Love this essay so very much. It moved me to write a letter to my son, who will be joining the law enforcement community. I share it here with heartfelt thanks to Ethan Strauss.

Dear (Son),

A few months ago The Free Press published an essay on Why America Needs Football. The author, Ethan Strauss, opens with a story about a guy he knew in college who joined the military immediately after graduation. He was soft-spoken, kind, smart, and “war was just in him.” He loved reading and learning about military history (kinda like you). His parents tried to dissuade him from enlisting (kinda like Mom and me). Later in the essay Strauss quotes Al Pacino’s character from Any Given Sunday, who was reflecting on why retired quarterbacks miss the game.

“What he missed most were those other guys looking back at him in the huddle. Those eleven guys, every one of them, seeing things the same way.”

Strauss sees American football, with all its faults, as a worthwhile national pastime. It speaks to something in our human nature that used to be satisfied by going into battle. He does not believe football glorifies war or violence. “Nobody wants that death. But everyone wants the stakes, the drama, and the bonds that come with that.”

You and I share a passion for music and guitars, and I am very grateful for our affinity. But I have never shared your passion for military history, never understood your desire to serve as a US Marine. It’s always been a mystery to me, but Strauss’s essay exposed some helpful clues. When you were in elementary and middle school, it seemed like all you ever wanted to do was hang out with your friends. It was there that you were happiest. Band of Brothers was a favorite book. How old were you the first time you read it? I wish I had paid closer attention. I might have been more supportive and encouraging. It wasn’t until I took the VFW job that I began to appreciate the unique bond that exists between military comrades. I am sorry that I was so slow to reach this understanding.

Good essays stimulate good reflections. Great essays go one step further and stimulate projections for the future. Like your desire to join the Marines, your desire to serve in law enforcement has baffled me. But I now see it as a natural progression of your passion to serve with other like-minded men and women. It is clear that God wired you for “the stakes, the drama, and the bonds that come with that.” You have an admirable desire to be part of a tribe in which every member sees things the same way and has pledged to watch out for each other. No officer left behind.

Ethan Strauss’s essay won’t make me a football fan. But it helps me understand and appreciate the fans. Also, I didn’t need the essay to make me your fan. I have always been and will always be your Number One Fan. Why America Needs Football opened my eyes to how I can support you as you transition into your chosen career, and how I can encourage and edify you when the inevitable setbacks and obstacles hinder your progress. Your courage and your servant’s heart amaze me. I am so proud of you. Keep doing what you’re doing, (Son). You’re doing good.

Love, Dad

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What a great piece, thanks.

One of my most enduring memories from childhood was coming home from a football game played in the pouring rain. I was soaking wet, freezing, covered in mud, my left arm hurt like crazy and barely worked - I loved it - favorite day. We had won, and my arm got better.

I grew up on a military base during the Vietnam War, I married into a Quaker family. For decades it was difficult for my in-laws and I to see each other's worlds. Then they moved to New Zealand, in part to get away from the violence of America. There my mother-in-law fell in love with New Zealand's national sport - rugby. Which I too love. Now we watch all the All Blacks games together, cheering on the violent hits and all.

The fact that an otherwise genteel country like New Zealand loves a game as violent as rugby, and makes the whole idea seem - of course - underscores the thesis of this piece beautifully.

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Bravo. Concise and accurate.

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Strauss is right in so many ways especially the fox hole analogy! As a linebacker at a small college, I loved how it taught me to be totally focused on one thing in the midst of total chaos once the ball was snapped - find the ball. Clarity beyond belief - bodies flying all around you and all all you see is the ball! Football also provides a violent outlet for the frustrations of young men - I received my share of 15 yard penalties for taking out my off the field frustrations on the opponent! What a relief!

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Feb 16, 2023·edited Feb 16, 2023

reading these comments. the natural flow of debate. from stemming the violence of football, to keeping the (controlled) violence of football, to violence in the hearts of men, to violence against the babies to violence against a "woman's right"...whatever your opED - we all must agree: Bari and the 'stak have given us a real gift. Freedom of expression. so refreshing

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The referees make a big difference. NFL fans get furious when the refs become too involved in the game.

In the NBA, we just accept it as if it were the weather. "Oh the refs are allowing defensive contact today."

We've seen improvements in game watchability when the NBA disincentivized intentionally getting fouled. They should continue. Basketball could give the NFL a much closer run for their money and all sports fans would benefit.

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I’m not saying that “all opposition” is religious based. What I’m saying is that the systematic crafting of cases to topple Roe DID come from well funded fundamentalist religious sources, and the timing was right that it fell on sympathetic ears, namely - new Justices who happen to have an affinity with the same religion.

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Ethan Strauss -- A really interesting take on football as the American Game. I recall some coach objecting to the description of football as a "contact sport." It's not a "contact sport," he explained. "It's a COLLISION sport." I respect the statistic that some 90% of retired football players, even if they incurred injuries that have resulted in daily pain for the rest of their lives, have no regrets. They knew what they were getting in for, and they were grateful to have been given the opportunity to play that game and get paid for it.

All team sports are a kind of symbolic war, and American football is perhaps the most outstanding manifestation of ritual symbolic war there is. The opposing lines: trench warfare as in WW I. Helmets and body armor against the inevitable blows. The medics at the ready to patch up the wounded. The grinding ground game, then arial combat: short passes to running backs and tight ends, like the sorties of planes in quick raids; then the long bomb, the 50-yard pass, like the big guns shelling from miles away. The quarterback as field commander, making adjustments as the enemy shows a move. The 5-star general (the head coach) on the sidelines, implementing strategy, calling in substitutions (fresh troops), while the commander-in-chief, the team's owner, like the President, high up in the skybox, observing the whole show. The big guys in the line, whether offense or defense, like the armored divisions. The fullback, the big but portable gun; the halfbacks, lieutenants to the quarterback. Each score a battlefield win; the final score, the end of the big battle; or, if it's the Super Bowl, the end of the war. Victories pyrrhic or blowout, victories all. The losers go home in shame or pride that they fought well against a worthy opponent.

And we get to see the spectacle, to see the game the players on the field cannot see -- to behold the game aesthetically and experience the thrill and danger of violence in a vicarious way.

War is a terrible human institution that has been with us since we formed tribal identities. We see its nascence in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the proto-humans fight over a water hole, the winners running off the losers with a new technology: an animal femur used as a club. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a grotesque throwback to the nightmare of WW II. Putin, like Hitler, is going after Ukraine the way Hitler went after the Sudetenland, and Poland, and the rest. His philosopher-theologian Alexander Dugin and the Patriarch of Moscow egg him on to crush the Ukrainian apostates. It's a holy war to them. This is hideous. This is war as Hell, as the breakdown of an international order created largely by the USA after WW II. This is real war, not symbolic war.

Let us continue to honor and enjoy the symbolic war of football, and others, such as the Olympic Games, so as to siphon off this dark human desire for power, glory, conquest, and dominance into something we could very well call, civilized.

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Years of Rugby, boxing, and K1 kickboxing, were my own vessel for channelling this 'war stuff'. The physicality and agonistic danger were part of the appeal. And if it hadn't been for those sports, I might well have ended up in the military in search of something existentially engaging enough to keep the train on the tracks. Collision based full contact sports offered invaluable expressive and developmental opportunities to myself, and countless other men I know. Thanks to Ethan for putting voice to this reality with a great piece.

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I'm sure the Romans felt the same way.... popularizing gladiators to pound each other into submission or death for the citizenry to detract from the Rome's (Beltway's) villainy. Having been a starting tailback for a couple years on a mediocre football team, followed by liberal arts at U of W, draftee into Army and graduate of artillery OCS, I am convinced the cost/ benefits of football to the players is at best a toss up. Teamwork and self sacrifice are laudable. Now however, the commercialization, especially the exponential increase in gambling and media profits that "might" arise from fixing games, makes every game questionable. And the kids now it.

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Before reaching sentence containing word “authenticity”, I was going to suggest that as reason for appeal. In 2022, I wanted to vomit at all the woke movies, woke TV news, etc. TV audience hungers for authenticity. Boxing is more dangerous than football. I never had an interest in football, personal not political. But, I respect the game and enjoyed the article.

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In every "game" there is the struggle of David versus Goliath, light against dark, good versus evil. It allows the viewer/spectator to participate vicariously, identify with the giant or the underdog in the fight for victory and redemption. Football, basketball, hockey, soccer, they are all life affirming struggles to please and seize the cup, the trophy, the God. The various sports are holy wars, nothing less; for one brief shiny moment they allow us the opportunity to be whole.

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Anti-Football people also overlook the beautiful complexity of 11-on-11 football. 22 players, all with assignments, reads, adjustments on every play? It's amazing.

They also don't seem to have ever experienced the teamwork that grows so easily into brotherhood.

I used to play a lot of pick-up basketball. Winner holds court and gets to play again. I got on a "team" with a truly rag-tag collection of guys with my neighbor being the only big athlete among us. We started against a team that seemed to have played together, but we beat them, and they were all fit, athletic and pretty big. (later found they were the bench players off the previous years' high school champion team). Then we played a team with a couple of black guys. And won. Turns out this scruffy guy who didn't talk was a demon rebounder and defender. High motor and played like it was life-and-death. And we had a guy who was a

deadeye shot, and a guy who had waaay above-average handle.

Anyway, the point is that for over 3 hours we "held court" against all comers and by the end of it, exhausted and triumphant, we were truly a "band of brothers". We all felt it, and we all knew we most likely would never see each other again.

If such a feeling can be generated spontaneously and randomly, how universal must it be among groups who practice, work and compete as a team over time?

That's why some of the favorite games I've ever seen involved a huge underdog playing for nothing, putting up a heroic battle against a superior team for no reason other than their commitment to their fans, coaches and most importantly, to each other. Anyone who can't see the value of that has some personal issues.

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Gladwell is a classic beta boy. He'll never understand masculinity or male-bonding. He and the other beta boy feminists, along with the 4th wave angry "destroy the patriarchy and everything is the patriachy" feminists whom the betas cling to like lost puppies, want to demonize everything that is masculine. They live in a dark fantasy world that, no matter how hard they try to project it be so, will never be the objective reality most of us live in. I used to be a fan of Gladwell (many years ago) but I have grown to really despise him. I watched him in a debate on whether or not to trust MSM and his arrogance was truly astounding. He lives inside an elitist echo chamber that prevents him and those like him from being able to have even the slightest grasp on how the average person lives or what they value.

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NFL is not violent at all. Compare to MMA.

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Like I said, try google. Just for shits and giggles did a search and this gem came up. 2021 in the ever comical "Scientific American."


Happy now?

Why do I treat you as a normal person? The other posters admonish me against it? And how to you respond? Should I continue to bother?

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Well isn’t that article a gem. Good Lord, what will they think of next? 🙄

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