Unhealthy Competition Earns Football Most Overrated Trophy

At the end of each year, Arts & Ideas asks a handful of writers, schoolars and other opinionated people to identify the year's most underrated and overrated ideas.

Contributors may choose any subject they please, from designer chocolate to extreme makeovers, but most pick Big Concepts like religion, money or politics.

If you find yourself outraged by the suggestion that monotheism is overrated or baffled by the possibility that hip-hop politics is underrated, please send your own candidates to ideas@nytimes.com.

This was a challenge I couldn't refuse. My vote for the most overrated idea for 2003 is football.

We are a nation obsessed with competition.

Competition however, is like cholesterol. There's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. We're addicted to the bad stuff, violent competition, football.

Football is not just highly overrated in our culture; football is an insidious villain in our midst.

When physical combat is required to win I call that warfare. The difference between football and warfare is only a matter of stakes. We spend billions of dollars and trillions of hours injecting our kids with the bad stuff, competition laced with violence. We condone violence as a means to an end. We promote it. We present it as a wholesome way to win. We teach our kids that winning is where the glory is, and winning by using force is the greatest glory of all.

Many point out that it's not just power and force that win the game. It's strategy and team work, and there are rules of fair play. The same however is true of warfare. There is strategy and teamwork. A soldier is expected to cover his buddy's back, and to put himself in harms way to support another soldier. There are rules to warfare. In warfare, as in football, when winning becomes too important, cheating is expected. The difference between the two is only a matter of stakes.

Only the bigger kids, the stronger ones are encouraged to play a game where might makes right. The rest of us participate vicariously and the big kids become heroes. We worship the winners. We pay professionals outrageous amounts of money to entertain us on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights.

How can we have the audacity to think that we can condone violence as a means to an end on the playing field, worship the game that mimics warfare and idolize the winners, and at the same time complain about bullying in our schools?

Ours is the only country that totally worships the team sport that requires the use of physical force (combat) to win. And our school children are among the most violent in the world.

The national sport of many other countries is, believe it or not, table tennis. Yes, I said table tennis, a lifetime sport where competition does not depend on size, strength, age or violence. Many in this country don't know that table tennis is an Olympic sport. Check it out.

Our schools ought to be promoting healthy lifetime sports, the good cholesterol, the kind that can keep our bodies and our minds fit and involved long after we are too old to actively participate in games that promote violence.

CNI News 2/5/2004 – Through My Eyes – Marilyn LaCourt

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