A Skeptic in Football Paradise

PHOENIX – It hasn’t been easy to be a skeptic this past week, in this desert city, ahead of the biggest sporting event on the US calendar.

Consider Damar Hamlin. The National Football League won’t let anyone forget him, especially in the run-up to the flashy and glamorous Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills young defender near death before our collective eyes on a cold night in Cincinnati just six weeks ago. Who among us has not pulled and prayed for him? Who hasn’t seen a glimpse of his recovery and felt a deep sense of relief and joy?

The NFL never misses an opportunity to embellish its image, even if it means promoting the lucky outcome of an impending tragedy. The League made sure Hamlin showed up in Phoenix. Sure enough, he was there on Wednesday, receiving a community service award from the players’ union, wearing a red suit, looking confident and sure.

And he was there again on Thursday, at the NFL gala on the red carpet, standing in front of the coaches and doctors who saved his life. He thanked them and talked about continuing his journey to be a beacon of hope.

“I have a long journey ahead of me,” he said, “a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones, but it is much easier to face your fears. you when you know your purpose.”

I’m callous about the NFL But watching Hamlin live on Wednesday, I get goosebumps. I could see a woman nearby crying.

What a narrative arc.

The NFL is more than just a sports league. It’s a story-telling studio that churns out gift-wrapped stories to boost its popularity and cover up its flaws. Hamlin’s arrival in Phoenix was the perfect plot point, made for NFL streaming: a miracle turned tragedy wrapped in a bow and beamed to the world during Super Bowl media week .

The ugly violence leaving many of the league’s players debilitated? Hey, look over here on this stage – a fallen hero in the flesh, sending his appreciation and love.

All tournaments other nettle problems? Well, why talk about all that when there is another company-sponsored celebration in attendance.

So yeah, I’m skeptical about football – and it’s not just because I’m a reporter that the job requires skepticism.

I am the father of a 12-year-old child. I will never let him play the game, not giving out what is known about brain damaged. I’m an African American who hates the tournament failed to hire a black-headed coach and agonized by the fact that it won’t be until 2023 for two Black quarterbacks to lead their team to the Super Bowl. The league’s preference for squeezing misalignment under the rug is a stain that I cannot accept.

That said, I am no different than many other skeptics. I love the game, hate the game and contradict the game. The NFL has a way of attracting me. It’s the spectacle – choreographed beauty and drama, the magic of teams trying to find control amid utter chaos.

I know I’m hardly alone, and even as I walk among the crowds at countless fan events in scorching Phoenix, being a skeptic feels more than a little lonely.

The league adds to its reach and self-service mythology by setting up camp at the annual Super Bowl. It makes each host city its own: an itinerant soccer show that surrounds a metropolis like an occupying army.

Phoenix and the flat maze of suburbs saw it this week. Fan Festival. mixer. Photo ops. Awards show. Football flag. NFL-sponsored school visits and “farm-to-table” meals sponsored by the Super Bowl hosting committee. Entire blocks feel like they’re sponsored by Tostitos.

The light and airy mood of the celebration had the effect of masking the NFL’s woes.

My skeptic side says this season will be remembered forever because it makes us think about the damage players face on the pitch, sometimes with dire effects that are immediately apparent. ie, sometimes with dire effects that may not appear for many years.

In my view, no matter how Sunday’s game plays out, this will always be the season for Hamlin and Tua Tagovailoa, the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback, who have suffered multiple concussions and become an example. The latest on the risk to the brain of the game. Pictures taken by Tagovailoa a very strong blow that his entire body seemed to convulse in a severe spasm will remain vividly etched in our collective memory.

The horror of those injuries, especially Hamlin’s near-death, forced us to step back and rethink the game and its costs.

But not too fast. Super Bowl week, like every year, got in the way, pushing the story in another direction.

It wasn’t just Hamlin’s arrival with his carers in tow. The federation positioned itself above the competition by providing free lessons on CPR to the public. The NFL commissioner spoke about the readiness of the league’s coaching staff to treat catastrophic injuries.

As I walked the streets and spoke to fans at the football-themed carnival in downtown Phoenix, Hamlin and Tagovailoa were rarely mentioned. When I push, I’m often told about the power of prayer and the meaning of miracles, that Hamlin’s death was just a freak, that midfielders like Tagovailoa know the risks, so, hey, what must you do?

“I know it’s a dangerous game,” one fan told me. “It could be more dangerous than I knew or wanted to see. And I never intended to stop watching.”


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