If I Had A Son (or Daughter), Would I Let Him/Her Play Football?

The NFL’s  Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers getting it on. Photo courtesy of profootballweekly.com

 

I’ve seen it on ESPN and Fox Sports reports and documentaries.

I can vividly recall my heart breaking when I saw former Chicago Bears quarterback and basic sunglasses-wearing bad-ass Jim McMahon struggling to remember where his home was on outings.

Not to mention big names such as McMahon’s Bears teammate Dave Duerson and former San Diego/just moved to Los Angeles Chargers and USC  linebacker legend Junior Seau kill themselves.

And I’ll never forget the sad condition of Mike Webster, the Pittsburgh Steelers center from the Super Bowl glory days of the 1970s, who was the same age as I am now (fifty) when he passed away of a heart attack.

All because of Cardio Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, which is essentially brain damage caused by way too many concussions.

Which these guys – and many more football players (and hockey players, too; can’t forget them) I may add – have suffered from for so long as recent research found that out of 111 brains of former football players studied, all but one showed signs of CTE.

It’s at the point where for the past couple of years, whenever I watch a football game one of my first thoughts is this…

“I hope his head’s OK.”

I think that’s a main reason behind me, despite liking the pigskin game as much as the next guy, preferring baseball.

A thought came to me very recently regarding all of this on a personal level:

 

CELEBRATING UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Hart High School’s football team, from Newhall, CA, after winning a CIF championship. Photo courtesy of archive.signalscv.com

 

 

IF I HAD A CHILD – WHETHER IT WAS A SON OR EVEN A DAUGHTER (Plenty of girls have liked the sport enough to have played it and want to play it) – WOULD I LET HIM/HER PLAY FOOTBALL?

I won’t waste any more time on answering this:

If it was flag football in a Parks and Recreation league, sure!

That brand of the game is obviously much safer, with no tackling.

Now the big question; if it was a Pop Warner tackle league or a high school team…

My Answer: YES – if my kid really wanted to do it.

There would be one condition I would put upon my youngster before I signed the form, paid the entrance fees, signed up for the booster club, etc…

The first concussion my child suffered on the gridiron, he/she would be immediately pulled from the field by me – or I would order the coach to – and would be done for the season.

Like any other sane parent, I would take no chances with my loved one’s health.

He or she would be gone, then have a complete brain scan at the beginning of pre-season practice – and pass with flying colors – the next year before I would let them take the field.

I can’t make it clearer than that.

For all those parents and loved ones whose children are doing battle on that 100-yard space, whether he’s a eight-year old in Pee-Wees, a 16-year old under the Friday Night Lights, or a five-star recruit at one of the country’s collegiate football kingdoms,

I pray that your kid gets through this season concussion-free.

 

Action from a Pop Warner game. Photo courtesy of readingpopwarner.com

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UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: My Personal Crosstown Rivalry Story

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My former marching band, as they look today

REMINISCING ABOUT A PREVALENT MEMORY REGARDING MY ALMA MATER AND THEIR CROSSTOWN RIVALS, AS THE 84TH MEETING OF UCLA AND USC IN FOOTBALL WILL COMMENCE THIS SATURDAY

November 14, 1988 (I think).

It was my first year not only as a UCLA student after transferring from a junior college, but my first year in the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, where I played the tenor saxophone.

As I was a longtime Bruin fan who was realizing my longtime dream of becoming a Bruin, I was excited about experiencing in person, for the first time, the rivalry that my institution of higher learning has with a certain private school located 12 miles to the east in Los Angeles’ inner city, having watched the two football teams do battle on TV since I was less then ten years old.

Not to mention seeing in person what I had been bragging about during my high school days as UCLA beat that private school in my 10th, 11th and 12th grade years.

A quick note before I continue:  I refer to the University of Southern California – USC – as a “private school” because it is. Those three letters put together will not be written again in this post from this point, nor will their nickname, the “Trojans”.

All right, now that that disclaimer has been taken care of…

I was riding with some fellow UCLA band members to the private school to partake in a flag football game called the “Band Bowl”, which the marching bands of the two schools have played in since the 1950s during the week of the “real” game.

It was usually held on the Sunday before, but due a prior commitment from the private school’s band, the game had to be held on a Wednesday night.

As I was and still am a big guy, I was going to the game as a member of the Bruin band football team but because I had fallen on a broken beer bottle and subsequently suffered a cut on the bottom of my toe that required stitches and a small cast, I was on the “Injured Reserve” list, so to speak, and was attending the game solely for moral support.

I was told by friends in the UCLA band about the evil nastiness that the private school band exuded with regards to us, but it was that evening where I would experience it face to face.

We arrived at the private school campus’ track field, getting off our yellow school bus (“Let’s go back to the 6th grade, shall we?” our captain quipped), and prepared to play the game, which much like our real football team with the full scholarships was important on a pronounced scale to everyone involved, on both sides.

The game begins, and we played very well; I believe we led the whole way and ended up winning 21-7.

It was during halftime that I saw, for the first time, the way that private school band acted like a combination of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Satan-led devils…

After the private school band played – well, I don’t recall what they played but I do remember that it sounded rather bad – they turned around to face our side and screamed at the top of their lungs, with their middle fingers proudly pointed in the cool L.A. night…

“F*** the Bruins!!!”

While getting into our band’s faces – those who showed up to support us – with what I’m sure was their drunken breath, yelling various versions of “F*** You!”  for roughy 15 minutes until it was time for the second half.

Although I was on the other side of the sideline from that evilness, I’m sure that saliva from that private school band’s mouths found the faces of at least some of our band members.

There was one particular member of that private school band whose image I haven’t forgotten after more than 25 years – he had a long, scraggly beard that would be made popular by pro athletes today, who was obviously smashed on various liquors as his face was as red (or “Cardinal”, as they call it) as his school’s primary color.

I was surprised that he didn’t vomit on the poor Bruin band girl whose face he so obnoxiously got into; I believe she was a piccolo player who had brought a large Bruin teddy bear to the game.

Other hate crime-level deeds such as water balloons being thrown from a building that stood behind us which was intended to humiliate, which our band director chased away, marred the whole evening, which would have been a much more bitter memory if we hadn’t won the game.

As such, this was an annual tradition with that private school band, I would later find out.

But it wouldn’t be until 12 years later, having long since received my degree, when this private school bigotry would reach the last straw when – to make a long story short – UCLA’s instrument and equipment truck was broken into during a Band Bowl game on that private school campus, $30,000 worth of instruments, uniforms and other stuff were stolen and a tenor sax case, when recovered, had a “Stop Hate” sticker ripped off and replaced by, crudely written in black marker, the word “Jew”.

Sounds like Germany in 1938, don’t you think?

That solidified my dislike for that private school in South L.A. to nuclear-like proportions; not that is was much less to start with.

And because of that hate crime, which is precisely what it was, the Band Bowl has not been held since as the private school band’s leaders feared retaliation.

There are quite a few other incidents that occurred with that private school over the years since that day in 1988, some that directly involved me and some that did not, like that instrument truck incident.

However, If I discussed every one of those episodes, the size of this article would approach that of “War and Peace”.

So I’ll end this post with those two prevalent memories of the longtime animosity between the two major college marching bands that call America’s largest city west of the Mississippi River home.

As well as announce that my official preview of the big showdown between UCLA and that private school and a separate piece that will feature a prediction of the game, which will include a score, will appear on this blog later this week.

For the record, my preview of this 84th renewal of the Crosstown Rivalry will be on this site Wednesday, while I’ll give my prediction – including a score – in a post on Thursday.

I certainly hope you are all looking forward to reading what I think the keys to this game will be and how I see it unfolding…

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What UCLA does to protect their Bruin Bear statue; because vandals from that private school have ripped this cover to deface the statue, thus committing a felony, it is now covered in a big plywood box.