This month, the American ritual of preseason football practice gets underway for more than a million boys, from teenagers down to as young as 5. If the past is prologue, one or more of these boys will drop dead somewhere before making a single block or tackle — just from their coaches’ over-the-top drills to get them into playing condition and, even more important, to make them “tougher” specimens of masculinity.
In one of the shames of national life, a colliding game meant for self-selected gladiators somehow became a platform for young male aspiration. The output can be deadly.
Irvin Muchnick’s article on the op-ed page of today’s Chicago Tribune can be viewed at https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-football-public-schools-risks-deaths-20230728-26xtmk4umrcvpacu52y5b4rgcm-story.html. It is published alongside a Tribune editorial headlined, “Football, at all levels, needs a culture change in the wake of the Northwestern scandal.”
The Muchnick essay concludes: In a better world, parents who want their sons to pursue this particular extracurricular activity would be required to do so in private clubs — not on the backs of our K-12 school systems, community colleges and state universities. In this way, we would at least downsize a blood sport destined for an unflattering “bread and circuses” historical treatment.
The “director’s cut” version of the article will be published shortly at Concussion Inc.
Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads: The American Way of Death in Football Conditioning will be published October 3. Join us at the launch event at Books Inc. in Berkeley, California, Thursday, October 5, 7:00 p.m.: https://www.booksinc.net/event/irvin-muchnick-books-inc-berkeley
Frank Deford, late dean of sportswriters:
“Irv Muchnick produces magnificent investigative journalism.”
Bob Costas, Emmy Award-winning sportscaster:
“Football’s massive popularity is undeniable, as are the many reasons players and fans are drawn to the game. But what is also undeniable is the game’s brutality and the troubling aspects of football culture at all levels. To whatever extent the reader shares Irv Muchnick’s perspective and conclusions, the evidence and arguments he presents deserve thoughtful attention.”
Robert Lipsyte, former New York Times columnist; author of The Contender and SportsWorld:
“Muchnick’s jeremiad digs deeper than ever into the greed and hypocrisy of high school and college football and the trail of broken bodies left in their wake. His information on the perils of conditioning is essential reading and might save your kid’s life.”