Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Why My Monday Nights Are Now Football Free

In a special guest commentary, Tell Me More Planning Editor Luis Clemens explains why his football viewing days are over — of both college and NFL games. Why? Simply put, Clemens says the brutal manhandling is just another form of violence. And, after a while, it just gets more annoying.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, normally at this time I share a few thoughts in my weekly "Can I Just Tell You" commentary. But today, my colleague, TELL ME MORE planning editor Luis Clemens has something he wants to get off his chest. You might think differently about how you spend your Sundays after you hear it.

Take it away, Luis.

LUIS CLEMENS: Every red-blooded American football fan thrills to the sounds of the game.

(Soundbite of football players hitting)

CLEMENS: I too used to relish the pop of crashing helmets, the sight of midair tackles. No more. I hereby renounce my football fandom. The game is just too damn dangerous. I've read one too many studies indicating players are at high risk of brain damage. From here on out I will not attend a football game. I will not watch a football game. I will not buy a football jersey. I will not spend a dime that may work its way into the coffers of the National Football League.

The bottom line, in football the helmeted head is used as a battering ram and the head does not take well to being used as a blunt instrument. Repeated blows by or to the head can trigger long-term damage and lead to dementia, suicidal depression, memory loss. That much is established science. What is not established science, at least according to the NFL, is whether the playing of football leads to an extraordinarily high number of retired players suffering from brain damage.

The league insists there isn't enough evidence to reach that conclusion. Maybe so, but these are large and heavy men moving at breakneck speed down the gridiron. As a fan, you don't have to be a physicist to figure out that much mass moving at that high a velocity creates a dramatic impact, enough impact to knock a man's lights out, enough to literally scar a player's brain. And I don't see how a better helmet or more rule changes can strip the game of its violent essence. Football's brutality is central to the way the game is played. Even a modest measure such as enforcing the roughing the passer penalty has prompted grousing among fans and players.

Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens told reporters: maybe next year it'll be two-hand touch to get a sack. Before, I was content to see players risk torn cartilage, tendons ripped to shred. It seemed a reasonable price for players to pay for gridiron glory and a paycheck, reasonable choices made by intelligent men who love hitting one another. Fine. But what about when the cost of playing the game can include losing your mind?

Football is a brutal endeavor, the human equivalent of a demolition derby. That strikes me as inarguable. Talk to Ira Casson, co-chairs the league's concussion committee. He told The New Yorker magazine that football is, quote, a violent game. I suppose if you want to you could play touch football or flag football, he later added, but I don't know if the fans would be happy with that. So what else do you do? What else do you do? Well, for starters, you could just say enough. I don't want any part of this madness.

MARTIN: That was TELL ME MORE planning editor Luis Clemens. So I guess you don't want my extra ticket to the Redskins/Eagles game, I take. Okay.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues