Mark Edmundson asks 'Does Football Matter?'By Maddy Ard | 09/22/2014 7:50am
“Those who have access to their rage often triumph,” Edmundson, a professor at the University of Virginia, said during his lecture on his book “Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game” on Friday.
He compared football to war and football players to the characters in the ancient Greek epic. Hector was a warrior who could “turn off” his aggression when he left the battlefield, while Achilles lived in a constant state of rage. He argued that, like Hector, those who can leave aggression on the field are likely to fail.
“Everyone wants to be a Hector, but Hector loses,” he said. “Everyone wants to win.”
When asked after his lecture about his thoughts on the recent incidents involving domestic violence in the NFL, Edmundson said he was disturbed because he realizes football is a game “dangerous to the brain and heart.” He said coaches train athletes to harness their aggres sion and become animals on the football field, yet Americans are stunned when their heroes commit violent acts like those that have been highlighted in the media recently.
Edmundson said he worries that Americans have forgotten what a true hero is.
“By definition, a hero is someone who is willing to give his life for a just cause or for his country,” he said.
He claims American society builds athletes up to hero status, giving them a false sense of invincibility and immortality. He said this explains why some athletes have committed such violent or unreasonable acts without thinking of the consequences of their actions.
Lisa Dorr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, attended the lecture.
“Dr. Edmundson addresses the larger issue in football,” she said. “We as Americans have begun to mistake aggression for courage.”
Edmundson quoted Plato’s famous saying, “Courage is knowing what to fear,” and said he worries American athletes are being taught that being brave and courageous is the same as being aggressive and ferocious.
Elizabeth Elkin, a freshman majoring in journalism, said she was surprised about the lecture’s content.
“This lecture wasn’t what I was expecting,” Elkin said. “I thought this was going to be a pep rally for how great football is, but it was more of an argument that American football training has gone a bit too far.”