airport Monday so my Ohio State loving wife could see her Buckeyes run away from Virginia Tech with the help of Cardale Jones and the acrobatic Braxton Miller in the second half. I also spent far too much time checking my fantasy teams when the NFL doesn’t start for another three days.
My friend’s question should not have stuck with me through my football heavy weekend, but here I am writing about it this week. His question has stayed with me because, well, he did make some good points…
- Money – A quick Wikipedia search told me that the NFL rakes in $11.2 billion a year. More than any other league in the world. That, of course, doesn’t include the money that exchanges hands through gambling and other peripheral football activities. With the United States and the world facing problems with immigration, migration, poverty, war, and environmental degradation 11.2 billion dollars could probably be put to a lot better use.
- Domestic Violence – It’s not just the high profile cases of the last few years, and the leniency given by both the league and the law, but it is most importantly the macho cultural attitude that surrounds some players and is embraced by young men everywhere. NFL players set an example for young men and women to a degree almost unprecedented in current society. For many, these men are their biggest role models, and they will go to great lengths to look and act like their idols. Are we really comfortable with how some members of the NFL act out in society and on the field?
- Gambling – It’s not even week one in the NFL, but I have already seen too many commercials advertising fantasy football gambling; whether it be by season, week, game, or player. The amount of money and number of players in these games will only continue to grow in the next few years. As more and more people try their luck, what happens to the families and children of these gamblers when their luck finally runs out?
Now even after all of this, I’m still a huge football fan, and my fantasy team is going to destroy Ellen Romer Niemiec’s, Matt Keppel’s, and Fr. Matt Janeczko’s. However, I am now more uneasy about the professional manifestation of my favorite sport, and I will be on the lookout for these effects in my parish collaborative.
My only worry now is that there will be other sports that I love which will also come with moral quandaries. What could possibly be next? Golf, my second favorite sport (hint: golf courses can use up to 1,000,000 gallons of water a day. I’m looking at you California)? To quote Winnie the Pooh, “Oh Bother!”