Shaming football fans for a tragic freak injury doesn’t solve anything

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Fans gather outside of University of Cincinnati Medical Center, late Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cincinnati, where Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin was taken after collapsing on the field during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean) Jeff Dean/AP

Shaming football fans for a tragic freak injury doesn’t solve anything

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Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest on the field Monday night was bound to inspire wild overreactions, and none is more absurd than the shaming of football fans themselves.

That is the direction Kurt Streeter took at the New York Times. You may recall that Streeter is the same sports writer who wildly overreacted to COVID and declared that college football’s national champion should have been a school that didn’t play its season in fear of COVID. Now, Streeter wants to shame NFL fans as “complicit” in the “violent spectacle” of football.

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“My prayer, aside from seeing Hamlin leave that Cincinnati hospital able to live a fruitful, productive life, is that we never watch a single snap of an NFL game the same way again,” Streeter writes. He goes on to describe football more as a sport that no one should watch at all, a sport that makes young men put “their lives on the line for our entertainment.” The sport is “terrifying,” “gruesome,” and a “circus” that goes on at all costs. You should feel bad for watching football if Streeter is to be believed.

But while the Hamlin incident was undoubtedly tragic, it is not the norm. In fact, it has never happened in modern NFL history. Hamlin likely suffered from a case of commotio cordis as a result of the hit to the chest he took, and yet that same kind of hit occurs multiple times in every game, every season, every year. It is a routine football play, a regular feature of the game that does not regularly result in a player’s heart stopping as Streeter wants you to believe.

And it should be noted that heart problems and players being pushed to the brink of death are not reserved for football either. Hockey player Chris Pronger suffered a similar injury to Hamlin in 1998, and no one will confuse hockey for a pacifist’s game. Soccer player Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field in June 2021 after going into cardiac arrest. In college basketball, Florida’s Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court in December 2020. He survived, but Loyola Marymount’s Hank Gathers did not when he collapsed in 1990.

Even baseball is not immune to these terrifying life-threatening injuries.

Football is violent, yes. It always has been. No one has their head in the sand about head injuries anymore. Otherwise, Streeter may have a point. Fans are aware of the risks players take on every single play. Yet tragic accidents, anomalies that are few and far between, can still occur. They happen in every sport. If anything, it is a testament to the safety procedures that the NFL hadn’t seen anything like it until Hamlin’s injury.

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Streeter’s rant is directed at a group of people who do not exist. It is unnecessary at best and misleading in its motivations at worst. You can be an enthusiastic football fan, recognize that football is an inherently violent sport, and acknowledge that Hamlin’s tragic injury is a complete anomaly. You do not have to choose just one, as Streeter has, nor do you need to feel shame for it.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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