This is it. Today is the day. Football season starts. Everybody’s excited and full of joy. Between you and me (and when I say that I really you and me since I’m down to one regular reader now), I’m not as excited about football season’s return as I have been in the past. I used to bubble with excitement for days prior to the season kickoff. This season, however, is different. Learning about the long term damage playing football causes has caused me to reassess things. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to cheer for people to do that kind of damage to themselves and others.
I haven’t always understood the legacy of physical damage football causes. Really the first time it occurred to me was during the OJ Simpson trial when they documented the physical difficulties he was having as part of his defense. Even then it didn’t sink in. I figured, “hey, this guy is getting charged with a double murder so he’ll make any argument, reasonable or unreasonable, to get off.” Still the fact that he could barely bend his fingers at age 47 was eye opening.
In the last couple years the parade of retired football players displaying erratic behavior and committing suicide has really awoken my mind to how brutal a sport football can be. Think about it: Junior Seau, Andre Waters, and Dave Duerson are just a few of the players who committed suicide and whose brains showed significant trauma. The stories of players like Mike Webster and Ted Johnson are horror stories. If I had a son (thank god I don’t. Go Team Estrogen!) I would not allow him to play football. I’m not alone in that decision even some football players don’t want their kids following in their football footsteps.
What really called me to question my enthusiasm was watching the Hall of Fame Game. Every year the NFL trots out two teams to kick off the farce known as preseason to coincide with the induction of the new class of Hall of Famers. Since the World’s Greatest Football Team, The Dallas Cowboys was playing and a former Cowboy was inducted into the Hall I decided to watch for a bit. It was stunning watching the new Hall of Famers shuffle out to the center of the field to soak up accolades from the crowd. Some of them were hardly older than me and they could barely move.
Sure these guys sign up to play football and have some understanding of the types of injuries they could suffer. Sure they get paid ungodly sums. However, football careers don’t last long. So many players, even the superstars, can’t afford type of long term medical care there’ll need. The culture of sports in general and football in particular encourages players to play through injuries that have long term implications. In the short run there’s little that can be done about that. In long run? Who knows? I’ve come to the conclusion that little can be done to make football safer. On every play there’s a fairly decent chance some player will pick up a serious injury. Even as the league has tried to improve its response to injuries they’ve still increased.
The NFL being the great hype machine that it is has done a great job of minimizing the injury factor while highlighting the big brain shaking hits that fans love. I watched a report on ESPN’s Outside the Lines detailing the NFL’s efforts to downplay the effect of concussions on players. It led me to believe the NFL views players as disposable entities. As long as the machine keeps rolling everything is okay. I even find the league’s recent settlement with retired players bothersome. Sure they get what appears to be a healthy sum of money. Some money is better than no money. The fact that NFL admits no liability is troublesome. In my opinion, the settlement amounts to sweeping a massive problem under the rug.
Will I still watch? Probably. I won’t watch as intently as I have in the past. I can’t hang on all things football. It’s too hard to enjoy.
Annual Super Bowl Pick
This section is for the hardcore betting fan that’s not sure who to put his money on this season. Please note this pick is completely unbiased. I made it based on all the football evidence from this offseason.
There’s a lot of teams that might take the whole thing. But there’s one team with the players and coaching to actually do it. If you’re betting put your money on a team from Texas. Dallas, Texas that is. The Cowboys will take the whole thing.