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Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game, Is There Life after Football? Surviving the NFL, and the NFL: Critical and Cultural Perspectives

American football fans participate in one of the most profitable forms of spectacle ever mass-produced. The NFL sells stunning feats of athleticism enmeshed within stunning acts of violence. And yet, while the former rivets us, the latter rarely stuns at all – and that is precisely the point. A spectator’s affects, senses and perceptual field are shaped and impressed upon by hyper-curated visual and auditory representations. Violence is central to the spectacle; yet somehow, simultaneously, it is both over-exposed and kept from view. As Michael Oriard (2014) emphasizes in his introduction to The NFL: Critical and Cultural Perspectives, professional football was created though television’s representational possibilities. The game is ‘visually dazzling’ (Oriard, 2014: xiii), alongside its memorable soundtrack, like the distinctive musical introduction to Monday Night Football. Football’s aesthetic is big business. Oriard writes that, ‘NFL football in the early years of the twenty-first century has become not just the most popular and powerful sport in the United States, but arguably the most popular and powerful television programing of any kind’ (Oriard, 2014: ix). However, while the NFL has a dominant place in contemporary US media consumption, it has not traditionally been a site from which scholars have studied culture, power, or violence. (NO ABSTRACT)