Is Watching Football A Sin? ALL TOGETHER Podcast On Conscience And Concussions

Former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson looks on from the stage during a panel discussion on the Frontline documentary
Former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson looks on from the stage during a panel discussion on the Frontline documentary "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis," during the PBS Summer 2013 TCA press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Welcome to this week’s ALL TOGETHER, the podcast dedicated to exploring how, ethics, religion and spiritual practice is informing our personal lives, our communities and our world. ALL TOGETHER is hosted by Rev. Paul Raushenbush, the executive editor of HuffPost Religion. You can download ALL TOGETHER on iTunes and Stitcher.

The menorah has been stored, the Christmas tree dragged to the curb, and now America is ready for the other reason for the season – Football. Over the next weeks, both college and professional football go into high gear with bowl games, playoffs and championships and, of course, the Super Bowl.

However, a growing concern about the wellbeing of players is forming a cloud over this sport that captivates much of nation (and makes some people a lot of money). On Sunday, November 30th an Ohio State Football player named Kosta Karageorge was found dead in a dumpster apparently due to suicide. Earlier that week Kosta, had texted to his mother: “Sorry if I am an embarrassment, but these concussions have my head all fucked up.” -- after he was found his mother confirmed that he had: “has a history of sports-related concussions” and “had a few spells of being extremely confused.” Kosta Karageorge was only 22.

It is still unclear that football related concussions were the determining factor in Karageorge's death. However, over the past years, the damage that football inflicts on a high percentage of the players has begun to come to light, a truth that was highlighted in the 2013 PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.

The fact of concussions on football players, past, present and future poses a moral dilemma for those of us who enjoy watching the game. Malcolm Gladwel, in the New Yorker went so far as to compare football to dog-fighting and called it a "moral abomination".

In this episode of ALL TOGETHER, we should ask the question: Are we contributing to the harm of these young men by tuning in on the television or showing up at these sporting events that bring in billions of dollars for colleges and the National Football League? By our presence, are we aiding and abetting the harm of other human beings? Is watching football a sin?

Wrestling with the question Raushenbush talks to New York Giants legendary linebacker, Superbowl Champion and football Hall of Famer Harry Carson; Dr. Annegret Dettwiler who is a researcher at Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute and works with the Princeton Athletic department to do imaging of athletes brains to see how concussions physically affect the brain and how long it might take for the brain to recover; and finally with Professor Eric Gregory who is an ethicist in the Religion Department at Princeton University, and who played football himself as a high school student.


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