Football is perhaps the most American of sports. It’s true that baseball is known as The American Pasttime, but it is played at a very high level in parts of Asia and Latin America. Many other countries have competitive Olympic basketball teams and have citizens playing in the NBA. And while football IS played in other countries, its popularity and level of play in the United States is approached perhaps only across our northern border by the Canadian Football League.
Like many, I grew up watching football. My dad attended West Point, and the Army-Navy game was an annual event in our house. My brother attended Texas A&M, another school with a strong history and tradition in football. I remember listening to University of Washington games on the radio with my dad while we worked in the yard. That was in the days of Sonny Sixkiller. Pre-Seahawks I became a fan of the Miami Dolphins in the Griese-Csonka era. In the early days of the Seahawks I was a fan. I had to put up with my college roommate from Wyoming who was a Broncos fan. He referred to our team as the Sea-squawks.
In 1983, the Seahawks made it into the playoffs for the first time. Curt Warner was one of the best running backs in the NFL, Dave Krieg took over at QB from Jim Zorn, and Kenny Easley was feared by opposing receivers. I had a date with the TV on Sundays.
But somewhere along the way disillusionment began to set in. I don’t think I can pinpoint any one thing that soured me on football. It’s most likely an accumulation of things to the point I finally said “enough.”
It probably started in 1987 with Brian Bosworth and the NFL strike. Bosworth didn’t want to play for the Seahawks, but eventually signed a record-setting rookie contract. The behavior of some of the striking players was pretty awful, including a couple who brought shotguns to the picket line. I do understand the underlying issues which forced the strike, but behavior is important.
But the final nail in the coffin for me is CTE. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The brain trauma which led Junior Seau to take his own life a number of years ago. And there have been other victims. Not just the players, but their families.
I was never a fan of Seau or his team, but I found the story of his death heartbreaking. Suicide is never easy for the survivors, but for some reason this just seemed worse to me. A highly paid athlete whose death was caused by the sport he loved, but not while actually playing.
Sorry football fans, but I truly hate football.