It’s called “Football Island,” and it’s about American Samoans, and their presence in the NFL.
According to the reporter, Scott Pelley, there are more than 30 American Samoans (from a population of just 65,000) in the NFL, and over 200 in various Division I college teams. He estimates that an American Samoan by is 65% more likely to play in the NFL than a boy living in the continental US.
Running The Slant
The story has some strange slants that I noticed. The first strange statement was that American Samoans are “perfetly suited” to American football.
While that may partially be true, does that mean they’re less-well suited to other sports, or other tasks?
What stands out to me in particular in this regard is the emphasis on community, family, and discipline/hard work, in the Samoan culture. Everyone works hard, kids have chores, everyone is responsible for their feelings, and people behave appropriately. There are no freebies. No gym, no locker room, no weight room for one of the teams in the program.
The second thing that struck me while watching the show was the reporter commenting on how much football has done for these boys, creating the opportunity for college scholarships, and NFL careers.
It seems like a very obvious advertisement for the sports-entertainment industry.
While I don’t disagree with his observation, and I’m happy for the boys who get to benefit from their hard work, it seems a terrible disservice to the world in general to say that a sport is saving people.
When you learn that the average income in American Samoa is $4000/yr., and that many of the canning companies that comprised 80% of the country’s economy are pulling out, you wonder why we’d focus on sports.
American Samoa was taken as a US possession in 1899. Since then, the Samoans have been subject to American values and ethics. A McDonalds on the island is highlighted in the show.
The “tradition of sending kids into the US military” is highly reminiscent of other low-income areas in the continental US. Poor families see the military as an excellent and secure future for children who might otherwise have very little opportunity to further themselves.
What the story points out, then, is an issue in our socioeconomic system. That we put industry ahead of the things that the American Samoans value, the things that make them such good football players – reverence, discipline, community, humility, and family values.
All things that are being lost in a socioeconomic system that values the bottom line above all else.