American Football is probably one of the most notorious sports in the West, with countless movies being churned out focusing either exclusively or partly on the sport. It’s a great spectacle. The Superbowl is watched by millions each year with the half time show taking centre stage in what pop culture phenomenon will be talked about for weeks to come. But the game comes at a price.
Arian Foster played as a running back for the Houston Texans from 2010-2015 and then the Miami Dolphins in 2016, but after his year was up Foster announced his retirement from the sport. He’d later lament on his retirement on the Joe Rogan podcast, talking about the various injuries he suffered through his work- especially in his last year.
As a result, Arian has had up to fourteen different surgeries- including back and heel surgeries. To an outsider the sheer amount of them feels shocking- but to an insider, it’s normal. Almost everyone who plays professional football in the states ends the season by getting a surgery or two. Little to no one who plays is uninjured, even those with the smallest roles get hurt eventually.
Surgeries are a real bitch to go through, but the recovery is arguably worse. All the medication you have to take, the time spent in rehab with physical therapy, the feeling of infantilization…it’s agonising.
And unlike wine, the human body doesn’t get better with age. All those knee and back surgeries, all those chipped bones and torn muscles collected from brutal tackles- all that gets a whole lot worse when arthritis starts to kick in. And we haven’t even gotten to CTE- the dominant form of brain damage that kills most of these athletes.
Arian has had problems with concussions before, recalling the aftermath of one of his worst games where it took him five minutes to get out of bed and limp to the bathroom- which was literally in the same room. He worries about what the brain damage is going to bring about, particularly the early onset dementia and loss of motor skill abilities.
He spent the first three years playing football with a broken collar bone and didn’t tell anyone because of fears they’d terminate his contract. To this day it’s still somewhat broken, soon he’ll probably have to get a metal plate or rod placed in there to fix it. But again, those procedures will eventually do more harm than good since the metal with rust, chip off and poison the blood system. For Christ sake, that’s how Wolverine died!
Even though his career raked in millions of dollars, Arian concludes by saying that if he had the choice to do it all over again- he wouldn’t play football. All the damage the pain killers will do to his liver, the constant pain of injured muscles and bones, the brain damage…it’s just not worth it. All the money in the world is useless if you do not have the health to enjoy it.
Arian’s story gave me a lot to think about. About pain, mortality, but most importantly it gave me a better insight into how we operate this world of ours, and how in the end…it’s just not worth it.
The printing paper we use that causes mass deforestation, it’s not worth it. The mining we pursue to dig up copper and platinum so that we can operate our computers that in return demands a lot of energy and destroys countless natural habitats, it’s not worth it. The coal and gas we burn to produce electricity and to operate heavy vehicles which pollute the environment, it’s not worth it. The excessive amount of livestock we breed for food who in turn unleash astonishing amounts of methane into the air, it’s not worth it.
It doesn’t matter how many lives the modern world saves and improves, if we continue down a path that will result in the earth becoming uninhabitable- then it’s not worth it.
But despite all this damage, I have hope. It may be too late for Arian Foster to prevent his injuries, but it’s not too late for his kids. He’s been vocal in his aversion to kids playing touch football and is on record for saying he wouldn’t let his kids play or pursue a career in any sport that results in that kind of physical and mental damage.
He stresses that education is the way, even going so far as to say that if he were to do it all over again he’d rather be a broke scientist than a rich football player. The ideal society, for him, is a place of artists, philosophers and scientists. An environment that encourages learning, reason and logic over greed, ignorance and short-lived pleasures.
Likewise, it’s not too late for us to do some damage control. We can plant more trees, particularly in cities. Turn to renewable resources, recycle more, depend more on public transport- it’s not too late to change the way we live. It is manageable.
To those who earn their fortunes tearing up the ocean floors looking for oil, it isn’t worth it. To those who launch wars to secure discipline in a petro-state, it isn’t worth it. To those who prevent innovation at the cost of irreparable damage to the world around us, it isn’t worth it. All the money in the world won’t mean jack shit when you can’t breathe.
The price to pay for our temporary satisfactions over the well being of the people to come and the people currently suffering, it’s not worth it.