by Irvin Muchnick
Matt Chaney, a good friend of Concussion Inc., and equipped with a uniquely informed voice on that piece of American exceptionalism and insanity known as football, just published an historical piece at Vice Sports that should be read by everyone. See https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/teddy-roosevelt-loved-football-except-when-it-brutalized-his-son.
What the article highlights is that many football advocates are like the “chicken-hawks” of foreign policy: they call for orchestrated violence from a safe distance. Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, was no chicken-hawk; he had served bravely in the climactic battle of the Spanish-American War, the booster rocket of 20th century imperialism. But the story of TR as the savior of early football is a myth wrapped inside a hypocrisy, and Chaney punctures both.
This narrative is rooted in the sport’s incubation as a national obsession in the Ivy League, where manly men were shaped for upper management of the plutocracy. It persists in the current debate over the exorbitant public health toll of traumatic brain injury as divertissement. Typically and falsely, TR’s intervention is cited as evidence of football’s ability to evolve, fix itself, and make sure parents don’t have to worry about the safety of their kids. But as Chaney documents, the fixes are always psycho-social band-aids and the worry remains for all those not privileged enough to belong to the “do as I say, not as I do” crowd.
Read and enjoy. And a tip of the hat to Vice for again proving that it has an affirmative action plan for sports conversation slightly off dead-center. Of course, it helps when you’re talking about something at least 100 years old, allowing it to be pigeon-holed as “revisionist history.” (As readers of this site know, Vice commissioned and then wimped out on a 2014 piece by me exposing the sexual abuse cesspool of USA Swimming; see https://concussioninc.net/?p=9501.)
For those of you keeping score, I look forward to catching up in person again with Matt during a trip later this month to Missouri, our shared home state. I’m sure any dual sighting of us will send property values plummeting all around the Lake of the Ozarks.