“You gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls. A touchdown getter, you bet. The fact that you are rich and handsome won’t get you anything in curls; you gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls,” written in 1933, by Buddy Fields, Al Lewis, Al Sherman.
This song was featured in a 1935 cartoon — Popeye You Gotta Be a Football Hero. In it Popeye and his arch-nemesis Bluto play professional football.
It has become a staple in football anthems, with its message infused into our culture.
While I don’t know if football industry footed the bill for these lyrics or underwrote the cost of the cartoon, the message is clear and ever present: Play football and get access to the beautiful women regardless of where you came from – rich or poor. Everyone who plays will have their dreams realized and be revered as a hero. Guaranteed.
To further endorse the promise, behold the cheerleaders. A chorus line of beautiful girls fawning over the players and cheering them to victory in their tight tops, short skirts, and bare legs, — vestal virgins to the Mount Olympians. Win the game; win a virgin. What’s not to like?
So strong is this football hero image that society has refused to acknowledge the damage contact sports inflict on our young men. As early as December,1907, the Journal of the American Medical Association, p. 2088, stated the deaths and injuries caused by the game and predicted they wouldn’t stop.
Few listened. Others normalized death and injury.
There is no denying that the violence, team work, self-denial of pain and injury, adhesion to the coach’s authority, and peer adulation prepares football players for the call to duty — obedience in the boardroom and on the battlefield. The war on the football field easily translates to war on the battlefield.
Though we damage our boys and men, our society blindly endorses this physicality, ability to absorb pain and mete out violence, as masculinity.
CNSNEWS reports that 1,085,272 high school students played on their school’s 11-player tackle football team in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the new annual survey published by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) – 6.67 percent of all high school students and more than twice the number enrolled in other high school sports programs.
That means that every year a million students subject their brain to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma if a tackle doesn’t outright kill, maim, snap a neck, or incur a concussion. These brain traumas and the inevitable CTE, if severe, lead to suicide or fatal aberrant behavior. Otherwise, the onset of CTE symptoms surfaces over time ending dreams once the disease takes over the brain. The question is “when,” not “if.”
In addition to CTE, there is an emotional component common to football and war. We expect happy youngsters to morph into “killing” machines for the play, shake it off, and prepare for the next violent attack – against another human being. This immediate juxtaposition of anger/rage/violence followed by calm and acceptance invades a player’s emotional center and normalizes over time.
The result is that players can often have difficulty in establishing or maintaining relationships as their interactions are infused with anger-remorse episodes.
There’s nothing heroic or virile or masculine about engaging in brain-damaging activities.
Every athlete that participates in a repetitive head-hits sport is living their immediate dream and killing their future. Damaged brains don’t work in school, on the job, or in relationships. That’s a high price to pay for a touchdown.
In our complex world, we need heroes to address our most critical survival needs – climate change, food production, education, health care, disease prevention and cures, populations changes, air pollution, resource allocation and protection, global interdependence, and peace – to name a few.
In our emotional world, we need heroes to raise our children, free from forced societal norms that cripple individuals and harm relationships. They must model kindness, empathy, social awareness, and understanding.
Because unless we start now to address the pervasive anger and fear in this country, supported by our social, judicial, and political injustices, our society will implode — if climate change or nuclear war doesn’t get us first.
Heroes must have healthy brains and be taught to use them.
It is imperative that our culture shift from the short-term commoditization of our youth to the long-term recognition and elevation of youngsters engaged in creative thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. Our intentional shift away from competition and dominance to relationships will better serve humankind.
Nothing happens overnight.
Nothing good ever happens if we do nothing.
Our children are our future. Hard as it may be, make the decision to ban them from violent sports and save their brain from trauma – repetitive hits (CTE), concussions – so they can fulfill their potential as true heroes.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join like-minded individuals in The Good Men Project Premium Community.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
The Good Men Project is an Amazon.com affiliate. If you shop via THIS LINK, we will get a small commission and you will be supporting our Mission while still getting the quality products you would have purchased, anyway! Thank you for your continued support!
Photo Credit: Popeye the Sailor: The Football Toucher Downer # 52 October 15, 1937 | Fleischer CARTOONS | Pinterest and YouTube