Monday, January 25, 2010

The Noblest of the Acheans (er, Vikings)

In virtually every other country in the world, “football” means soccer. For good reason − American football is excessively violent, with a devastating injury toll. Small wonder, then, that we’re almost the only country that plays it. And the violent imagery it promotes seeps into American culture.

(Example: ESPN, in its game-summary of the AFC championship game, said of Peyton Manning: “If he’s given enough protection, he’ll kill you.”)

If anyone needed a reminder of football’s violence, it was on display today, as the New Orleans Saints administered a harrowing pounding to Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Brett Favre. Favre holds nearly every significant NFL passing record, but that doesn’t mean he got any slack. The New Orleans’ defensive players went after him with a passion.

(Baseball may be American’s pastime, but football is America’s passion.)

(Passion, on one level = suffering)

Yet Favre was undaunted by the Saints’ constant assault. He displayed, as an ESPN analyst put it, “pure courage.” If one were to mythologize the game, he was like Achilles, the noblest Greek fighter in the Trojan War.

Like Achilles, however, he was not untouchable. The race does not always go the swift, it says in the book of Ecclesiastes; in the hurly burly of the arena, contingency can intrude. Sometimes in the form of a penalty for too many men in the huddle.


  1. Football is a great sport to watch, but would not want my kids playing it .. "I'll let the other people get injured" ... (-: Rugby is almost as violent -- but we still allow "head shots." With concussions on the rise (or at least, our awareness of concussions on the rise) - football rules may change to make it less violent. Average age of death of a NFL player is about 55 I think .. But the pay is good, and you're treated like a god ...

    Life in the USA!

  2. Canada plays a form of American football, or at least they did 40 years or so ago. They used a 110-yard field. I don't know my URL, so I will tell you here that my name is...

    John Scheirman

  3. John, thanks for reminding me about the Canadian Football League. Last I heard, it was still solvent.

    Murray, you capture the Faustian bargain well. Elevated dementia rates, debilitating knee injuries, and other forms of carnage - yet, for those few shining weeks, months or even years, the approbation formally reserved for gods.