Despite violence and drug use by star players, fears of long-term brain injuries, and corruption and cheating in the college ranks, football is thriving in America. More than 111 million people tuned into watch the 2014 Super Bowl -- the most viewed television show in history -- while the National Football League reports record profits from sponsorship, tickets, merchandise and television revenue.
But in the last week, the popularity of football has collided with a growing scandal about how NFL officials failed to punish a star player -- the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice -- shown on video savagely beating his wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator earlier this year.
As each day brings new revelations of the league's failures, it's almost as if many fans are caught in a moral dilemma. But why do Americans love football so much in the first place?
Part of the attraction can be explained by neuroscience.
"Your hormones are doing what the players hormones are doing," said Eric Simons, author of "The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession." "You can look at the testosterone of male fans, and it's not just adrenaline, but your testosterone goes up when your team wins and down when they lose."
Simons says that your brain is actually mirroring the actions of the on-screen athletes, giving us a self-esteem boost. But it's not just a matter of self esteem. A mixed-up sense of identity occurs between fans and their favorite football team.
"In personal relationships, your brain becomes confused about what's true of you and your partner," Simons said. "There is some good reason to believe that you have something like this with your favorite team," Simons said.
Football also provides a sense of bonding for men -- those who might not share social bonds once found in their community, workplace, church or bowling league, for example.