Football: Don’t make decisions about it out of fear

Football: Don’t make decisions about it out of fear

At the same time that I’ve known many, many men who suffer from football injuries, few (if any) have expressed regret for playing. In fact, many of them credit football for shaping their lives and character in profound and positive ways and look forward to seeing their own sons take the field. Of course, football does not build everyone’s character (as the NFL’s current troubles demonstrate), and it’s thus not a foolproof rite of passage into manhood, but football does offer something that young men need: an opportunity to show courage.

That’s not to say that one can’t show courage on the basketball court or the lacrosse field or in other, non-athletic ways, but football creates one of the more primal conflicts between your desire to win, to contribute to the team, and the instincts of self-preservation and pain-avoidance. I’ve found for young men, courage is habit-forming, but so is cowardice — to the point where many grown men now sneer at courage or treat its display with a kind of shrugging indifference, perfectly content to let others take the risks necessary to preserve our culture, protect our communities, and pass down enduring values to the next generation. …

[W]hile I should obviously care for my body, the care and feeding of my soul — the building of my character — is by far the most important consideration. Does the sheer joy of athletic competition, combined with the necessity of overcoming fear in the face of real risk, build character? It can and does. Is it worth risks to the body to build character? Absolutely. …

The problem with football isn’t the sport itself, but our changing perception of acceptable risk.

Every parent must make their own decisions (indeed, forcing children into sports they don’t enjoy can cause an avalanche of family bitterness), but if we train our children to believe that pain and risk-avoidance are among the highest of values, then we cannot expect them to grow out of that belief. And there will be fewer and fewer young men willing to risk anything — much less risk everything — to preserve a nation and culture that was built at such great and enduring cost.

Play football or don’t play football, but please don’t make that choice because you’re afraid.

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