Letters to the Editor: Football is our sport. What that says about America is wonderful and disturbing

Members of the Cincinnati Bengals walk off the field
Members of the Cincinnati Bengals walk off the field after their game against the Buffalo Bills was canceled following Damar Hamlin’s injury on Jan. 2.
(Emilee Chinn / Associated Press)

To the editor: My grandfather was Frank Nesser. He played in the first National Football League game. He and his brothers and other family members were among the founding fathers of American football in Columbus, Ohio. (“Is there something about Americans that makes us football addicts?” Opinion, Jan. 4)

They wore leather helmets, with very little body protection. In those days the players got broken noses, broken bones and were crushed hard by their opponents. They would play a game of pro football one month, and then play a game of pro baseball the next. One of my uncles on the team was even a pro boxer.

These men were tough. I cannot emphasize how tough. Imagine working 12 hours as a boilermaker on the railroad, then meeting at a field in Ohio to play ball. Who does that nowadays?


Most people will say the game of football is a dangerous sport. I believe they are right. So was being a European passenger on a ship for months, overcoming diseases and danger to make it to America. Football is alive today not because of the risks, but because of the ability to overcome those risks.

Patricia Huff, South Pasadena


To the editor: I agree with Randall Balmer’s op-ed article on football as a cultural metaphor for war that celebrates violence. But it is more: It glorifies the amoral principles of “survival of the fittest” and “might makes right.”

Football takes acts that would be considered assault if played out in the street and turns them into entertainment for the masses. Even worse, the damage to its players who often develop brain injury, including so many men of color, is at the behest of primarily white “owners” who make money from the capital of the players’ expendable bodies.

Because the owners’ bodies are never in danger, football has also become a cultural metaphor for the structure of plantation slavery, of capitalism with no restraint whatsoever.

Baseball is very different. The two halves of a baseball inning are in opposition. In one half, a single batter, totally by himself, must face nine men poised to defeat him. The focus is on the individualism of that batter. In the other half, the batters unite to create the greater whole of their defending team.

Baseball therefore celebrates two of the most admirable virtues of the United States — the individual as well as the necessity of creating community.


Baseball used to be considered the quintessential American game. Now that honor has gone to football. What does that say about us?

Charles Derry, Palm Springs


To the editor: The Times needs to do better than publishing reactionary op-ed articles. Reality is more complicated.

Yes, football is simulated militaristic violence, but violence in sport takes many forms and appeals to many cultures. Hockey allows for pugilistic violence followed by a short penalty. Rugby is violent and may actually be associated with more injuries per player.

Calcio storico, played in Italy, is indisputably the most violent, warlike team sport on the planet. It is more than 500 years old. Boxing and mixed martial arts have worldwide appeal.

The concussion rates of college football and women’s soccer are comparable, while those of college hockey and wrestling surpass both.

Finally, the proposed mechanism of injury involved in the unspeakable tragedy of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, commotio cordis, happens way more often in the sport of baseball.

Christopher Romberg, El Dorado Hills, Calif.


To the editor: Why would any responsible parent allow their child to pursue football? To allow it borders on child abuse.

If the child is sufficiently gifted athletically, other sports are equally and usually more remunerative.

Richard Melniker, Los Angeles


To the editor: One week ago, the nation saw dozens of hyper-competitive athletes kneel together in a circle and pray for a fallen comrade. Their uniforms were dispersed in random order, side by side. They were crying, they were hugging each other.

One of football’s young stud quarterbacks went to another young stud quarterback, embraced him and gently rubbed his head. Rivalries were forgotten.

It was all spontaneous and instinctive. Each player intuitively understood the concept of the greater good.

Then there was the image of the Republicans in Congress.

Dennis Connor, Burbank