JUST CHECKING IN TO MAKE SURE
EVERYONE HAS THE LATEST INFO
INCOMING FRESHMAN TED YOUNGBLOOD IS IN THE
HOSPITAL FROM THAT HIT HE TOOK AT CAMP TODAY.
IT’S PRETTY BAD, NOT SURE HOW BAD YET
BUT I HEARD HE’S STILL UNCONSCIOUS.
from Game Changer
written by Tommy Greenwald
The closest I’ve ever been to a football was my job at the Wilson football factory in Ada, Ohio. I laced rubber footballs and sewed leather ones back in the mid 1970s. I finished my days there working on soccer balls. I also don’t follow soccer, which is football everywhere else in the world.
My mom played clarinet in her high school marching band during football games. So did my girls. That must be a trait that skips a generation.
Both of my sons-in-law like football, and the girls know quite a lot more than I ever did. I never got interested in the game. Boys (or 300-pound grown men) running at each other trying to throw, catch, or prevent someone else from throwing and/or catching a crazy-shaped “ball” is just dangerous. Does a ball even have to be round to be called a ball? I guess not!
And the complicated rules!
Football, American football, is dangerous. When a person’s brain slams into the inside of the skull, the result is a concussion. The harder the hit, the more severe the concussion. But brain injury occurs over time, too. There is a cumulative effect on the brain when it is concussed over and over again. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe this serious brain condition.
Have you seen the movie Concussion (starring Will Smith, 2015)? It’s the true story of a Nigerian doctor who discovered the alarming connection between head injuries sustained in playing football and brain damage (CTE) in older, retired players.
Even though leather helmets have been available since 1893, according to NFL.com, football helmets were not even required until 1943. Energy absorbing helmets were introduced in the 1970s. Full face masks were, too. In 2011, an impact indicator on the helmet’s chin strap was devised. It’s used to identify head injuries. But, really, isn’t it too late if the injury has already occurred?
Football, American football, is a violent sport. It attracts and condones violence on the football field, and elevates winning to a crowning achievement. It is whether you win or lose, not how you play the game. Not all refs stop aggression. There’s the problem of proving intent. Did a player really ram into another one on purpose. Well, yes. To get the ball, to complete the play, to score.
Part of the attraction for the players is probably money. Professional football players are paid millions of dollars each season. In 2018, the minimum NFL salary for a rookie was $480,000, not quite half a million. Fame is an incentive for some, no doubt. And the ability to sway public sentiment to a cause worked (in a way) for Colin Kaepernick. He was noticed. He still is being talked about. He is not playing football. He recently did an ad for Nike, whose CEO reinforced standing up (or taking a knee) for what you believe in. So Colin is working.
But the young kids. Why should a dangerous sport still be allowed, even encouraged? Since Concussion came out in 2015, more and more parents are thinking twice about letting their kids play.
In fall/winter of 2015/16, 1,083,308 boys played high school football. For the 2018/19 school year, 1,006,013 boys are signed up. Girls play, too: 1,565 in 2014/15 and 2,404 in 2018/19. A much smaller number than the boys, but why are more girls choosing to play?
Aggression must be learned. It is a goal in developing young football players according to YouthFootballOnline. Although they are encouraged to keep safety as a first priority, the first bullet-point in a list for coaches states:
“Each act should be with aggression as soon as child hits the practice field. If he puts his helmet on, have him do it aggressively. When he drinks a cup of water, have him do it with aggression. No meek actions.” (emphasis included on webpage.)
Their premise is that aggressive actions on the field will lead to a confident attitude off the field. “It’s the attitude of if you want something bad enough, you have to go out and get it.”
In other words, take what you want from whoever has it. No asking nicely, no compromising, no patiently waiting. No wonder so many people love the game!
Not all team names are angry and aggressive sounding, but a lot are. I don’t think cheese factory workers in Green Bay are dangerous, but their team is the Packers. Besides the birds, lots of teams chose animal names. I’ll save Native American tribal names for another post.
Among the non-violent names, the Dolphins come to mind.
Bluejays are an aggressive bird, but they play baseball. We have Cardinals, Falcons and Eagles, and Seahawks in the bird category. And Ravens.
Of course the other side of the argument is the character-building, teammate-building, responsibility-building aspect of any group sport.
I still choose to quote Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven (from Baltimore, just like him).
-—stay curious! (and safe)