What's at issue in changing people's relationship with American college football (at least in the South) is bigger than rhetoric or appeals, even those based on pathos. Rather, I'd suggest that football fandom for many folks, especially in the South, is "a practice of subjectivation" -- a performance that contributes to our experience/knowledge of who we are, where we come from, our relationship to the larger community, etc.
Of course, the example you give in the post on CTE [of a grieving father finding community via shared allegiance to the LSU Tigers] illustrates this point nicely. So, I'd suggest foregrounding the practices involved and how they might be changed, rather than the kinds of appeals that would be most useful in getting people to agree (feel?) that there's a problem. I think that even when people are made aware of--or are made to 'feel'!--the wrongness of certain elements of gender performance, say, eradicating them is quite difficult without the deliberate substitution of a different set of performances/habits (and it is even difficult then). Sports fandom may not be *quite* as deeply entrenched an identity category as gender (though as a Baton Rouge native I'd say it's not far off!), but I think it functions analogously for many populations.
I'm not sure that such communal rituals are necessarily bad (I think we see similar practices in religious gatherings and political rallies, as I think you'd agree), so what strikes me as problematic in the case of college football is the combination of exploitation, the public subsidization of profit by groups like the NCAA, and the (arguable) compromising of the mission of academic institutions.
Interestingly, I think those problems--the one peculiar to *college* football in the South--are at least partially the fallout of a different set of economic concerns: professional sports in the American South are a recent development, compared with professional sports in the Northeast and Midwest, either because there weren't wealthy enough people to function as owners, or would-be owners didn't think of the South as a viable "market" for a successful pro team, given its smaller and poorer population.
In any case, I have the sense that your view that a *better* set of similar, substitute cultural practices would not just be ones that eliminated the economic/academic problems with collegiate sports--that is, that the problem wouldn't be solved by just going to professional football fandom. Is that correct? If so, is it because of the violence/CTE issue? Would other, less dangerous, sports fit the bill for you, or not? (Will basketball save the day?)
There are a number of challenging issues raised here (how could they not be complex, when they exist at the intersection of corporeal, social, economic, and psychological practices?) but let me just say a few words about the last one.
I do think that basketball -- while certainly facing its own vast problems with exploitation (the wonderful documentary Hoop Dreams being a nice introduction to some of them) -- allows a different, and potentially less toxic performance of gender, given the excellence of women's basketball. But -- precisely because it is so intricately and powerfully linked to common performances of masculinity -- any shifting away from football would have to come along with drastic shifts in the entirey of the gender production system. So, although it's both symptom and (partial) cause, I think its centrality is more of a symptom than anything, so I think it's going to take a lot of work just to get clear -- if we can, with such complex practices -- of what would need to be done.
Now all this abstracts from the ways in which football and basketball are imbricated in our racialization practices (which of course are linked to gendering practices), and that's something that would take a lot of careful work to unravel.