A Burgundy and Gold Obsession
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Cake or Death?

Holding Up Over Time?

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You ever watch a movie for the first time and absolutely love it? Then you watch it a couple of years later, or even a decade later and can't figure out what the hell you liked about it so much? Movies that get worse with subsequent viewing? Twenty years later, you watch and think, "What was I thinking"?

Meet the Parents is like that for me. Thought it was very funny when it came out, but now when it comes on TV, I might watch a minute or two waiting for something funny, finally changing the channel because it just doesn't happen.

I have a feeling the sequels have something to do with that, to be fair. Haven't actually seen either of the sequels, mind you. Just a feeling.

Robocop is a fun action movie, but let's face it. The futuristic scenes haven't held up well.

I wonder if football is headed down that same path. Partially because of the labor dispute, I fear. The NFL had record numbers last year across the board. The owners want more money, the players want to keep the status quo. Billionaires vs. millionaires.

For those of us struggling through our 9-5 jobs, barely covering our expenses because of the poor economy, the entire negotiations are anathema.

But that's not actually what I am worried about, regarding the future of the NFL. Don't get me wrong, the unbridled hubris of a sports league that seems willing to piss its fans off by engaging in a work stoppage may lead to serious long term problems for the league. People point to the MLB strike as a cautionary tale for the NFL, but I don't see that. MLB wasn't nearly as popular as the NFL is today; I don't see such a precipitous drop possible for the NFL, unless the work stoppage extends multiple years.

No, my concern is concussions. And I actually am not talking about concussions in the NFL. The league seems to be getting a handle on that issue, and I think we will probably see increased medical technology available right off the field for close to immediate diagnosis within the next five years. The NFL will work to reduce concussions, especially repeat concussions, and may even be part of the current collective bargaining agreement.

I am concerned with the Pop Warner leagues. As much effort towards research and prevention is being spent in the pros, less attention is being given to concussions experienced on the collegiate level, and still less on the high school level, and below that is practically non-existent.

I have three daughters and one son. I have always fantasized about my son playing sports, fulfilling my hopes and dreams for myself through him. You know, typical Dad stuff. I personally loved basketball more growing up, and played that much more often. But as I have gotten older, there is something in me that wants the boy to be a linebacker. To go out there and crush someone. Knock the snot out them. A good London Fletcher hit. You know what I mean.

Never going to happen. My wife has been saying for years that she doesn't want him playing football because of the physicality of the sport, and the potential damage he could sustain. For years, I laughed it off, telling her broken arms and sprained ankles are part of growing up.

I'm not laughing any more. With the advent of the concussion research, and the advances in the knowledge we have about short term and long term effects, I don't want my son playing football either. Perhaps if there was a better helmet that vastly limited concussions, I might reconsider. Might. But probably not.

And I doubt I'm alone.

What happens to the sport of football if more and more parents steer their children away from football and towards other sports for their child's safety? If the kids make it to the college level and then through a miracle of God, make it to the pros and get rich and are set for life, is it worth it?

Not to me as a parent.

I know this is a football site, and I know a lot of you may disagree with me. But I am charged with protecting my children until they are capable of doing that for themselves. There is simply not enough information out there for me to reach a definitive conclusion that would allow me to sleep at night.

Again, I don't think I'm alone.

So what happens when the talent pools are steered towards other sports? Football as we know it right now in 2011 may be about to be changed. A lot.

I wonder if we will look back in twenty years with horror and disgust at the gladiator sport we cheered on so vociferously, and think, "What was I thinking"?
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  1. Neophyte's Avatar
    My Mom would not let me play either but her reason was knees. The son of the master carpenter who built much of our house played ball and had a permanent limp by the time he graduated high school from knee injuries. Shoot, some days he had problems trying to figure out how to limp with both legs at once. That was when I was 4 or 5 years old.

    In Jr High I set school records for the 600 yard run and the 50 yard dash on back to back days. My gym teacher was the head football coach and he immediately got ideas. We had a great Riggins like fullback on the team but no real speed at tailback or wide out. He asked me to join the team. I told him to call my Mom. She told him that I wasn't playing. When he asked why, she told him that while she didn't know much about the game she did know I wasn't big enough to do anything but catch or carry the ball and that the guy with the ball got a lot of negative attention. Attention she didn't want her son getting. End of discussion.

    Thirty years later I am mostly glad Mom put her foot down. Mostly. Part of me would like to have played organized ball for just a year. At least then I would know something, right? The part of me that is mostly glad Mom put her foot down is also glad I only have girls of my own so I don't have to face that decision. Not here in Texas where football is the state religion.

    But I think folks like my Mom and Goaldie's wife are few and I don't think the number is radically increasing. I think this should impact football down the road but I don't think it will.

    Sadly.
  2. Goaldeje's Avatar
    You may be right, Bob. I think if the stories were reported better, people would freak out a little more about their kids. The story of Dave Duerson recently startled the hell out of me, and scared me to death, frankly. And then it angered me how the story was underreported. If the media catches up and reports these stories, i think you will see the tide move.
  3. Boone's Avatar
    Nice blog entry James. I had a couple of thoughts as I read... first of all, I can tell you that in the region I live, the humans I walk amongst might as well be Cro-Magnon to your Neanderthal. Even if vast leaps in knowledge and understanding of the concussive dangers of contact sports came to light, I can't foresee even a possibility that it would reduce the number of kids and parents determined to participate in football. It's tantamount to trying to talk folks out of relinquishing their Confederate flags - it's just not going to happen.

    The other thought I had was a parallel to boxing. I am a huge boxing fan. Can I recognize it's a brutal sport? Could I myself make an argument for it's banning? Yes to both. But I also believe humans are passionate, physical beings and that as much as some of us would like to distance ourselves from the violent nature of humanity, it is part of who and what we are as human beings.

    I don't believe violent contact sport will ever go away. And while I agree that I would never encourage my son or daughter to participate in activities that could cause them long-term harm, I also don't want those sports to go away.

    I have thought about this topic more than a few times - particularly after I took a vicious hit on the sidelines of an NFL game (pretty sure I had a concussion as a result) that really opened my eyes as to the brutal physicality that is the NFL. That experience really made me wonder if, as players continue to get bigger, stronger, faster, if we would reach a point where the human frame just couldn't sustain the kind of damage that evolution entails. Maybe the games will change significantly over time. Maybe player safety will have to be given a much higher premium than currently if the games are to survive. I don't know - but interesting ideas.
  4. Goaldeje's Avatar
    Interesting take John. I see two distinct paths the sports might take: football could be reduced to boxing's stature now, or could just say, screw it, and embrace the physicality all the way, ala the Running Man. OK, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea.

    And I agree there will be many, many parents who are either unaware of the concussion research or simply choose to ignore it, but if the talent pool is diluted, even just a little, how do respond?
  5. Yusuf06's Avatar
    Great blog post Goaldeje. I've slowly come around to your way of thinking on this issue. I'm just surprised that it took me as long as it did to change my opinion since I know firsthand about the scary longer term after effects of multiple concussions.

    This story was the final nail in the coffin for my opinion on the issue of protecting players from head injuries. I'd suggest any parent making a decision about their kids playing contact sports take the information in this story into consideration.

    I agree that the risks asssociated with head injuries poses a long-term threat to football and that risk, as much as anything, is what's driving the league's crackdown. I think the most likely result is that as you suggested, football becomes sort of like boxing in the sense that only the most desperately poor view it as a viable option because in those cases it's one of the few opportunities available and their perception is that it's their best shot at escape/success.
  6. Goaldeje's Avatar
    Nice story at the link, Yusuf. One of the things that precipitated this post was hearing Nowinski do a podcast with Bill Simmons, which really got me thinking about children's sports which I don't think gets a lot of attention with this subject. I guess we will all see what happens!