MY ANGLE: Team first, brain damage second – I’m swearing off football forever (maybe)
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It’s Sunday – the one day of the week when I almost never have to be anywhere. Even though this often turns into my study day, it also becomes my day to sit back, relax and watch some TV.
And on Saturday afternoons and Sundays from September to January, I devote my TV time to one thing and one thing only: football.
That’s right, the game that took Sundays away from the Catholics.
In addition, I constantly look up standings, rosters and statistics to not only better understand the game but to predict the winners of the NCAA playoffs and the Super Bowl.
However, over the summer, I decided to try to overcome my addiction.
It’s not that I think football is taking too much of my time – because it isn’t; it’s not because my favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, is trash – even though they are; and it’s not because I am protesting the NFL because I believe the New England Patriots cheated – although they did.
It’s because of a Nigerian-American physician’s findings on brain damage caused by the most viewed game in the United States.
I met Dr. Bennet Omalu in March 2016 at a private screening of the film “Concussion.” The film tells the story of Omalu, a forensic pathologist, performing autopsies on the brains of Mike Webster and other retired football players who had broken the law. He concluded that many had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is a disease afflicting those who have suffered repeated concussions, such as boxers, football players and people in combat. CTE causes the brain to deteriorate, leading to erratic behavior, poor judgment, aggression, depression, lack of balance and dementia.
I used to shriek in delight at reruns of hard hits and deadly tackles. But since learning the deeper impact, I have lost my adrenaline.
But it isn’t easy. Even as I write this, I’m tempted to open a new tab and glance at the NCAA Top 25 or the NFL preseason rankings, hoping the 49ers have improved from 31st of 32 teams.
But I won’t. OK, that’s a total lie. I have the ESPN app and get football updates every day. But it doesn’t matter because I have not watched a single NFL season game.
OK, my not watching a single NFL season game is sort of stretching the truth because as I’m writing this, the NFL season hasn’t officially started.
And the temptation just gets worse.
I watched one preseason game. It doesn’t technically count because it has no meaning, but it still breaks my vow.
And I haven’t even mentioned NCAA football yet. My dad, a UCLA alumnus, is an avid UCLA football fan and watches all of their games.
Three weeks ago, he turned on the UCLA/Texas A&M game, and I stood my ground and stayed in another room.
However, it just happened to be the game of the century, since UCLA made the second largest comeback in NCAA history. So, of course, I watched the fourth quarter.
But that’s it, no more. Not until the 49ers are good. Then, if they play them, maybe I’ll watch one Patriot game a season. Just one.
—By Jackson Margolis