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There is nothing quite like a hit over the middle in a football game. A ballet-graceful wide receiver at full extension grabs a tightly thrown pass only to be smacked down like a rag doll by a heat-seeking safety. The play encompasses what makes football ...

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Displaying 1–35 of 35 comments

Debbi Bewley

September 12, 2013  8:01pm

Football runs strong in my family ...my husband coaches high school football and my two boys play in college. My boys have played since they were 7 & 8 with no concussions until last year. Because they have been raised with the proper way to play and how to recognize a concussion they know how to handle it. Proper coaching at the younger ages is key and unfortunately most of the coaches in pee wee leagues are dads living through their boys, not making safe decisions. I have seen my share of dad coaches putting boys on the field that have no business being there due to injury. Though I understand the concern brought by this article I think parents need to pay close attention to how this child's coach handles injuries. That is thre best place to start. I also must add that my husband has witnesses to many young men on the football field and I would never, ever ask him to give that up.

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audrey ruth

September 11, 2013  1:07am

P.S. Youth soccer is much more prevalent in my area. "Heading" is a serious issue and concussions have resulted. Youth football coaches seem to be much more concerned about this issue than soccer coaches. Also - it is true (as others have noted) that other sports like hockey and basketball involve a lot of hard-hitting. It seems to be rare for hockey players to have all their teeth, and basketball players often land HARD on their heads on a hard surface. It is also QUITE a stretch to "compare" football players to gladiators! Gladiators fought to the death. Exaggeration does not add to your argument; it detracts from it.

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audrey ruth

September 11, 2013  12:51am

Oh.my.goodness, do believers really have faith in FOOTBALL? If so, what god do they believe in? It's a sad fact that idolatry abounds in this world, and if people really do worship this sport, it is one god among zillions. As I was reading this, I wondered if boxing would ever be mentioned and saw that it finally was. It (and pro wrestling, not mentioned, but having zillions of fanatical followers) are even more violent than football. That said, we who are serious about the Lord would do well to remember that He says in His Word that He takes no pleasure in the strength of a man's legs, but in a faithful heart. Unfortunately, so many churches and believers today seem to be so "culture-driven" instead of led by the Spirit of God, so many are conformed to the world instead of being transformed by God's Word, the majority of people will not give this article a serious thought. BTW, I do know former football players who have gone on to live healthy, happy (really Christian) lives.

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Pamela Mathews

September 08, 2013  5:46pm

I do worry about injuries from football, which one of my boys plays; my other kids play/played soccer (yes, there are soccer injuries, but they tend not to be to the brain -- much more ankle/knee/leg related.) However, as a parent, my more pressing concern is how much time the boys spend watching college and professional football on television in the fall and early winter. As an example, this weekend, my husband and I actually had to review how much time they would have for homework and church activities once two games on TV were accounted for to make sure it all worked. Yes, in an ideal world we would "just say no", but hard to say no to the games; it is a huge part of their adolescent boy culture and many Christians certainly embrace it. Also of note is that many kids who are active now will be the "armchair quarterbacks" of the future as they stop playing team sports.

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Ed Mroz

September 08, 2013  10:03am

Serious injuries are not just common to football. Soccer was supposed to be a more safer sport, but using your head on a regular basis to hit a hard ball cannot be to good for what's inside. There are other sports like hockey with a lot of hard hitting and serious injuries also. Baseball also which I always thought of as gentle sport, could also profit by teaching its players something about anger management.Then I believe a lot of the fights you see more and more of in all sports are encouraged by the team owners to satisfy the crowds blood lust, modern gladiators! Anytime these time wasting fights would start on TV I would head to the fridge for some eats. Not good for the waistline. What I believe is needed rather than give up on contact sports are rule changes. Maybe less hard tackling and more touch, as in baseball? Also immediate game suspensions or worse for fighting. I believe team sports build character and social skills. The alternative a child alone on a computer.

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Steven Dowling

September 07, 2013  12:03pm

Saying that we need to rethink football completely because a small group of players have had medical issues is like saying we need to rethink the automobile completely because some get in car crashes.

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Steve Fraley

September 07, 2013  2:10am

I'm a football fan for a variety of reasons, but none of them are related to the violence (does ESPN need to always highlight the bone-crushing hits?). Unlike boxing, ultimate fighting, and Roman gladiator games, violence isn't the objective, but an issue that can be addressed. We shouldn't forbid children from playing out of fear that they might get hurt. The bigger problem for kids these days is inactivity (video games, smart phone addiction, etc.). Football is a reason to get outside, exercise, work with others (often people they otherwise wouldn't interact with) towards a common goal, and so forth. I realize that from a fan perspective, it can certainly be a distraction from other things, maybe even a false god. Yes, some fans are way too invested. But that can be said of just about anything, from American Idol to politics to caring for pets to... yes, even exercise. Anything that takes priority over our relationship with God is an idol. Show me a speck I'll show you a plank.

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Anne Acker

September 06, 2013  7:02pm

I can't help being amused by those who seem to think that an attack on football is an attack on masculinity. There are plenty of rugged things that men can do that don't glorify violence and create the physical risks that come with football. Yes, there is a risk of injuries with any sport, but one can surely have the common sense to avoid self-destruction without being thought a wimp. I've taught enough football players to know that they are at a clear academic disadvantage compared to other athletes. Some of them have trouble writing a coherent sentence. Most of them are respectful, likeable young men, and it is a pity it took so long for doctors to confront the damage this sport does to the human brain.

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Nancy Burns

September 06, 2013  6:53pm

Football should be changed to greatly reduce the incidence of head injuries or discontinued. There are too many head injuries that change the lives of players (usually young) for the rest of their lives.

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Sean Johnston

September 06, 2013  6:04pm

I am struggling to figure out why this is even a topic. There are far more meaningful things about which we should be concerned. We've always had sport. We've always violence in sports. What's next? Basketball. Boy, it gets pretty rough under the basket. I've used sports as one way to bring my family closer together. We love sports and have a good time pulling for our teams. Memories go way back and include several generations. We have simply got to stop focusing on things such as this, acting as if anyone who plays football is going to get a concussion. We are allowing the press once again bang the drums such that we now seemingly have a crisis on our hands.

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Erik Lewis

September 06, 2013  5:29pm

I find this article and some of these comments quite sad. Its almost embarrassing how much people have to say about football with such little knowledge of football. So here's a heads up: THE MAJORITY OF FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT GET CONCUSSIONS AND DIE. There have been several steps taken by the NFL/NCAA and researchers alike to prevent head trauma. Just like any sport, there is a risk of injury. Just because the risk of injury goes up doesn't mean we need to throw it out altogether. And just like any sport, we need to celebrate how these athletes are worshiping our Creator with amazing athletic, creative, and intellectual ability that cannot be witnessed in other sports. There is God-honoring goodness in football. Let's work to redeem the areas that are broken. And can someone please define "violence"?

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Susan Gerard

September 06, 2013  3:59pm

I cannot watch football knowing all the harm it does to players, from high school on. The game should change. The same must be said about Boxing, considering what we know about CTE. As Christians, we should not support these blood sports that profit from brutality.

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Rick Dalbey

September 06, 2013  2:53pm

Dan, you're right. We devalue the arts and are frankly embarrased by them in the church. The first mention of anyone being filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible were two artists, Bezalel and Oholiab (Ex. 35) who were filled with the Spirit to design the art of the first Tabernacle. Not only that, their work was abstract (the pomegranetes were painted blue). To walk into the tabernacle was sensory overload. All the walls were covered with life size painted and emroidered angels. Sculpture filled the room, huge golden angels, bulls holding up the laver. In Ezekiel’s temple the walls were all covered with paintings of angels and palm trees. Music went on in David’s tabernacle around the clock. David wrote poetry, danced before the Lord and composed music. In the church today, the arts are viewed as woman’s territory. Poetry, theater, painting, dance, song are all women’s stuff and us manly men have more important things to do. Like sit on the couch watching TV and root for the Giants.

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Dan from Georgia

September 06, 2013  2:12pm

Rick, I understand the aspect of sports and TV sports being a time-stealer. I know more than a few individuals who obsess over football (kind of a disease here in the south) to the point that that is ALL they do on the weekend is watch, not just football, but sports in general on TV. I still appreciate what you said about other pursuits being important, and unfortunately, missing, from out church experiences.

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Doug Dworak

September 06, 2013  1:54pm

Rick as with everything in life it's a matter of balance. There are many many things that occupy our time, energy and money as much or more than football or sports. Football can certainly do all the things you mention but when enjoyed rightly it can be fun, entertaining and even a great time with family. In our fallen world the enemy will always work to destroy what is good and turn it into something for which it was never intended to be. And man...there are a lot of other things just as time sucking, health robbing and relationship destroying as football. Again...balance!

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William Mitchell

September 06, 2013  1:49pm

Pro football players don't play for fun or for free. They play for money. No money, No play. They freely choose to suffer the consequences of brain and body damage, for money. Also football is a mans sport. It proves you are a real man. What are considered lesser activities don't feed that ego. .....It all starts at a young age and is extremely addicting for athletic young men. For as long as one is able to do it. After that we sue everyone for giving us all that money to make us play and kill ourselves.

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Rick Dalbey

September 06, 2013  1:37pm

Doug and Dan, I have no problem with watching a brutal sport. As a boy I used to enjoy watching the Monday night “fights” with my Grandfather on his black and white TV. And of course, individual self-defense was a critical skill growing up in Detroit during the depression as my Grandfather did (or me growing up in a tough part of California). We would also sometimes watch “Victory at Sea”, documenting the principled heroism of soldiers fighting in World War 2. And as someone said, Paul used boxing and foot-racing allusions occasionally in teaching. I don’t think anyone is talking about banning the NFL. But what I object too is the entire elaborate industry and lifestyle built around the fantasy world of televised football. It is a time-stealer, a health robber and relationship destroyer for the average man and fuels unhealthy obsessions. It is easy to be lost for hours or days engaging with televised fantasy and fan behavior while real life and family go on about you.

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Geoffery Bennett

September 06, 2013  1:33pm

Are most articles on this website more concerned about what they are against rather than what they are for? It's very disheartening. This movie is bad, don't see it. That sport is dangerous, don't participate in it. Watch out for this book, its has questionable material. And the list goes on and on. I'm more concerned with the positive. You want to change behaviors, offer people hope and encouragement in your articles not just want your against.

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Rick Dalbey

September 06, 2013  1:05pm

Guys, we are not talking about sports. We are talking about addictive TV watching. Men will sit for hours indoors on the couch in the middle of the afternoon no matter the beautiful weather being mesmerized by the television screen and stuffing their faces with unhealthy snacks. They will oragnize their social lives around football, organize their diets, preferring to eat in front of the TV, consuming high calorie foods like pizza. It encourages alcoholism as we crack beer after beer open. It is the male counterpart to being addicted to soap operas, only much worse. We say we like sports, but we don’t do sports. It is the opposite of doing sports. If we’d like as adults we can play in softball leagues, swim in masters tournaments, ski down a mountain, run, bicycle. But if we are football fans we are condemned to a lifetime of sitting and watching television. And this is encouraged in most churches. The Pastor yells go Ducks or Go Beavers and the congregation offers a hearty amen.

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Pablo Rodriquez

September 06, 2013  12:47pm

Yes, let's wring our hands about concussions while men play a game. This is oh-so-much-more-concerning than post-traumatic stress disorder that countless soldiers experience after seeing (and participating in) truly awful situations. This is much ado about relatively little. There are lots and lots and lots of ways we shorten our lives and minds for short-term pleasure. You really want to try to stop that? Talk about a nanny-state!

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Doug Dworak

September 06, 2013  12:26pm

It's so like our culture to try and protect everyone from every form of pain or potential harm. If we stop playing football something else will replace it because that's who we are. I understand the dangers...I stopped playing football after my fourth concussion. I knew the dangers and weighed them against the joy of playing. The percentage of those who are suffering these grave injuries is extremely small compared to those who participate. Heck soccer is more brutal on the brain than football and played by far more individuals. We simply cannot protect ourselves from every possible harm. I feel so bad for all the little kids who basically have to wear body armor when riding a bike or playing on a playground. It's sad to watch. Men will be men and it's time for men to make decisions for their own lives.

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Dan Keough

September 06, 2013  12:02pm

I am not sure what happened. One day I woke up and men wanted to become boys again. I can see you now telling David - "stay away from the slingshot David you could hurt yourself ... God is only about love. Look! see what the statistics say". Or maybe Paul: "Be careful what you preach the soldiers might hurt you". The Bible has plenty of war in it - and if you are lucky enough to be involved with some of the spiritual aspects of believing ( ie. dealing with / warfare against / dark spirits ) you will need a fair amount of discipline. You secure that through adversity. Sports are the same way. Filled with sweat, pain and the need to overcome. In the end you get the discipline, authority and power needed to be part of the team. If I remember correctly someone long ago was in a wrestling match and hurt themselves. It is life. This article is silly imo. Dan Keough

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Gerald Goffin

September 06, 2013  11:30am

Congratulations for printing an article which brings into focus one of our great ironies of "modern" society, i.e. our romance with this brutal "game" of football and its marriage to academic institutions. The fact that conservative Christian institutions participate and glorify this sport is appalling. Thank goodness there is a growing recognition that "this has got to stop." My own hunch is that it will take a revolution of Moms to save us from ourselves.

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Dan from Georgia

September 06, 2013  9:08am

Rick Dalbey, you wrote, " Intellectual is a bad word. Dance, poetry, painting, theater, the arts, are mocked. It is sad". I agree. Although I am one who enjoys observing a few sports (MLB Baseball and then NFL football and that is it), it is indeed sad that those other avenues of interest and intellect are neglected in the church. How many churches have bible studies centered around the arts or sciences? Not many, especially down in the south where I live, where SEC football IS religion to many people. When I lived in Minnesota I was fortunate to be able to find a few churches that had small groups that specialized in the visual arts. It is especially too bad that the arts are only thought about as feminine activities, and if you are a man and enjoy the arts, well, then, your sexual identity is suspect. This is one of the main reasons I refuse to participate in so-called men's ministries, where the main focus is golf, football, muscle cars, and the like.

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Pop Seal

September 06, 2013  9:06am

I've been a Christian for 43 years since my adult conversion at age 25. I find that far too many of my fellows are fragile and easily distracted from our salvation's priorities. 1. Christ works in us to produce the Christian life 2. His warnings about false teachers is never to be ignored 3. The fallen world where we still live will do right only by accident 4. men should be men and women should be women and football is ballet for men.

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Dan Allison

September 05, 2013  11:04pm

It is way, way past time Christians rejected this violent, war-like activity. The owners of these teams are the "moochers" Romney opposed, taking millions fro hard-working Americans and giving only a fraction back. NFL teams function primarily to support the gambling, escort, and liquor industries in team cities. The millions earned by these athletes should be used to feed the poor -- period. Are we not CHRISTIANS? How anyone can enjoy violence and brain injuries, the militarism and the utter waste of resources, I will never understand. Why is even one Christian entertained by watching a man knocked to the ground? The best I can say for Dungy and Tebow is that maybe they can influence others, but they'd really influence people by leaving the violence behind.

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wc af

September 05, 2013  7:50pm

Just one other brief comment while I'm wonking a bit. I was directed here by a tweet from Denny Burk. A brilliant, inspired man in my opinion. He wrote a blog recently about Miley Cyrus. I was curious how Dr. Burk felt about the women, many Miley's age, who do what she did in front of 100's of thousands of sexually charged men every Saturday and Sunday? How about the other men who write for the Gospel Coalition who tweet and write about football often? And neither of my comments even touch the number of young men who are pushed through school in meaningless degrees and classes, honestly, many of the classes are simply made up for athletes who otherwise wouldn't qualify for college, so they can play for the schools and programs we admire so much. Hey, it's almost kickoff off for the Broncos game - I better go. I'll just ignore the stuff I listen to the preacher preach against on Sunday so I can enjoy the game. Have a great fall. It's football season.

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wc af

September 05, 2013  7:24pm

Owen, I enjoyed your article and I'm sorry I really can't hold many candles to those who are so well versed in theology. The enjoyment of football goes so much deeper than where we may be at regarding the violence. I too also enjoy Sunday but I don't pretend about the bad side. The violence, the drugs, the crime, the prostitution, the liquor, the advertising and probably any excess that we're willing to overlook because we enjoy the game itself. My daughter was a high major D1 athlete. She knew many football players. You should delve into the world of recruiting for college football sometime. The incredible corruption, illegality, money, merchandise, cars, cash, women and Lord knows what else college players are enticed with to play with a team is enough to make any Christian completely sick and sad. And we love it, we live for it, we celebrate it, we rejoice over it, and I do too but given a brutally honest approach we shouldn't. This is fairly common knowledge. Why do we overlook it?

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Joe Blankenship

September 05, 2013  7:03pm

So many giant leaps - gladiators to football! Have you read the WSJ article "In defense of football". It is much more balanced. I would encourage anyone seriously considering the subject to read that article. Also the FOX News article by Daniel Flynn "America's Kids did football now more than ever" is excellent. "...more forceful recitation of the facts to calm the frenzy. Not a single sandlot, high school, or college player died from a football hit last season. A half century ago, collisions regularly killed two-to-three-dozen players every year..When I shadowed a high school player in Mass..discovered that because nobody walks during practice-he ran nearly a mile just moving to the water fountain, to drills, back to the huddle, etc., independent of the organized practice activity. The movements we consider rigorous, they consider rest. Whereas obesity afflicted one in twenty teenagers fifty years ago, it burdens almost one in five today. Kids need more sports, not less. #readbetter

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Anne Acker

September 05, 2013  6:54pm

As a professor, I would be remiss not to point out the effect that football has on our academic culture. I didn't apply for a teaching fellowship in grad school because, shortly before I started the program, a professor in that university had literally been frightened out of town for reporting academic violations by the football program to the NCAA. Fellow grad students complained that they couldn't get on campus to work at the library on game days. The state considered revising it's "open container" beer laws to accommodate football fans coming home from the game. Meanwhile, the regional university in my hometown, which dropped its football program a few years ago due to cost, recently reinstated it in response to the demands of the local community. Student fees are going up by more than a hundred dollars a year to pay for a program that will only benefit a tiny portion of the student body. Athletics are an important part of college culture, but we can live without football.

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Rick Dalbey

September 05, 2013  6:01pm

The author says, “There's a reason why so many love football. It's a lot of fun to play.” Not true. All adults watch only. Most kids watch. Most kids and adults don’t get to play. It is a demanding and very competitive sport that caters only to the very talented. And pity the ones who actually do get to play, they are the injured ones as the author recounts. Most kids, boys and girls, can play basket ball, soccer, swimming, track, tennis or baseball. Every kid on a baseball team has an opportunity to stand up at the plate and swing for the bleachers. Only one kid on a football team actually carries the ball. Football is all about being cut from the team or sitting on the bench. It is all about physical intimidation. It is the breeding ground for bullies and always has been. Ever go through the humiliation of being the last picked for a sandlot football team? It is an addictive, finely crafted video game for couch sitting middle aged men.

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Jay Lehman

September 05, 2013  5:18pm

I appreciate the author's balanced approach, but I think I would take it even farther. I consider myself a former football fan. I grew up watching my favorite team, the Chicago Bears, every Sunday afternoon on a black and white TV (did I give away my age?). But now, the rapid increase in the size and speed of the players has turned it into something too brutal for me to enjoy. There is no one to blame. The players have just outgrown the game. And it is not just the concussions. Has it occurred to anyone else that a huge number of players seem to be injured just in the preseason, let alone the regular season. The game's brutality leaves it with no redeeming social value, in my opinion. American style football needs to fade into the rear view mirror.

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Rick Dalbey

September 05, 2013  4:44pm

I am so tired of sports. Church youth groups are all about sports analogies. Evangelical pastors believe everyone in the congregation lives for TV sports watching just as they do. My theory is that most evangelical pastors flunked english, skipped the arts and only graduated from High School based on their mastery of shop and sports. I know so many Christian men who could care less about sports, enjoy literature, the arts, the outdoors, and feign an interest in sports to survive in some business circles. And this is in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church! When you say you are a sports fan in reality you are saying you are a television fan. You will sit for hours during good weather or bad, during any social occasion watching the idiot box while consuming vast quantities of snacks. It is the male counterpart of soap opera addiction. Pastors and youth group leaders boast about their addictions. Intellectual is a bad word. Dance, poetry, painting, theater, the arts, are mocked. It is sad.

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COLLINS LAWLOR

September 05, 2013  3:30pm

I was waiting for the comparison and was not disappointed: gladitorial combat and football. Really? Is the violence in football really comparable to the idea of death in the gladiatorial arena? This seems like an ENORMOUS stretch to call for Christians to have a "similar moment of conscience" about football as the early church had about fighting to the death for entertainment. True, we need to sit back and consider the health effects of football. But the idea that football is part of our "culture of violence" I think is off-base. Football undoubtedly involves violence and aggression. But I think you could make the case that it also cultivates the discipline of how and where to apply that aggression. If you're violent in the wrong way, you could cost your team a game. You're held accountable for your "violence." I also think that giving combat a pass on contributing to violence in our culture in the same paragraph as saying that football culture promotes violence is odd..

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Joseph Bonacci

September 05, 2013  1:40pm

Everything in this article is true. Both the good and the bad. The violence factor and possibility of injury is shared by all parents secular and Christian. Once again it falls to the parents. If you think it is too violent then do not let your kids play. All college players and pro players pretty much got their start when they were at an age when their parents controlled their destiny. Paul I believe was a sports fan , which is apparent in some of his writings. Modern day football is at a new level that's for sure. Identityfulfilled.com

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