Saturday Selects #21: My problem with football

There isn’t enough being done to make the sport safer. I couldn’t be more blunt and straightforward.

Let me give you a little background here. It is all but certain that I know more about football and sports in general than you do. I love sports. If I could live a life entirely surrounded by sports I would. I do my best to live that life now.

The Houston Texans debuted in 2002. They’ve been my favorite sports team since that first game. But my favorite sport has always been baseball.

Back to the topic. Injuries happen in all sports. That’s the first thing people say when I bring up the safety of football. But baseball players suffer mostly from shoulder injuries. And of course knees are torn up and legs even broken. All very serious in nature, absolutely. But none life threatening. Basketball players often suffer injuries to their lower bodies and although quite serious, still not life threatening.

Then someone will bring up how hockey players have blades on their feet and a puck that often does some real damage, and hard collisions that are rarely matched in any other setting, besides football. But still, with the even more serious nature of the injuries sustained by hockey players I’ve never heard of a player dying because of what happened on the ice. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

But then we get to football. We have these analysts who are often former players talking about how the game isn’t played the way it used to be. And how it’s becoming more soft. As a longtime fan of the sport, this is outrageous to me. We’ve had former NFL players commit suicide due to the head trauma they endured. We’ve had them kill other people.

There is no injury that hasn’t happened on the football field, except for a player actually dying right there. Broken necks. Torn ACLs. Broken arms. Broken legs. Collapsed lungs. Torn Achilles. Broken collarbones. Concussion after concussion after concussion. It’s all routine now. And everyone uses the excuse that the players are rich and know what they sign up for. But using someone’s salary as a means to justify very real health concerns is a damn joke.

Because I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of all of this. It isn’t from the NFL or NCAA levels of play. It’s from high school. Eight players have died this year as a result of football-related injuries. Eight. Eight high school kids. And that number is right in line with the average number of football-related deaths in each of the last few years.

How has it become acceptable for kids to die playing a game that is utterly meaningless? To me, if one player had died this year it would be too many. The number should be zero. But no one seems to care.

The thing about it is that I’ve played football. And I’m near certain that I suffered at least one concussion during my playing time. And guess what happened immediately afterward? I got up feeling very dizzy and my coaches and teammates were fired up because of my “big hit”. I could barely get back to the bench. And it’s on me for not saying anything. Absolutely.

But there are kids playing football at the high school level who shouldn’t be. They’re too small, not strong enough, or just lack the skill set needed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But these kids are at great danger when they enter games. They might go in thinking they’ve got something to prove or that they aren’t good enough, and that’s how injuries happen.

I understand that the NFL doesn’t oversee every school district or youth football league. But they have a duty to every player playing football today to do whatever they can to keep them safe. Whether that be through seminars or coaching clinics or TV ads promoting safety on the field. In my opinion, enough is not currently being done and kids are dying every single year. It’s unacceptable. And I’m sick of it.

In years past I’d watch every Texans, Sunday night, and Monday Night Football game. But no longer will that be the case. I will continue to watch the Texans through the end of the season, but I will not watch any other games. If the NFL isn’t willing to address legitimate safety concerns, then I’m not willing to watch.

FYI: I also don’t watch UFC or boxing because I find it quite difficult to see how either can be legal in today’s modern society.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Saturday Selects #21: My problem with football

  1. That’s really shocking, John. I don’t know a lot about football – we’ve had a few games played and screened here and the other week I did start to watch one. It was interesting, but the rules were mildly baffling for a novice.

    What did look terrifying were the impacts involved – you can see the forces at work. The most violent game we have hear is rugby – similar in a way, as the players go into huddles and throw the ball, put up with heavy tackles etc. Rugby players aren’t as well padded as footballers and they don’t wear helmets, which is atrocious. There’s a movement here to make rugby safer because of the injuries that happen so regularly.
    The pressure has to come both from the grass roots amateurs and form the well paid pros – without both, nothing will change.

    Like

    • You know, I was talking to some people about thus maybe a month ago and they mentioned rugby. Now I don’t watch rugby because it’s not really something we have here, but I cannot imagine rugby players using their heads as weapons like football players do. I just don’t see it. And that’s where the worst of the injuries happen. Repeated head trauma. But no matter what people say or do, I really don’t think any change will happen until an NFL player dies right there on the field or shortly after an injury. I hope it never happens, but I think it’s a real possibility. And then what happens? I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, they don’t use their heads as weapons, you’re right. And I’ve not heard of a rugby player dying as a direct result of an injury – plenty have to retire young, get concussion, detached reintas etc, but it’s not as violent as football, you’re right.
        I hope it doesn’t take someone to die in front of millions of TV viewers for things to change.

        Like

      • Me too. At least we can still say that it hasn’t happened. The league should be making sure it never does.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is super scary. And not to mention, shocking. (Good thing I stay away from sports.)

    Your best piece till date!

    Like

    • It is. And beyond disgusting that a multi-billion dollar organization like the NFL is willing to risk so much when it can be proactive right now. But if someone dies on the field there’s no telling what the fallout will be. And thanks! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am not into sports, but you make such a great point here. Even if someone makes it out of the league without sustaining a torn ACL or obvious injury on the field, they may suffer brain illness later in life. Football players have a 4x greater risk of both Alzheimer’s and ALS, and as you said, mental illness. On one hand, I feel like these guys should be free to ruin their bodies for life if that’s what they want – it’s a free country – but the NFL should be held to tobacco company levels of regulation when it comes to transparency about the sport’s present and future risks, for both the players AND the audience. And they should try to make it as safe as possible, like any other company would. If my factory said “we’re doing away with all our safety regulations but we’ll double your salary and give you a Rolls Royce. You know the risks. Good luck!” I would walk right out.

    But even more than that, we shouldn’t glamorize these football players’ lives without also telling kids about the danger involved. Most adults don’t know about the long term health effects, let alone a 13-year-old. If it was up to me, JV football would be completely out because middle schoolers are way too young. As for Varsity…man, I agree with you. 8 kids dying is unacceptable. 1 dying is unacceptable. There has to be a better way.

    Like

    • Good point about safety in basically any other industry. The league has focused on certain things in the game that are supposed to make the game safer, but they don’t. Hits to the head of quarterbacks. Hits to defenseless receivers. But the penalty is much too small. A 15 yard penalty and maybe a small fine, though repeated offenders face stiffer fines and potential suspensions. But it’s not enough.

      Like

  4. I think what will be huge is the December release of Concussion.
    I wonder what will be said then. My fiancΓ© and I are huge fans of football, but even still we know the consequences those players are accepting to play the game.

    What are your thoughts on the movie Concussion?

    Like

    • Looks good. But it’s still just a movie. I imagine the NFL won’t pay any mind to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I meant more in terms of football fans awareness. Those that aren’t really aware of some things. =]

        Like

      • I think you’re less aware than you think. For instance, do you have any idea who Jovan Belcher was? Without Google. Probably not. Former NFL player. Killed his girlfriend. Then drove to the Kansas City Chiefs training facility and killed himself in front of members of the coaching staff. My reason for telling you this is because you said you’re a big fan of the NFL and you claim to know the consequences of playing. But I don’t think so. Because Belcher was an active player who committed a murder-suicide and no one even remembers it. My point is that if an active player (who was later found to have been suffering from CTE) kills someone and himself and no one does anything, then some movie isn’t going to change anything.

        Like

      • Actually I followed that case, it’s hard not to know of that case. Especially as someone who’s concerned some of the players on my current team may or may not be currently suffering from CTE.

        There’s been many that aren’t highly publicized as well.
        I am aware of the consequences of football, and thus am not ignorant of the facts.
        I just think there are a lot of other people who may watch the film Concussion, thus awakening them to the issues of CTE. Then the ramifications that new awareness will have.
        I’m aware of CTE very well, as such it’s made me question the aspect of little league football/high school football when I have a child. Still hasn’t affected me watching the sport. I just wonder what others might think moving forward.

        Less children playing football in highschool = less college football players. Then what?

        Like

      • Then think about what you’re saying. You know of that case. maybe you even know about Junior Seau committing suicide that same year and being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. What’s happened since then? A settlement between the league and former players. That’s about it. Nothing has changed from the public’s eye. I think it’s hilarious that you say all if that but then your quick to say you’re still going to watch. Precisely why nothing will happen. This movie changes nothing.

        There are over a million high school players. Around 100,000 college players. Less than 2,000 in the NFL. Your last question is irrelevant once you do the math.

        Like

      • Yes I know about the Junior Seau case as well.

        Sometimes it takes one event to change something though. I’m not saying things change overnight. It takes awhile. It takes one piece of information for parents to decide not to let their kids play football.

        Currently in Maine it has been happening where schools have had to disband highschool football teams because there aren’t enough players or interested members.

        Once that starts to happen more over time I think it will affect change is what I’m saying. It’s hard to change a habit. It’s hard to change now. But as people that watch or find out this information, many would highly decide not to allow their kids to play in highschool, thus affecting change moving onward for the future. However long that change may take.

        That’s all I’m saying.

        Like

  5. Pingback: Another Month Gone | Write me a book, John!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s