The Cost of Entertainment

What price are we willing to pay for entertainment? It varies; hopefully we’re not spending the rent money or depriving ourselves of anything basic in our lives for it. There is more than monetary cost to entertainment: a cost to our integrity as good people and people of Faith, and the cost to others.

On October 7, some of the football fans of Kansas City cheered when the quarterback of the Chiefs, Matt Cassel, was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The team hadn’t played well on offense, there were calls for him to be replaced going back before the start of the season, and there was criticism of the coaching staff for leaving him in so long even after the injury. After the game, one of the starting tackles for the team, Eric Winston, ripped those who cheered the injury, calling it disgusting and said it made him ashamed to be playing football.

Several prominent columnists and fans have ripped Winston for what he said. There were a few voices on the social media defending the cheering, saying the fans paid good money to be there and had the right do to what they wanted. This is an attitude that isn’t only at football games, money seems to give us license to make a fuss whenever things aren’t going to our standards. I’ve even had parishioners use this sentiment about things that are or aren’t happening in the Church, whether it be the larger Church or their local parish.

Of course, money doesn’t give us a universal license: there are some things we can’t do even if we’re willing to pay for it. In some places, people pay good money to watch dog fighting and child pornography, but those things are illegal. In ancient times ordinary Romans paid good money to watch gladiators fight to the death and people considered unworthy of life ripped apart by wild animals, but of course we’re not living in those days, we’ve progressed haven’t we? Or have we?

I’ve largely given up football of all kinds since that weekend. I don’t spend any money on it, never buy a ticket to a game or apparel, never patronize businesses because they advertise, so my loss won’t mean anything to the commercial juggernauts of the NFL or Division I College Football. However, the mounting evidence is young men destroy their minds and bodies beyond repair playing every level of this game, and the collisions that cause the damage are something that no rule change or equipment advance is likely to remove from the competition. Hard hits are still glamorized despite being decried, it’s said players should be protected although there are some hits they can’t be protected from: the hit on Cassel wasn’t flagged for unnecessary roughness and probably shouldn’t have been in the context of the rules of the game. The NFL seems to be as big a bastion of public hypocrisy as any government. It seems that this sport isn’t worth the investment of my time and affection. I’ll own that my opinion isn’t worth anything to anyone other than me.

My interest in any sport is strategy: I’ll own that. The only sport I was ever any good at was Chess. I love baseball and college basketball, and since that weekend I’ve been watching a lot more soccer. Risk is part of everyday life, and no sport, even chess, is totally safe for its participants. Football is the only major sport that requires collision, where high impact contacts are a basic part of the game. Should guaranteed destruction be part of any legal sport in this country? Should we spend time, emotion and money on something that certainly cripples those who take part in it, even they to do it willingly? In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt almost outlawed football due to a rash of deaths on the fields of a much more primitive version of this game.

I’m not going to say outlaw football or anything stupid like that. If one of my friends wants to hang out and watch a football game, I’m not going to give a lecture or refuse to watch and spend time with them: after all, the friendship is more important than the game. The past few weeks I’ve dodged the ESPN channels, and that’s been more of a major reorientation of my life than skipping football games on weekends. It seems for every story of success and redemption there are more of suffering and lives undone. I’m watching other sports, maybe in a few weeks I’ll understand soccer strategy. I know people will keep playing football and patronizing it: that’s all right, I won’t be your judge if you do. For the sake of my friends and those around me, I hope my favorite teams get better and my not favorite teams get worse, but I’m not going to tune in again. The fact I can’t stop it shouldn’t affect whether I watch or not: a judgement about whether I think something is moral entertainment shouldn’t depend on someone else’s willingness to do it.

For me, it brings up a question that doesn’t seem to get asked very often of any activity or attachment: it this worth it? I found out enough about the plot of the book and movie The Hunger Games that I’ve refused to read or watch it, even though many of my friends told me it’s a wonderful story. In my mind, this kind of horror wasn’t worth it, even though I understand it’s a dystopian tale. It seems that all kinds of passing activities are acceptable, all kinds of relationships are all right, all kinds of entertainment are fine if they make us feel good and what it costs or how it affects others doesn’t matter. Perhaps someone will make a thrilling adventure movie soon about going to Hell to light a cigarette (if you do, I demand a cut–lol).

Faith comes into this: if I’m a Good person, should I seek an entertainment based on something I think is based on a violation of human dignity? I’m not talking about movies: seeing Evil portrayed can help us find Good, and sometimes Evil is worth a good laugh. After all, movies aren’t real, and unless they’re made by deceiving the actors or using slave labor, I don’t have a problem no matter how dumb they are. Real pain and suffering as entertainment is what should be questionable. As Christians, we are meant to be healers of pain and suffering, to be a means of peace. Blood sports should make us sick.

So I’m not watching football. I am paying attention to when the games are, since I drive I-435 on weekends past the stadium. I’ll listen to people talk about it: I’m enough of a snob about enough things not to add to the list willingly. The sport doesn’t need me and I don’t need it, and I’ll go back to watching Mike and Mike in the Morning after the Super Bowl. I only wish more of us would seriously question what we do more often, especially for entertainment, and consider what the cost is to ourselves and to others.

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