The best way to understand America
is through the lens of football esoterica.
If you have no clue where you belong,
why not join the friendly football throng?
Get to know the winners and the losers,
then idolize the biggest, meanest bruisers.
If you know the players, teams and stats,
it will fuel all sorts of chats and spats.
It’s easy to connect with your community;
go to a game and holler with impunity.
Don’t let on that you’re a rank beginner.
Talk statistics and you’ll be a winner.
This is the Horace Flaccus podcast, here
outside the NRG Stadium. Let’s hear
what people on the street have to say
as they stand in line on Super Bowl Sunday.

I’m not here to spoil your day, but I
wonder if you’ve heard of TBI.
Imagine an announcer shouting this,
as a player’s carried to the pits:
“The receiver just sustained a grade
two concussion. Another brain sautéed!
The members of the church of gridiron cheer
as they take another sip of beer.”

It’s not our fault. How dare you blame and shame us?
We’re the ones who make them rich and famous.
Why don’t you talk about the importance of
teamwork, athleticism, the viewers sense of

_____________I’m not negating that at all.
Everything you say is true. But football
has a darker side. The NFL
doesn’t collect or publish stats that tell
us how many players wind up disabled.
Who is going to overturn the tables?
Football fosters tolerance of violence
and fans support it, claiming innocence.
How about the racism: a mob of white
guys cheering as black gladiators fight
for the ball? Two-thirds of players are black,
yet only six percent of coaches are black.
Of all the teams, not one is owned by blacks.

Come on man, give us a break. The players
are very well paid. You’re really not being fair.
It’s not as if they’re forced to play the game.

Could you resist the money and the fame?
Don’t get me wrong, my friend, I understand.
For years I was a Dallas Cowboys fan.
The more I watched the more I felt complicit.
I won’t support a sport that’s so horrific.
The football culture covers up the facts.
As if someone had stopped our ears with wax,
we never say “concussion;” instead we say
“He had his bell rung. Did you see that play?”
You might not be aware that one in three
players suffers memory loss. D’you see
why I won’t stop talking about this?
Who cares if die-hard fans like you get pissed?


John W. Steele. Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, is a student in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Western State Colorado University. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.  

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2 Responses

  1. Father Richard Libby

    This poem raises some very uncomfortable considerations for football fans, especially as concerns former players. Dr. Steele has contributed to a long overdue discussion that our society, I think, would rather avoid. Well done, Dr. Steele!


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