Defensive back Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in a game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Medical staff administered CPR on the field before transferring Hamlin to the UC Medical Center. The game stopped. Both players and fans nervously waited for updates about Hamlim’s condition. Meanwhile, sports commentator Skip Bayless tweeted about how postponing the game might affect the rest of the season.
Many felt Bayless’ tweet was insensitive and callous. Maybe it was. But Bayless’ attitude is not new. Who cares about Damar Hamlin? Who cares about any player’s well-being more than the spectacle of the game? A few months ago, we witnessed Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa lying supine near the 50-yard line. His fingers twisted and contorted in front of his face after being slammed to the ground. The announcer offered only a simple, “Uh, oh.” We watched as the medical team carried Tagovailoa off the field on a stretcher, and Teddy Bridgewater took his place. The game continued despite Tagovailoa’s injury, as it has despite countless injuries to countless players. The sport has even survived studies linking repeated head trauma to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Football is violent. And spectators often respond to the violence with enthusiastic cheers. The sport promises glory, wealth, and excitement to its faithful at the expense of the bodies of young men. Despite its many benefits, including fostering community and showcasing remarkable athletic ability, gruesome reminders show the faithful that the price can be high. But the arrangement only continues with their consent. After a player was seriously injured, Skip Bayless raised questions about the season. But he is not an exception. Bayless said aloud what the faithful say every time they gather in the arena: The game is too important, and nothing, not even the health of its players, can stop it.
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