Amazon's incessant replays of Tua Tagovailoa suffering his second head injury in the span of 100 hours was nearly universally reviled. There's a very human reason why. No one wants to watch one of the game's brightest young stars suffer what could be a career-ending and life-altering catastrophe over and over again from every angle in gratuitous slow-motion. But that response, of course, misses the point because the Thursday Night Football production truck is not the main villain here. It's an easy target, a distracting scapegoat when a thrown dart in any direction would find a more worthy target.
The NFL for clearing Tagovailoa to play after the incident last Sunday. One that caused him to fall to the turf as his body failed him. The Miami Dolphins for dubiously deeming the first injury as something related to his back despite the fact that we all have eyes. Mike McDaniel, the anointed boy genius, for allowing his prized southpaw to be in such a position four days later.
And lastly, perhaps most importantly, the final villain: ourselves. For becoming hopelessly addicted to a meat grinder disguised as a sport and knowing, deep down, that we are too cowardly to look this addiction in the face and see it for what it actually is. Amazon's repeated replays, through that lens, were a rare moment of unvarnished truth. A no-spin zone where the indefensible was on display in all its horrific bottomline-ness.
The natural urge to look away kicks in. There are valid ethical concerns. Perhaps it's not right to inundate viewers with the cold reality of what's moved past a pastime to become an American obsession. Zoom out, though, and see the larger picture. How this whole $11 billion industry is built on discarded bodies. How the game and broadcast simply moved on like it was business as usual. There is, after all, a pivotal conference tilt that could shape the playoff picture to be settled.
At halftime, Amazon's desk was unusually emotional. Tony Gonzalez and Richard Sherman gave voice to the overlooked humanity of the warriors who play this game. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tua's former teammate, looked to be on the verge of tears. Yet not a single word was uttered stating the obvious. That there's no way in hell Miami's quarterback should have been in the game. That the assembly line put Tagovailoa on a conveyer belt and put him in motion toward further danger. That this is simply how things work.
There are reports Tagovailoa has movement in his extremities and that he talked to McDaniel before departing for the hospital. This is great news. Everyone knows, though, how deeply fucked up it is. Someone not being paralyzed simply cannot be the bar.
The point here is not to lecture people for loving football. I'm as guilty as the next person. This game still being on my television is all the proof you need. The point is to ask people to soberly examine what they must put into their bodies and what it does to the bodies of those who play. It's this.
A person with his whole life ahead of him having that life potentially change in an instant. Because he was failed by those who tasked with protecting him. Because the culture requires he never blink and accept the next challenge even though it could cost him everything. All the while we sit at home, with nothing at stake, gorging on the excess.
The prayer emojis aren't enough. They mean nothing without some earnest and honest self-reflection. Open your eyes a little wider. Those replays show what we love. The least we can do is be honest about it.