Presidents & Pigskin

Founding Father John Adams shared a sentiment similar to parents throughout the ages. While leading the charge of revolution throughout the thirteen colonies, he knew that a war would be hard-fought, bloody, and he was certain sacrifices were going to be made on behalf of the new continent. The end goal – freedom – remained the ultimate victory. Even as a diplomat and eventually the 2nd President of the United States, he knew how his own life would suffer some sacrifice in order, as was written, “in order to build a more perfect union.”

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy,” he said. “My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Not to harp on the professional football controversies, but I can’t help but think of how much this quote relates to our current dilemma with the players. There are a good number of NFL fans who are ethically torn when it comes to watching football. It’s like eating sausage. We like the taste, but do not dare to look to see how it’s made. I don’t want to address that morality because I’ve done it before.

For now, I’m concerned with the idea of choices.

Arian Foster, running back (a very good one, at that) for the Houston Texans, told ESPN, “It is what it is. It’s not good for you. That’s the risk I take to provide for my family.”

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster says football is a choice he made in order to provide for his family.

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster says football is a choice he made in order to provide for his family.

So, how is this dissimilar from what Adams wanted more than 200 years ago? See how our priorities, as fathers and mothers, hasn’t changed? We hear football players – notably future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre – say they’re happy they have daughters, so that they don’t have to make the decision of letting them play football. Others, with sons, proclaim – and these are guys who are or were professional football players – an uncertainty.

These men of professional football, are they making the same type of sacrifices that Adams made? Is it dissimilar from a coal miner or oil rigger who work long hours so that their kids can afford college? Obviously, a major difference is the long-term health risks. The million-dollar contracts and the sponsorship money might swell a bank account, but I think a fully-functioning parent that lives a long time is much better.

That being said, I can’t see anything that sways me in the direction that suggests how football players ideals and motivations differ from fathers (or mothers) from any other generation. The consequences are (much) higher, but so are the salaries. If I’m an NFL player who grew up in poverty, maybe I must study tackling techniques, the kinesthetics of hitting or avoiding a hit, so that my son can study math or philosophy or poetry.

John Adams might get it.

We hear a lot about “personal choices” when it comes to decisions regarding health, deleterious behaviors, etc. Is there any way around this, or does personal freedom trump everything else? Thoughts?


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2 responses to “Presidents & Pigskin”

  1. dishnerdevin says :

    What a great piece! I love tying history and sports! Such a refreshing view, and I appreciate your style greatly! Hey I just wrote a debate forum piece on athletes being role models, and I think a thought provoking voice like your own would be a great edition to starting up conversation on it. I would love to hear your opinion!

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