This was my Facebook update when I posted a link to my latest essay for Salon:
“I am so ambivalent about this story I just wrote for Salon that it makes me a little sick to my stomach to post it. That’s how much I love football. But still …”
I am no less ambivalent today about expressing in public my growing and deep doubts about American football. Here is the Daddyland clincher, and also how parenting has pushed me closer to the edge with an ever-more violent game:
Don’t worry: I’m not going to tell my kids they can never watch NFL. I’m not adding football to that ever-growing list of things parents try to control — toy guns, candy, Facebook, cellphones, video games, driver’s licenses, drugs and alcohol.
No, I’ll let my children make their own decisions about that. I’m the father who lets his kids wander all over the park, out of sight. I let them push their limits, I let them get hurt if they go too far. They’re 4 and almost 2 now, and I do not want them to grow up afraid or sheltered. I want my children to grow up strong enough to handle the inevitable darkness of life.
But I might not believe in the game anymore. Maybe football is a more dangerous sport than I ever wanted to believe, and I honestly wonder whether the game has gone from slightly edgy to distasteful spectacle. We do draw lines, all of us.
Yet there is more. My wife says that since our daughter was born four years ago, my risk-awareness has changed, my sense of mortality — for me and for my family — has deepened. And my moral code is suddenly more consistent. I just can’t tell them to do one thing and go do another at night.
So, the real question is whether I will watch the games on Sunday night after the kids go to bed. I didn’t last Sunday, did the two Sundays before. Honestly? I have no idea.