"American Football" analyzes the game at a watershed moment: standing atop the pyramid of popular sports, with health risks too significant to deny. Football might be fated for a fall from grace, but Radiolab delves through history to understand why the sport means so much in America. There are stories of cultural assimilation, force recruitment, and brotherhood. Whether you're a diehard fan or a football agnostic, you'll think differently about the game after this episode.
If the game of football is just a sport, then talk radio elevates it into a culture. And, Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen argues, that culture is about a lot more than what happens on the field. The medium has a tendency to bring out the very worst in men, underscoring the elements of football that detractors point to as sexist and violent and neanderthal. But things are slowly shifting. By tracing the gradual progression of famed sports radio host Jim Rome, Biewen makes a case for an evolving standard of what it means to be a man in American culture. Under the guise of sports talk, Rome and his colleagues have articulated a set of rules for today's men. Gone are the celebrations of homophobia and fist bumps and frat guys. In their place stands a new kind of fan: smart, thoughtful, and refined.