As I think you know by now, I don't pay much attention to football. But between the concussion suicides and the Sandusky allegations, I've gotten a bit interested in the sociology of the sport. And so this Sunday's New York Times interview with former pro football player Kris Jenkins interested me. Jenkins makes it clear that he signed fully signed up for the brutality and pain:
You ever been in a car crash? Done bumper cars? You know when that hit catches you off guard and jolts you, and you're like, what the hell? Football is like that. But 10 times worse. It's hell....
[O]ver the years, I wore the left side of my body down. I was past hurt. I was at the point of numb. Like my body was shutting down nervous systems, so I didn’t have to deal with pain.
The numbness started at the very beginning. I couldn’t feel part of both arms. I couldn’t feel part of both legs. It was worse on the left. I’m just starting to get feeling back in my left side. Look, football is no joke....
We consider football a gladiator sport because we understand you're going to get hurt. You're putting your life on the line. You might not die now, like in an old Roman arena, but 5, 10 years down the road, you could. You know that.
He says repeatedly that he chose what he did.
The violence is what I remember. Like against Buffalo in 2009, when I had the game of my career. Or the time I slapped a lineman out of the way in Houston with one arm. Winning, the physical part, the mayhem, finding the line between insanity and sanity, that’s the exact reason why you play. That’s the reason fans like football in the first place....
For us, it’s like legal prison rules. You have to protect your manhood, your well-being. You’re going to be challenged. You’re going to be tested.
There aren’t too many places a 400-pound guy with an attitude can go and beat the crap out of somebody and not get locked up for it. I have a violent streak. I have to fight it out of my system. We signed up for it. All of it. We’re not trying to be sane or rational.
To say that I do not understand the attraction is to put it mildly. I can see—even if I don't feel it personally—the beauty of basketball, the speed and grace of hockey, the talent of baseball. But football: How can we justify this as a sport? Can someone explain it to me, please?