The League


How Much of the NFL'sAppeal is Violence?

Is it hypocritical of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to be blitzing hard hits and cracking down on even first time offenders, if that's what fans want to see?

Posted by Emil Steiner on September 19, 2008 1:00 AM

Gus In Leesburg: It's the whole spectacle. Violence, superior athleticism, big personalities, roller-coaster drama. When a team clicks it is art in motion....

Ray: Watch a televised football game, any game, and notice what happens when there is an injury. The play is shown over and over, in slow motion,...

Pwelvr: Whoever wins whatever sports game on whatever weekend or Monday night means nothing to the world. Oh sure it is a momentary diversion from ...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (50)

BiffGriff :

Newsflash: football is a full contact sport. You want to cut down on these ramming speed style hits? Remove the facemasks from helmets. I promise you the tackle style would be 100% cleaner overnight if these prima donnas had to worry about messing up their endorsement deals.

El Sid :

Jerry Jones had Sean Taylor wacked cuz he were afraid he'd decapitate T.O.!! snuff sed..

Kelly :

People watch football for the same reason they watch NASCAR, collisions. Big powerful objects in motion knocking into each other at high speeds. Newton's law demonstrated with a boom and a crash and a beer in hand. I love this game!

Paul, PA :

If you think the NFL is anything more than gladiator fights you are delusional. I'm not saying that gladiator fights are not entertaining I just want to keep it real here. It is entertainment for the masses and the masses like blood and violence and christians being fed to the lions (we call them the Rams). So sit back, pop some popcorn like TO says, and enjoy it cause its fun and don't read into it too much. A game is an escape. What more do you want?

To Paul :

Sports is entertainment, but entertainment is not gladitor fighting, not anymore. Society has evolved beyond that kind of thing and we have rules now.
If what you are saying is true we would also have snuff films and legal sex shows going on at halftime. There are boundries on decency standards that we agree to and cannot cross. It isn't entertaining to have illegal hits or Linebackers with brass knuckles but it is entertaining to have a competative sport where athletes compete within the rules and good sportsmanship. That is why I watch.


The NFL is sport and entertainment. People watch it because they like the teams and the players, not to see people get hurt. Yes it is a full contact sport with scantily clad cheerleaders, which both appeal to the mostly male demographic, but neither one is the primary reason for it's popularity. Plenty of folks like baseball just as much, or worldwide soccer (ie football), which is the most popular sport in the world and both are far less violent. Keeping the players safe is important and I agree with the commissioner.

Justin :

"If you think the NFL is anything more than gladiator fights you are delusional." As someone who looks forward to enjoying a Sunday spent watching football, this statement just seems silly and misinformed to me. Of course, every football fan likes to see a hard tackle or an effective block. But that's not the whole game: what about passing, kicking, RBs finding gaps in the defensive line, etc.? The point of football is to score points, not wound your opponent.

On the Mack hit: from the video you can see this was a cheap shot, a block so hard it looked more like a tackle with helmet-to-helmet contact. It clearly should have drawn a penalty. My concern is that it only received so much attention because it was a hit on a quarterback. While quarterbacks need special consideration so that players avoid hitting them directly after the throw, protecting QBs' health shouldn't be the primary concern of league rule-makers. The QB is just one player on the field! If Mack intentionally threw a bad block on Ryan to injure the opponent's QB, then he deserves to be suspended, but we can't know Mack's intentions.

Kenneth :

I like to see evangelical Christians get hurt.

Example: A catastrophic injury to Kurt Warner would be entertaining to see.

Unfortunately, Tony Dungee doesn't play. It was awesome to see you thanking God for winning the SuperBowl.

Evangelicals will be the ruin of the United States ie: George Bush Jr.

jack macy :


Jamil Ludd :

The game is definitely more than the big, violent hits. Although fans enjoy, especially the home crowd, love and cheer violent hits, violent hits do not occur that often. To me, when they do occur, it's more of a message sent to the other team that 'we're here to play.' The game has so much more entertaining aspects than big hits like amazing one-hand catches, quarterbacks miraculously escaping sacks, fast players who juke and blaze around everybody, and big, fat-looking men who can scoop up a loose ball and make it to the end zone. So yes fans and players do love big and arguably violent hits, but that's only a marginal portion of the game.

Jom :

The appeal of the NFL are the difficulty of gaining the yards and the highlights of running the ball and catching it. Violence has no place in this league. I call it playing hard and with passion.

B. Bowen :

"If you think the NFL is anything more than gladiator fights you are delusional." -PAUL, PA

clearly you've never played football

To the average person i guess i could buy the argument that the NFL is only about the violence, but i think to a surprising amount of people who understand the strategy and the game planning that
goes into each and every game the NFL is so much more. Football is comparable to a gladiator fight but not say that its not anything more shows a huge misunderstanding for the game.

Anonymous :

No, its not the violence. Its the pure pleasure watching Rhode's Scholars, who all have spotless criminal records, give refreshing and erudite press conferences after playing such sportsmanlike contests - only for the pleasure of the game.....


Mick :

The NFL does a far better job of showing the emotion and power that can be brought by a well trained group of people than our government.

An NFL defensive player could kill someone in seconds with strong jerk on the helmet.

It doesn't happen.

Our stuff suit politicians have no problem with 'shock and awe' programs where we blow entire neighborhoods up. And the cable news show the bombs going off. And ratings go through the roof. And the politician calling for the bombing shows up and gets praised.

NFL ratings go up when the team wins. Having no penalities is a big key to a team winning. Playing well is far more important than hurting someone.

I think the question is stupid.

B. Bowen :

"If you think the NFL is anything more than gladiator fights you are delusional." -PAUL, PA

clearly you've never played football

To the average person i guess i could buy the argument that the NFL is only about the violence, but i think to a surprising amount of people who understand the strategy and the game planning that
goes into each and every game the NFL is so much more. Football is comparable to a gladiator fight but not say that its not anything more shows a huge misunderstanding for the game.



Lroger :

Football satisfies the violent side of man in the hormonal phase of his life, pretty much like Boxing and Professional Wrestling. The only difference between the three is in the uniforms. The object is to win by disabling your opponent-the modern version of the timeless Gladiator wars. As long as man exists, there will be a love for violence.

heywally :

For some people, the violence of football is the main draw but for most people, I think it's the passing, receiving, running, complexity, drama, betting, escape, identification that draw them to the game. It's a battle but it's a battle with gracefulness, speed and quickness, and tremendous hand/eye skills.

Most fans have played football, at least touch and it's a fun game to play - we grew up with it.

There have been some tremendous athletes in football through the years - just watching them throwing a pass, catching a pass, running with the ball and tackling, is what makes the game a pleasure.

I still love the game after 48 years of watching it, minus the posturing and exaggerated celebrating over every little play. :)

samson151 :

Imagine my surprise when I discovered most of those players are wearing minimal pads. No wonder injuries are a constant problem.

They think pads slow them down, and besides, they don't like the way it looks on TV.

Plus they get paid while they're on the injured list.

I can't explain it. Maybe the steroids are affecting the neocortex or something.

numi :

It's really just a way to make buckets of money for owners, players and networks.
Consider that the average game takes 3.5 hours of TV time and 60 minutes of game time produces maybe 20 minutes of actual game action. Whenever I want to take an afternoon nap, I just turn on the NFL. What a scam.

aint2sure :

No, it's not. The fans may want to see good, hard, CLEAN hits, but they also want to see their favorite teams stay healty and in the playoff race for as long as possible. No one wants to see the home team eliminated in the first month because its stars are all on the IR.
There's too much money involved for that to happen. Some injuries in a contact sport like football are unavoidable. But if the league is going to be successful in the majority of its markets, it's going to have to cut down on the frequency and severity as much as possible.

ET :

If the entire reason behind the NFL's popularity was violence, the NHL and boxing would be much more popular then they are now. To suggest otherwise is somewhat naive.

Anonymous :

Of course the NFL is selling violence. That's a bad thing? The rules and equipment are designed to minimze injuries, but the hitting is what puts seats in the seats and beer ads on TV. In fact, we Skins fans who prefer a "smash-mouth" offense to that prissy little "West Coast" offense are prime supporters of the controlled violence.

Hockey isn't popular beause the on-ice hitting wasn't enough; there had to be regular fist-fights between little white guys with no teeth named Guy or the hockey fans change the channel. The rest of us yawned and tuned out years ago.

Boxing likely would still be popular if it were not almost as fixed as wrassling and if it didn't have 17 competing "world organizations," so that there no longer is such a thing as a world champ.

chasemonster :

The answer is No!

There may be a few morons who enjoy seeing players get injured, but they are a very sick few.

What sells the NFL is watching a player break free for a long rushing touchdown score.
Or a 50 yard pass play where the receiver makes it to the end-zone and then proceeds to taunt the other team by performing some clever creative in-your-face dance routine!

OR!! Sometimes it's just as exciting to watch a defensive player stop a great offensive play.

Either way, there usually is some type of finger-pointing, or jaw-boning and trash talking from both sides throughout the game. It's great fun to watch.

Also, don't discount the idea of someone watching a game just to root for a particular team to lose.
I'm not talking about gambling.
Some people just hate certain teams for some reason, and they will turn on the game hoping to see them get their azz kicked! LOLOL

george :

i don't watch football for the injuries and violence and am glad the college and pro leagues are trying to limit it. i watch it because i played it through hs and well into my 40s i was still playing flag football regularly and the colleges and pros showcase a superior product. it is the same reason i enjoy watching tiger or federer-pros play the same games that i still participate in, but at a much higher level. i sometimes watch a cooking or home improvement show for the same reason.

Dan :

What appeals to me is the stratagic nature of the March down the field. Those who believe that football is somehow lowbrow are mistaken. If you have played, or if you truly consider what is going on on the field, football is very much like a game of chess...just played at hyper-speed.

Larry - Hollywood :

Lets face it; If it wasn't for the violence in football, the brawling in hockey, and the collisions in autoracing, all you idiots who pay the inflated prices to see these "sports" wouldn't go. In its day gladiator shows were considered "sport" and "entertainment." The same blood lust exists today among most "sports" enthusiasts as existed in the Roman days. They were willing to admit it, but you all are not. You all remind me of the people who say they only use a radar detector in their care to "keep their speed in limits." Yeah!

jad :

Football? Like a game of chess? (To quote several readers here, surely you have never played a game of chess.)

Any handful of well-oiled illiterates who play college or pro football could beat a team of the posters here, however brilliant, articulate, intellectual, and deep-thinking they have all proven to be.

Randall Thomas :

Gambling is what sells the NFL.

bob12 :

We cheer loudly when the big hit knocks a player out. Then we wait as the medics rush on the field. Whether the player then walks off or is carried off or taken by ambulance we stand and applaud and the game continues. We think the joy of it all is worth the risk of injury to them.

Dave D. :

Having played football for a while, including college I agree with the premise that the NFL pushes the violent aspects of the game. If you watch the advertisements for the NFL they always manage to include a vicious and many times a if not illegal a cheap shot.
I don't watch the NFL often but when I do I am surprise at the number of cheap if not illegal hits. ALL defensive backs use their helmet illegally. EVERY defensive player will late hit the QB on EVERY play if possible.
The style of play in the NFL is intentionally biased towards the defense in order to keep scoring low (TV viewing up). This is accomplished by allowing more contact to keep the offense at bay. More contact means move hitting (violence).

College ball is much more open and interesting than the NFL's Maginot line variety.

R M Gopal :

Compared with some fifty years ago, when my first impressions about sports were formed, not just football but all games have become far more violent. Even tennis, which was perhaps an elitist game in which players would pause to express appreciation for an opponent's display of unusual skill or tenacity in winning a point, has given way to a different game typified by the ranting, mocking, always-disgruntled John McEnroe. Basketball, where body contact was minimal, is now a series of pushing and shoving matches.

The reason is simple: violence is what turns the audience on. I watched a soccer game between two MLS teams last year. The game was sparsely attended and the crowd appeared listless -- except when the referee would whistle to call a foul. The audience would erupt with delighted applause and catcalls whenever this happened (which, it seemed, was every thirty seconds.)

Here's a patriotic observation by one who believes we can do much better: Perhaps our fascination with violence on the playing field is merely a reflection of our national obsession with guns, emphasis on the individual to the detriment of organized society and our penchant for shooting first and asking questions later when it comes to foreign nations.

joblo :

Violence!? These clowns wear padding for crying out loud! If they were men at all they would be playing Rugby. Now THAT is a true manly and violent sport.

heywally :

I'd be just as interested if it were flag football instead. And when you call someone else an idiot for liking football, you really don't have any credibility or value to add to the discussion.

"If it wasn't for the violence in football, the brawling in hockey, and the collisions in autoracing, all you idiots who pay the inflated prices to see these "sports" wouldn't go."

samson151 :

Did some more checking: apparently many players dispense altogether with knee, thigh, and hip padding. They also favor the sort of minor shoulder pads that used to be worn by quarterbacks (so it didn't interfere with throwing). Players with a current rib injury might consider a flak jacket, but probably not.

Bigger, faster, far less protected -- does that make sense to you?

Why doesn't the League mandate a certain level of padding? Are [i]they[/i] concerned about how it looks on TV, too?

armchairGM :

How can violence sell? The NFL and the media have gone about the idea of villifying any big hit these days and fining/suspending the perpetrator. There are no old hardhits highlight packages such as Crunchtime anymore-they don't even run on Cowboys Television, oops, I mean the NFL network.

Nowadays, it's more about dramatic passing more than anything else,after all, running backs who juke are said to be "dancing" so that's a no-no. Wide recievers are perhaps the most despised players because they try to liven up festivites when scoring, again another no-no. Defenders getting a sack had better not call attention to themselves, lest they get penalized for taunting. The NFL is so tied in with the networks, who always want to advertise a game by saying "... Watch next week when Brett Favre and the Jets take on Carson Palmer and the Bengals..." , so it becomes paramount for the league to keep those guys on the field meaning less violence,so though I wish it were not the case, the NFL is wayyyyyy less violent than in the past.

KG Blankinship :

Violence being the draw for the NFL? Ridiculous !

I got a high-def a couple of years ago, and the neat thing about watching pro football on it is the excitement! Moreover, if one knows anything about the game or played it in high school, one knows that it is not the game for the 'dumb jock.' Instead, it is a game of both tactics and strategy: Will that shotgun play work against that 5-4 defense? But even that alone doesn't decide the outcome - it also takes pure skill. Throw in some real drama too, especially in a tight game.

Bull riding contests are also exciting to watch. Such is the essence of the appeal of sports.

Whatelse :

Americans celebrate brute force and violence, so what better representation than American football? Other than the brutalities in Iraq and Wall Street, of course.

nat turner :

The violence alone wouldn't make football the sensation it is today . Gambling and alcohol round out the perfect slob passtime .

Ray :

The popularity of the NFL is driven by gambling. While lotteries are purely games of chance, many NFL fans believe they can "outwit" the oddsmakers and get rich quickly using their "analytical" skills to select winning positions. The ubiquitous advertisements on TV, satellite radio, and in periodicals offering "stone cold lead pipe locks" to beat the point spreads attest to the huge interest in betting. The violence helps create excitement and the beer removes inhibitions.

Shecky Lovejoy :

These claims are correct as far as they go, but give an incomplete picture.

The appeal of the NFL is that it is at the same time both the most violent and physical sport, but it is also the most cerebral. What other sport has playbooks the size of an NFL team's that must be memorized? (Quick, what's zebra-tango 30 red right?) What other sport has huge 300+ lbs giants, who must learn how to move in rigidly coordinated ways like an NFL offensive line? What other sport involves crucial coaching decisions on every single play on both sides of the ball? Finally, is there anything in any other sport that compares to the complexity of the job of an NFL quarterback?

Add to this the relative paucity of NFL games compared to the other major sports (1 per week per team in NFL vs 5-6 per week per team in MLB and 3-4 per week per team in the NBA and NHL), and you can see why people are so rabid come Sunday.

Steve :

The NFL is hard-hitting and dangerous, but it does not glorify violence for its own sake. If you want pure violence, watch ultimate fighting. Lying on top of a guy and choking him to unconsciousness -- now that's violence. Let's keep things in perspective here.

I watch football for the sheer beauty and ever-changing variety of the sport. Whether it's the long bomb, or the more subtle pleasures of the five-yard run or the well-executed block, football is a game of strategy and precision.

I applaud Roger Goodell's efforts to remove unnecessary violence from this sport. Now if only he had punished the guy who put a cheap shot on Tom Brady's knee...

JB :

People don't watch to see people get hurt. In fact, the injuries take away from the game in so many ways.

The appeal is that it's a fast game that's easy to understand, has elements of strategy, and is something many people are familiar with just from throwing a football around in the yard or street.

Lisa Lewis :

It's amazing.. I never hear this type of CRAP when it comes to let's say HOCKEY.. and they are violent on the ice...Majority of NFL players have nothing to do with violence on or off the field.. so shut up!!

Anonymous :

When you construct men for certain functions such as 400lb linemen whoes only job is to hit each other or try to crush the Quarterback or runningbac violence occurs on every play regardles of wether it is pass or run.
It is about violence!

Anonymous :

Violence is part of the game, but not why I like it.

I would much prefer if they could find a way to have fewer injuries - there's nothing worse than seeing a great athlete lose his greatness in second. You see it all the time with running backs, they hit the league like a flash of lightning, but in a couple years they have that first knee injury and nothing is quite the same. I love watching the elegant dodges and amazing acceleration, I hate to see athletes lose that so regularly.

That said violence is part of the game. The point of the sport is to hold back as little as possible and see who is the toughest, that means it will be violent. I don't relish the brutal hits (I don't like hockey fights either). That said, seeing a OT manhandle a blitzing LB is a thing of beauty.

hermano :

people watch nfl to see how players grow from college to pro level.

i personally love the math, physics and stats behind it. im a math geek ;)

plus, when you actually get to see the application of trajectory and newton's law in real life, it makes it exciting i guess.

but yes, the violence part is also an appeal

Gus In Leesburg :

It's the whole spectacle.

Violence, superior athleticism, big personalities, roller-coaster drama.

When a team clicks it is art in motion.

When a team doesn't it is hard not to watch.

The beauty of "on any given Sunday".

Ray :

Watch a televised football game, any game, and notice what happens when there is an injury. The play is shown over and over, in slow motion, while the announcers point out exactly where the bone snapped, or the knee exploded. The more gruesome the better. It's truly sickening.

Pwelvr :

Whoever wins whatever sports game on whatever weekend or Monday night means nothing to the world. Oh sure it is a momentary diversion from the real world but it don't mean squat. Join the Infantry, deploy to Iraq, sports fans. Just think the opposing team has no rules, unfettered violence, and death. Now that means something. Real entertainment.

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