FANS AND FOES
Thanks to Steve Almond for his thoughtful, albeit fundamentally flawed, article on the brutality of football and his having sworn off watching it (Perspective, August 10). What seems lost in his self-righteous rant is the conscious choice that these men who play NFL football very intentionally, and, yes, probably greedily, make. The increasingly disturbing research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its long-term, devastating effects are well known to the players, from the time they have their first rookie orientation with the NFL. Players choose to roll the dice knowing that it is probably the best use of their athletic talents.
The leap Almond makes is that watching football is evil because people get injured playing the game. That is a slippery slope. People get injured in every sport. Is watching all sports evil? Almond is wrong (and contradicts himself in the essay) that people involved in football, including fans, ignore or rationalize away serious injuries. Almond himself ignores and gives no credit to anyone for advances in helmet and pad technology, major rules changes, suspensions and fines for illegal hits, training for coaches at every level to teach techniques to reduce head and neck injuries, successful class-action suits in football and ice hockey, donations of money and players’ brains for biomedical research, and more. Serious and casual fans have followed all of these developments closely. Almond should come down from his bully pulpit and actually work to find solutions to problems he cares about.
All of the reasons spelled out by Almond for not watching football were valid. I would just add one more: A hard and fast rule of American economics is that when money and ethics are in conflict, money is always given priority. The NFL is no exception. Fans are simply following that simple rule, and those who are ignorant of the ethical implications of injuries might be forgiven. The fans who persist without at least some hesitation — knowing that they are supporting a morally questionable enterprise — cannot.
Jamestown, Rhode Island
For a very large part of my life I refused to watch football because of my aversion to what I viewed as barbaric violence. Then the Patriots started winning, and I am ashamed to say I was seduced by the vicarious thrill of being from the home region of such “superstars.” I had read about the effects of violence on players, but as disturbing as that was, I still looked forward to watching “my” Pats. Thanks to Almond’s essay, I have returned to my senses and decided to get my vicarious ego boosts elsewhere.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Miss Conduct’s answer to A.O. in Attleboro, that sales clerks who take calls while waiting on customers haven’t been adequately trained, ignores the possibility that answering the phone is what they have been trained to do (August 10). Many smaller retailers require cashiers and clerks to take all phone calls. If faced with a simple question, the clerk may decide to answer it while juggling the customer. Not ideal, I agree, but a fact of life in this century. People expect luxury-level service at Walmart prices, and the low-paid clerks left to deal with both ends of this burning candle are blamed.
What a touching tribute written by Cara Feinberg to my late brother Robert McMurray (Connections, August 10). We had lost touch, but both I and his daughter had been trying to locate him for the last several years. Unfortunately, we were notified of his untimely death by the Salvation Army’s locator service just recently, too late for us to reconnect. Bobby Mac overcame many challenges, some of them in his youth. That he went on to make such a remarkable impact has touched our hearts immensely. His warm personality and “can do” attitude were inherited from his mother, Christine, a quintessential people person. How lovely to see this recognized. Thank you so very much.
Maureen (McMurray) Ferguson
Bartlett, New Hampshire