If you have been a follower of this site you know I could care less what any pro athlete is “using” to entertain us. It is their decision, their business, their bodies, their lives.
They are entertainers and being paid good money to do just that. How they decide to train and what they use to achieve maximum performance is up to them. My bullet-point view is an aspirin enhances results…you can’t test for every conceivable substance and masking agent…and the consistency rate of medical test results is questionable.
There will always be professional athletes using all sorts of things to try to gain an edge…even if the end result would be to grow antlers.
Which of course would solve the dilemma I initially decided to write about today…helmet-to-helmet contact in the sport of football. It appears now if deer-antler spray is being consumed to help one recover and perform at the highest level maybe we can take helmets off football players and let them produce and sport antlers. That’s gotta cut down on the head trauma problem. Have you SEEN how big deer antlers get?
Originally, this space today was designed solely to express an opinion regarding the still-healthy future of football, regardless of how unhealthy a sport many are making it out to be. President Obama then decided to weigh in on his thoughts regarding a non-existent son (no, this is not going to veer into Manti T’eo territory) and here we are. You surely have heard by now he said he’d think twice before letting a son play football:
“I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”- The New Republic
The President gave NFL players a pass because they are, well…professionals. He steered his concern in the direction of college players who are not being compensated (we’d like to think that at least…) and have no union or safety net to fall back on should severe injuries occur. But in the end, the POTUS asked an open-ended question days before the Super Bowl…questioning the game of football itself.
If in fact some U.S. parents decide their children cannot play football, there will always be others to replace the void. The promise of a way out of a bad home, a bad environment…a bad situation is too tempting for many parents and youth to resist. The sport becomes more global daily as well. Even if a majority of kids stop playing football in the States, there will be plenty of parents and their children across the planet who will look at participation in American football as a perfectly acceptable long-term risk towards a potentially perfect short-term reward. A free education…and a chance to make more money than they could ever dream of if good enough. The feeder system to the mega-dollar business of the NFL will remain firmly intact courtesy of their minor league…college football.
And as for the here and now…if helmet-to-helmet impact is now so terribly egregious in the NFL why aren’t offenders ejected on the spot instead of being “spotlighted” Tuesday morning when Commissioner Roger Goodell sits down to watch footage his minions have spliced together from the prior weekend? If Goodell really, really wanted to stop the punishing result of helmet-to-helmet contact he would dish out real punishment. Knowing what we do now about even the slightest jostling of the human brain and considering the legal issues the NFL faces from former performers…it is pathetically silly for Goodell to continue to equate the violation of using one’s helmet to first hit an opponent by simply placing the ball another fifteen yards down the field…while one or both players involved are helped off the gridiron to possibly never play again that game, that season…ever.
Go ahead and use a booth review to confirm the player involved should be removed from the game…and NOW you’re on your way towards eliminating the problem. And also…looking like you are really serious about it.
The New England Patriots’ Stevan Ridley looked like road kill lying on the turf with his arms curled skyward after a helmet-to-helmet running play in the AFC Championship. Not once did anyone mention a penalty should have been called on the Baltimore Ravens’ Bernard Pollard…or Ridley for that matter. Because it was a running play. Officials, players and announcers alike were more concerned the ruling of a fumble would be upheld.
How much sense does that make?
Pollard doesn’t even think football will be in existence thirty years from now…and he’s a poster child for why some think that way.
When Goodell started his Tuesday Morning video reviews and subsequent fines I railed against the fact he was doing it after the fact. Not only after the games had been played and the offenders were deemed worthy to play those entire games…but also after the wheels long ago went into motion his league is likely going to have to pay out for injuries in their workplace – the severity of which they appear to have had official full knowledge of without officially sharing said information. The legal action regarding the way the NFL operated towards former players should never have been “mixed up” with current retooling of the game to make it as safe to play as possible. The sudden onslaught of fines and penalties in a desperate attempt to “catch up” as quickly as possible to the issue of player safety in the league as a result of being sued by so many former players simply created mass confusion among current players, coaches and officials alike as to what was a legal play and what was not. It served only to make everyone look worse in the process as the games, hits…and continued participation continued on.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel anyone who has ever played the game of football should have known from Day One of Year One they wouldn’t come out the other end the same. In the instance of head trauma and long-term damage however…if the NFL did do detective work and then assured players it was OK to continue plying their trade without mentioning an asterisk besides their continued participation, that’s a huge problem from an employer/employee workplace standpoint…even if players did know they’d never lead a normal life in later life.
Football isn’t going anywhere. Even if some parents decide to take their children out of the feeder system to high school, college and the pro ranks…others will continue to see the “end of the rainbow.” It is, like other sports, a “way out” of a rough life or a difficult environment. It is, like other sports, a way to get an education towards a career other than football. There will always be kids playing football…somewhere. There will always be bodies to fill the uniforms.
And I don’t want football to go away. And I don’t want it to become something too far removed from what we’ve always known it to be. However, I will admit during all this talk about concussions, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, brain damage, suicides, etc. I flash back to the days not when I played organized tackle football with a helmet…but after-school, pick-up tackle football without one. All of us who engaged in such gridiron competition managed to survive without using our heads as battering rams. Even in college, frat football was full-on tackle…without helmets. Everyone survived intact.
I don’t advocate we take helmets off players. But what I will advocate is teaching players how to stop the ball…as well as advance it…with the head not being involved. It admittedly will force current players who have nothing in their head but using their heads to be retrained. That won’t be easy…but it surely will be a lot easier if immediate expulsion from a game is the end result. But if we start with the youth who play the game and don’t allow any other way…in time that muscle…and brain…memory will take effect and soon we will be “graduating” generation after generation of players who can play the game of football pretty much as we’ve always known…with heads held high.
Antlers are optional.