Defending Football, The Game I Love
It's the most popular sport in America and some are not trying to just make it safer, but destroy it.
Since I began my association with the NY Jets (my dad and uncle as team physicians) at age 12 it has evolved in so many ways. There were no offensive lineman over 300 lbs., Linebackers were 210-225 and hardly anyone lifted weights. There was form tackling, wrapping up another player to bring them to the ground, not hits to get on ESPN highlights. Helmets had single or double bar and were not used as weapons, because they didn't feel like weapons. Sometimes making things stronger made players feel indestructible and I believe may have actually led to more injuries on the field. Sports medicine has changed since the days when a torn ACL meant the end of a career. Now, an ACL tear means that you could lead the league in rushing the next year. The science of sports medicine has advanced significantly and the treatment improved. We now know more about brain science than ever before, and teams are making an effort to protect their players. Are you really worried about player safety, and them getting too big? A simple answer would be to do HGH (human growth hormone) testing. The size of the modern player, and their speed definitely increases the likelihood of injury.
I am upset hearing the President (who doesn't even have a son) or players (who made millions and are now commentators because they played the game), saying they wouldn't let their son play football. Their children have lots of options that those players as kids didn't have, and for many, football was the pathway to a better life. Starting in the 1950s, player and then Coach Walt Michaels (now 83), told me he and his brother played to get an education they couldn't afford being Polish immigrants and a big family with very little money. Then Joe Namath spoke of choosing football over baseball for college and to not have to work in the coalmines of Pennsylvania and not be able to breathe later in life. Now, so many young men from tough urban areas, infested with poverty, gang violence, and drugs, play as way to go to college and have a possibility of a life of money, fame, comfort in nice areas that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Their moms felt football was a safer and more positive place than the streets.
How many leave the game by choice? They love it and the closeness of the locker room, the structure many never had, the feeling of playing the game itself, and many have a hard time adjusting to regular life afterward. It's been great to so many in the media only concentrate on the few and the ones, some legitimate, some whose lawyers tell them "there's money for you". The current players should have done more as Mike Ditka has been screaming, in the last CBA agreement for past players health insurance. That would have been so constructive, and would have made a much bigger impact than a CBA that doesn't even allow teams to truly practice tackling.
There are so many dangerous sports, racecar driving, skiing, hockey, extreme sports, but no one says I won't let my child ski or climb a mountain. Should we limit our children's potential because of our own fears? A football player is a special kind of person and needs a physical outlet and one that's legal. If a person doesn't want to play, that's great, but don't take away the choice and freedom a person has. They all know what they signed up for, and the majority would do it all over again. Athletes lead with their hearts (which would be proper tackling form, by the way), and you can't strangle out the competitive spirit in those that are born to play a game like football.
Yes, launching oneself at a player, spearing, and leading with your helmet is wrong, not just as a way to play the game but in terms of safety. Entertainment and media has to take some blame that they glorified these hits instead of the old-time correct form tackles. The same group that pushes these changes are part of the problem.
If you want that, keep doing what you're doing, in fact, the players might as well take off the pads and play flag.
Maybe even Obama would let his daughters play that.