The ethics of watching football

Referee Ed Hochuli is seen before the start of an NFL football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)Well, here we are. The opening Sunday of football season for the NFL. A chance to follow through on the off-season promises not to support the NFL because you don’t like the owners holding up local taxpayers for a new stadium, or the meager punishment handed out to those players who beat their wives and girlfriends on a regular basis, or the fact that people cheer on the slow destruction of the brains of humans for the entertainment of the rest of us. Whatever. Here we are, watching football anyway.

Is that so wrong?

In his New York Times Magazine essay this weekend, Chuck Klosterman — the ethicist — calms your nagging voice that says it’s unethical to watch the sport even though you have problems with it.

My (admittedly unoriginal) suspicion is that the reason we keep having this discussion over the ethics of football is almost entirely a product of the sport’s sheer popularity. The issue of concussions in football is debated exhaustively, despite the fact that boxing — where the goal is to hit your opponent in the face as hard as possible — still exists. But people care less about boxing, so they worry less about the ethics of boxing. Football is the most popular game in the United States and generates the most revenue, so we feel obligated to worry about what it means to love it. Well, here’s what it means: We love something that’s dangerous. And I can live with that.

Others might see it as hypocritical.