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Watching American Football Is Unethical?

First Posted: Sept. 16, 2015, 7:06 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Sept. 17, 2015, 1:43 p.m. CST
A gladiator fights a lion in an ancient culture whose entertainment laws were brutally laissez-faire.

It’s football season. We are all guilty of selfishly entertaining ourselves at the “expense” of athletes that put themselves in harm’s way, not quite gladiator style, to let us have a good time. I qualify “expense” because of the ridiculous amounts of money they are paid. But that's just the professionals. We still put our kids in harms way in college, high school, and youth football. And that’s just what is socially accepted; American football is a family event. I can smell the chili and grilled dogs coming from those tailgates as I write this.

How about a little thought experiment? Let’s take it a step further. Funniest Home Videos are generally accepted as family friendly, but it pushes it. You’re always wondering if the guy that got hit in the family jewels is going to be able to have a family. Sometimes you wonder if the person died doing that stunt, but they don’t show that part.

Then we take it one step further, where the “entertainment” is usually socially frowned upon, but even still, many have no qualms about it. Here I am mostly talking about Youtube. Remember the Iraq beheadings? Not a form of entertainment, possibly a form of political motivation, but inhumane either way. Or the skateboarder going 70mph on Youtube. You’re probably going to go look at that right now, without even thinking twice about the ethical repercussions, because that sounds, well, bad ass. And maybe Youtube has a rule that if the person dies, they won’t show it. That doesn't change the fact that you just watched somebody almost die, and someone else got rich off of that.

"But I had nothing to do with it," you self-righteously tell yourself. "I didn't tell him to do the stunt in the first place, and there's obviously some social Darwinism here at work." But that's like saying that the pervert who watches exploitation porn is not breaking any laws because he had nothing to do with the production of the video and is not giving money directly to the industry.

We have laws against pornography in certain scenarios and exploitation pornography in more situations, and we have these laws for a reason. Why we don’t have laws for the more family-friendly stuff, like football, boxing, and cage fighting, I don’t really know.

Obviously it is not all about the law. The entertainment industry is a business. If you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, you would agree that there has to be demand in order for the thing to exist. “If you build it, they will come,” is an old adage that is not always truthful. Boxing is, somehow, a hundred million dollar industry. By the law of demand, apparently we demand and love watching guys beat the crap out of each other, giving themselves bloody noses, black eyes, missing teeth, temporary concussions, and permanent brain effects. And if the movie Million Dollar Baby has anything to say about it, they can end up being a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.

With millions of dollars on the line every American football game, due to bets and fantasy football, it’s no wonder we have the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to remind us of Murphy’s Law and the fact that the powers that be are so fully aware of players getting injured as a common occurrence that they might as well hurt them strategically to maximize bet profits, since they’re just going to get hurt anyway.

Interest begets money. Money is the mother of all incentives. Watching a guy on Youtube skateboard down a street going 70mph makes you want to be a bad ass, have a thrill, and get rich doing it. Sometimes putting your own life on the line is a risk you just happen to be willing to take.

This article was written by Brehnen Wong.

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