Monday, October 4, 2010

I Was Already Aware Of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer awareness month is upon us again, and the National Football League is drenched in pink.  It's good to be aware of breast cancer, but do we need an entire month of guys in hot pink shoes and wristbands to raise the profile of this disease?  It's a little much, and this is coming from someone whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly nine years ago (she fully recovered).  Obviously it's good to bring attention to a disease that kills people, but there are plenty of diseases that are awful, along with countless causes deserving of attention.  Smoking and obesity combine to kill 700,000+ people per year.  Heart disease kills more people than breast cancer...obviously the list of horrible health issues people face could go on and on.

It's probably because breast cancer is an easy cause to promote that the NFL participates so aggressively.  It has a distinctive color (pink).  It kills our mothers and daughters (sad).  Anyone who questions raising breast cancer awareness (whatever that actually means) is an asshole (myself).  The NFL can look quite socially conscious about a health issue as their massive, manly players throw on the least manly color in the spectrum in a display of empathy and grace.  Now only if the NFL cared about other health issues, like the long term well-being of their players...

HBO's Real Sports featured the effects of concussions on ex-NFL players to devastating effect, and the NFL has adopted new concussion guidelines.  Okay, that's progress.  So why are the owners insisting on expanding an already brutal 16 game season to 18 games?  Injuries have been widespread this year as they are every year.  It isn't natural for the biggest, fastest, most athletic men on the planet to repeatedly smash into each other at full speed.  The game is barely manageable now; adding two more games seems unnecessarily cruel.  That's one reason I've always found it ridiculous to bitch about Player X's salary - isn't he the one going out and risking his body and brain for this sport?  Pay him!  We're talking about billions of dollars of television revenue, merchandising...why shouldn't the player get the larger cut?  Very few people seem to question the profit margin of the fat cat owner, the one sitting in the luxury box making money hand over fist at no physical peril to himself.

The hypocrisy of a giant moneymaker like the NFL is not surprising, and after all the players do willingly participate and should be aware of the dangers of the sport. That doesn't mean the league isn't responsible for caring for the long term health of the players, but if they show they're actually making progress in that area (whether pressured by Congress or not) then that's good.

But if they want to be a truly socially conscious organization, they'll adopt more causes that actually need their profiles raised instead of taking the easy way out.  A month dedicated to breast cancer awareness isn't a bad thing in itself, but too much time focused on one issue takes time away from other causes that actually do need broad attention.  Obesity awareness would be a good start - ever seen a Packers fan?  There are plenty of worthwhile charities to support.  Focusing on one for an entire month in a flashy display of political correctness is not really doing much good. 

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