It wasn’t that long ago that things like comic books, anime and science fiction were considered taboo subjects for athletes.
It was unfortunate that liking such things would get you labeled as a nerd, which use to have a much more negative connotation.
Luckily for everyone, those preconceived notions about athletes having to be meatheads, and nerds being weird for liking these mediums have fallen to the wayside.
One Bengal player who grew up right as that shift was happening was running back Rodney Anderson. His father, Rod Anderson, got him started at a young age, and he could see the impact it had on his son.
“When [Rodney Anderson] was very young he would read a comic book or watch a film, you could see it, he was that superhero,” Rod Anderson told Michael LaPlaca of Bengals.com. “Whomever is on the other side, they are going to get it. Silver Surfer, Spider-Man or Dr. Strange is ready to come out.”
Rodney Anderson, like most young players entering the NFL now, grew up at a time when science fiction and superhero movies were becoming more and more mainstream. One main reason for that was superhero movies getting a drastic upgrade via CGI graphics and effects. Movies like the first three episodes of Star Wars and the Toby McGuire Spiderman showed how much easier it was to represent the original vision of the comics and ideas onto the big screen. It was this wave of movies that put Anderson on his track to fandom.
“I think with the success of the movies it changed people’s perceptions,” said Rodney Anderson. “Before people wouldn’t read the comics unless you had true interest in it. For me, I feel like the movies do the comic books justice, as long as they are done right.”
You can clearly see how mainstream these movies, comic books and animes have become. Whether it is Juju Smith-Schuster using a classic Dragon Ball Z attack as a touchdown celebration, or Carl Lawson having to try and explain how anime inspired him to start playing football. Not only that, but why these shows have a way of appealing to athletes.
Lawson’s main point is that most anime’s revolve around the story of underdogs. You travel with these characters as they reach their ultimate goals. Honestly, that couldn’t be stated any better.
When you think of NFL athletes, these are guys that have pushed their bodies to abilities that most people will never reach in their lives. A lot of animes and superhero movies follow similar arcs to that of athletes. They face adversity, they work to get past that and reach their ultimate goal.
Whether it is inspiring players to get out there and play a sport, or allowing them to use their imagination on the field. It is clear that as more and more young guys come into the NFL the more these sorts of medium will be integrated into the NFL’s fabric. It is something that you could easily argue the NFL will be better for.