Steve Almond's Top Ten Reasons to Say Screw the NFL

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Steve Almond wants NFL players who smoke weed to be able to get high in peace.

The author of Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto told us, "The NFL should shut their fucking mouths about players who wanna smoke pot. They'd rather have them all shot up on Toradol, drinking booze, and going home to beat their wives."

Almond, a lifetime football fan, now hates the league, and he thinks that you should, too. He's so sick of the corruption, greed, and violence in the sport that before his big reading at Books & Books, he's got ten reasons to say fuck the NFL.

See also: Five Books By New Times Authors Out This Summer

10. Football Causes Brain Damage

"According to the NFL itself, the sport that profits 10 billion dollars a year causes or will cause brain damage in a third of all players. That's probably not so good. Under the list of 'cruel and pretty fucked up,' that goes under Pretty Fucked Up. And these are not my statistics. This is what the NFL admitted on federal court documents related to lawsuits."

9. The Oakland Raiders

That's my favorite team. They're so bad this needs no explanation. They are the laughing stock of the league. But they do sell a lot of hats.

8. The NFL Hates Women

"The NFL's cynical and transparent efforts to woo female fans by putting pink cleats on the players contrast the actual gender roles that the NFL presents every week in full color on your TV, which are that men are inherently of worth to the world by being fearless, aggressive, and violent, and women are sexual hood ornaments."

7. They Don't Pay Any Taxes

"The NFL is a tax exempt organization. Tax exempt. They managed to get tax protection in the 1960s. It's really fucked up. They're designated as a business league, but unless you have 7 billion dollars you can't join them and become a team owner so they got in under a technicality that was not designed for huge fucking corporations."

6. They Sell Kids False Dreams

"The NFL sells kids from economically vulnerable neighborhoods in this country a false dream, that we all consent to, which is that their path to economic salvation, to riches, and glory, and power resides not in the content of their character, not in the development of their minds, and certainly not in the development of their moral systems; that the way to escape the hood is by entertaining us, by playing a beautiful and savage game, by performing for us like animals. And I say that's a false dream because only one in 500 high school seniors who play football is gonna make the pros. They will last barely four seasons, and they will be in financial trouble within a decade after they retire. And those are the winners.

"The other 499 kids who've been told 'maybe if you play football you won't wind up in prison or a dead end job,' they shouldn't need football to have a chance to make it in America. They need good schools, support for working families (especially single parents), and they need good paying wages and jobs in their communities. They need the possibility of some higher education without having to fucking win scholarships. And by the way, the ones who are recruited by major programs, those programs don't give a shit about their education, and the fans don't give a shit either. They are there to get eligible to play and bang some heads on Saturday. It's the athletic entertainment industry that for some fucked up reason is attached to the educational system in this country."

5. No Values

"The NFL is deeply, consciously, by design, and by circumstance in alliance with some of the worst values that America represents. Not just misogyny and toxic gender roles, but reinforcing the idea that young men of color are inherently only of worth to us because of their physical prowess. It's a hyper-competitive reality. Winning is everything. Make money and win the game are the only two values."

4. It's a Monopoly

"The NFL is essentially a monopoly, but the U.S. government has waived the anti-trust laws for them. They pit cities against one another in a move called "Franchise Free Agency." What it means is that when an NFL team wants a new stadium, they can go to a local politician and say 'I know we're in Cleveland, but Baltimore is gonna build us a new stadium. The tax payers are gonna foot the bill, and we get 30 years rent free. Fuck you, Cleveland. We're gone.' This happens all the time. The NFL monopoly has converted our devotion for the game into an engine for fucking greed. Seventy percent of funds to build stadiums come from public tax money. And they see about 1 to 2 percent in returns. Cities get nothing back. It's all siphoned from the public into the pockets of billionaire owners."

3. The NFL Are Liars

"The way the NFL distracted fans from the profound violence on the field was by taking a page from the tobacco companies. They knew about the concussions and head trauma for 30 years, so they assembled a research committee that produced studies that had one aim in mind, to convince people that football did not cause brain damage. And the truth of the medical evidence is that it does. But rather than man up and take responsibility for that they created false research to cover it up. That's why the NFL is being sued not just for medical bills, but for deceptive practices, and falsified industry research. They made a conscious effort to cover up the dangers of the game from the guys who actually take the hits. That's fucked up."

2. Roger Goodell

"Roger Goodell earned 44 million dollars last year, and based on the performance of the league, he was probably underpaid. He has a cash register instead of a conscience. He makes the league a lot of money. Under his watch, profits have increased, and he has vowed that the NFL will make 25 billion dollars a year by the year 2027. That will make them one of the largest corporations around."

1. They Ruined Football

Maybe the most fucked up thing the NFL has done is that they have taken and ruined a beautiful, strategically dense, thrilling, dramatically riveting game that reconnects us all as fans to the intuitive pleasures of the body at play. The poise of somebody making a miracle with their body is amazing. Look at Barry Sanders. Look at Reggie Bush. Amazing. But alongside that beautiful game is an ugly and rapacious industry driven by an engine of nihilistic greed. I grew up around this beautiful game, and it's just fuckin' heartbreaking.

In Conclusion: Fuck The NFL

"The NFL right now is probably the largest growth industry for the American media. And because they're so hugely popular and have so many corporate partnerships, they are essentially completely unregulated by the media or the fans. This is why people love to choose a particular scapegoat like Ray Rice and jump like they do at anything besides the root of the problem: the corruption. So, of course, they do whatever they want, and if they get some bad press they take a player off the field, or make up a new rule, or make everybody wear pink cleats. They do not actually have a motive outside of generating revenue. And me, and you, and the fans are the ones who enable the whole arrangement. And that's the point of my book."

Steve Almond will read and discuss his book, Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto, Tuesday, November 11 at 8 p.m. at Books & Books.

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