The following guest sermon was submitted by ULC Rev. Jeffery Phillips. All ULC Ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to email@example.com.
Superbowl Sunday is just around the corner, and people all over the country (and the world, even) are preparing to sink into the couch and overindulge in party food and alcohol as they take in the gladiatorial spectacle that is American football.
And what’s not to like about the Superbowl? There is pageantry, there is action, there’s even a concert at halftime. All you have to do is ignore the ever-present possibility of a serious head injury!
Before tuning in to the big game on Sunday, the question any self-respecting person of faith ought to be asking themselves is: would really God approve of this ultra-dangerous and exploitative “sport” we’ve concocted for the enjoyment of the masses?
Looking the Other Way
There’s no getting around it, football players risk their lives for our entertainment. We are the spectators in the coliseum, the players gladiators preparing for deadly conflict.
Football leads all major sports in frequency and severity of head injuries sustained by its players. According to a recent study, the NFL averages over 200 concussions a year. But that’s only the number that gets officially reported – the real figure is likely far higher.
From a biblical sense, how can one cheer on such an activity?
Gambling with Brain Health
Serious head injuries are not only frightening and disastrous for players’ short-term health, they can also create long-lasting consequences. After years of obfuscation and denial, studies have now definitively shown a link between playing football and the debilitating condition of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (also known as CTE).
Numerous former players have lost their lives to this condition while still relatively young, and autopsies later confirmed their brains had suffered trauma from repeated hits to the head.
The most eye-opening aspect of the whole thing is that CTE isn’t just caused by major concussions. The evidence suggests that repeated small hits, of the type that happen hundreds of times during a single football game (and thousands upon thousands of times during a given season), can also cause long term damage to the human brain.
Is There Virtue in Suffering?
In general, the Bible would have us believe there is. But this kind of suffering serves no good cause. Ask yourself, who benefits most from these gladiators in the arena throwing body against body, head against head?
The owners of the teams, surely, who rake in billions of dollars a year. How about the advertisers, who get to sell their shiny products to the millions of people tuned in to watch the game? And then there’s the viewers, who enjoy free entertainment from the comfort of their living rooms.
But the players themselves? Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds where football is the only way out. Sure, a select few get lucky enough to sign big multimillion-dollar contracts.
However, the average player makes less than $1 million a year and lasts just four years in the league. Many leave with chronic injuries that follow them for years. Their severance package: the very real possibility of developing CTE later in life, suffering a terrible decline and passing away prematurely.
Those are the facts. So I repeat: what would God think of our celebration of this violent and cruel tradition?
I, for one, believe he would be ashamed of our selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy for our fellow human beings. I won’t be tuning in to watch the Superbowl on Sunday, and I would urge you to do the same.