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Super Bowl or Super Bomb?

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
March 2014
Super Bowl or Super Bomb?

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

“In the pit, there is more violence per square foot than anywhere else in sport!” (NFL films narrator). You seem to be fond of quotes, so I’ve provided one to lead off my question. What would Mr. Gandhi make of the violent spectacle called the National Football League? I heard the above quote while watching a FRONTLINE episode called “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”

A few weeks after this documentary was aired, a 27-year-old friend of mine bumped her head on the freezer door after standing up rapidly when she had finished loading the fridge with groceries. Upon learning of my friend’s symptoms (nausea, insomnia, and headaches), her doctor diagnosed a mild concussion. The good news is that our friend is healing quite well, but this firsthand experience with a head injury has us wondering about the ethics of watching professional football. We recognize that the NFL is a big business organized to make billions of dollars from the mercenaries who are willing to put their bodies on the line for fame and fortune, but why do peace-loving sports fans find themselves addicted to the big hits?

Dear Friend,

““My non-violence is not merely kindness to all living creatures. The emphasis laid on the sacredness of subhuman life in Jainism is understandable. But that can never mean that one is to be kind to this life in preference to human life.” (M. K. Gandhi)

Your letter opens with a quote prominently featuring an antonym to Gandhian thinking:
• Violence: Ahimsa

The title of the documentary contains a more subtle antonym to Gandhian thinking:
• Denial: Satyagraha

The National Football League has hypocritically promoted its business model of choreographed violence by denying that the concussions that have exposed its athletes to life-ending or life-limiting brain damage have resulted from the “game” of football. At the same time, on every Sunday in the fall, leading up to the Super Bowl, the NFL puts its well-compensated gladiators on display in front of adoring fans who have been socialized into believing that this is how “boys become men,” “teams become bigger than individuals,” “and Xs and Os become great strategy.”

To understand what Gandhiji would have made of the violence in the NFL, please consider the ethics of watching dog fights. This blood sport is a felony in every American state. Although players in the NFL can be sold, bought, possessed, trained, and transported, these same acts are deemed illegal by the federal U.S. Animal Welfare Act in relation to dog fighting.

Gandhiji might have asked, “How can the former Falcon quarterback, Michael Vick, be celebrated in Atlanta for taking hit after hit while throwing bomb after bomb, but then become a pariah overnight for organizing dog fights?” It would seem that football fans are more “kind to [dog] life in preference to human life.”

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]


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