Mark Edmundson reflects on his own rite of passage as a high school football
player to get to larger truths about the ways America’s Game shapes its men.
Football teaches young men self-discipline and teamwork. But
football celebrates violence. Football is a showcase for athletic beauty and
physical excellence. But football damages young bodies and minds, sometimes
permanently. Football inspires confidence and direction. But football instills
cockiness, a false sense of superiority. The athlete is a noble figure with a
proud lineage. The jock is America at its worst.
When Mark Edmundson’s son began to play organized football,
and proved to be very good at it, Edmundson had to come to terms with just what
he thought about the game. Doing so took him back to his own childhood, when as
a shy, soft boy growing up in a blue-collar Boston suburb in the sixties, he
went out for the high school football team. Why
Football Matters is the story of what happened to Edmundson when he tried
to make himself into a football player.
What does it mean to be a football player? At first
Edmundson was hapless on the field. He was an inept player and a bad teammate.
But over time, he got over his fears and he got tougher. He learned to be a
better player and came to feel a part of the team, during games but also on all
sorts of escapades, not all of them savory. By playing football, Edmundson
became what he and his father hoped he’d be, a tougher, stronger young man,
better prepared for life.
But is football-instilled toughness always a good thing? Do the character, courage, and loyalty football
instills have a dark side? Football, Edmundson found, can be full of bounties. But
it can also lead you into brutality and thoughtlessness. So how do you get
what’s best from the game and leave the worst behind?
Why Football Matters
is moving, funny, vivid, and filled with the authentic anxiety and exhilaration
of youth. Edmundson doesn’t regret playing football for a minute, and cherishes
the experience. His triumph is to be able to see it in full, as something to
celebrate, but also something to handle with care. For anyone who has ever
played on a football team, is the parent of a player, or simply is reflective
about its outsized influence on America, Why
Football Matters is both a mirror and a lamp. Download and start listening now!