Last Sunday, my wife said to me, "I miss football." We miss the sound of it in the background on Sunday, checking in to watch games of meaning, chatting about it. I miss reading long weekly articles about each game and what to watch for. I miss playing, and winning sometimes, fantasy football. Watching football was a part of the rhythm of my week in the fall and winter, and I miss it.
But for me, watching football carries an ethical weight that is too heavy to bear. It means that my entertainment, and it really is just entertainment, is worth a game that by design slowly destroys the brains of its players. By design.
It also means that entertainment is worth supporting a corrupt business, a business that tries to conceal criminality from its employees while basking in jingoism. Here's the latest:
Former Bears Exec Jerry Angelo says he covered up "hundreds and hundreds" of domestic violence incidents during his thirty years in the league. Perhaps he's exaggerating. Perhaps he only means 150, or 75, or 230. We don't know yet.
Angelo, who was general manager of the Chicago Bears from 2001 to 2011 and has been out of the league since, said his typical approach after learning of a player's involvement in a domestic violence case was to inquire, "OK, is everybody OK? Yeah. How are they doing? Good. And then we'd just move on. We'd move on.''Later, though, he tells us what the reason was (hint: winning):
"We knew it was wrong,'' Angelo said. "…For whatever reason, it just kind of got glossed over. I'm no psychiatrist, so I can't really get into what that part of it is. I'm just telling you how I was. I've got to look at myself first. And I was part of that, but I didn't stand alone.''
During Angelo's tenure as general manager with the Bears, the team won four division titles and reached the Super Bowl after the 2006 season. He was fired after the Bears finished 8-8 in 2011, a year after the team reached the NFC championship game.The Bears have denied any knowledge.
Angelo said he did not report to the league cases of domestic violences involving players because disciplinary action would have put his team at a competitive disadvantage.
"Our business is to win games," Angelo said. "We've got to win games, and the commissioner's job is to make sure the credibility of the National Football League is held in the highest esteem. But to start with that, you have to know who's representing the shield.''
"We got our priorities a little out of order,'' he said.
This is the thing - if you watch football, there is an ethical consequence for you. It's a choice that you make. We make ethical tradeoffs all the time (I make bad ethical choices in my food consumption, for example).
What I want is for people watching football to say to themselves - in watching this game, I am being entertained by a sport that destroys brains and profits by protecting abusers. And then do whatever they want, conscious of the choices they are making.
Are you ready for some football?