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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A Few Thoughts on The End of the Football Season

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One of the Patriots’ touchdowns that helped them take the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from the Pacific Northwest

 

ONE LONGTIME SPORTS FAN’S TAKE ON AMERICA’S FAVORITE SPORT ENDING ITS SEASON 

 

Before anyone goes on about I am just a wimpy hater, I should state that like the vast majority of sports fans in America, I am a football fan.

Particularly the collegiate kind, where I have been a loyal and passionate follower of my alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for over 30 years; that’s no secret to any of my friends and acquaintances.

As for the kind of football that players legally get paid to play…

I’m not nearly a fan of that as I am of college football, for many reasons, among them being more traditions in college and not having to worry about teams moving if the owner is not happy about where they’re playing.

Or players holding out and missing training camp because their salary is $1.15 million dollars instead of $1.2 million.

Despite being a fan of the most popular spectator sport in this country, when Malcolm Butler intercepted what would have been a NFL championship-winning pass from Russell Wilson on the one-yard line, ending the just-played Super Bowl and giving the New England Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time, I felt just like Henry Aaron did when the baseball legend broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974 when the longtime Brave said,

“I’m just glad it’s all over with.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I’m glad that a sport where roughly hundreds of its former players are tangled up in a lawsuit with their former employers over compensation for debilitating, brain-damaging, and sometimes life-ending injuries,

Where big names such as the ex-Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon can’t remember where he is going when he goes on errands and where he lives when he is heading for home, his brain issues are so pronounced,

Where numerous stars have committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest so that doctors can research the damage in their brain that caused the suicidal feelings,

And where headlines have been made over players knocking out their fiancés in hotel elevators, whipping their children with tree branches, (allegedly) deflating footballs during a playoff game, and starting a fight a few seconds before the end of their championship game due to them being upset at being denied a second straight title,

Is closing shop until next fall.

Because to be honest, I was getting a little tired of it.

All the drama that went on in the NFL this year has reinforced this longtime conviction of mine, that:

When it comes to which sport is better, baseball wins the argument.

To answer all the pigskin fanatics that are screaming right about now about how baseball is boring, slow, and just plain sucks, among the simple reasons why baseball is the better overall sport are:

1. It’s safer – how many ex-Major League Baseball players have suffered from permanent brain injuries compared to ex-NFLers?

2. Baseball players have longer careers – seven to ten years as opposed to three and a half to four years for their NFL counterparts.

3. Baseball players make more money, with an average salary of more tha $3 million compared to the NFL’s average of just over $1 million.

4. The players’ union is stronger in MLB than in the NFL as the World Series being cancelled in 1994 was a result of the players sticking together while the NFL players’ strike of 1987 collapse due to those athletes’ crossing the picket line. 

5. Despite the MLB Players Union being as strong as it is, there has been a lasting peace between them and management for more than twenty years, while the NFL owners locked out their players as recently as 2011.

In what I believe settles the argument, guys such as former Bears coach Mike Ditka have said that they would not recommend that kids play football because the risk of bad injuries is just not worth it.

That these statements are coming from someone who likes the gridiron game  – me –  is perhaps what is particularly interesting, I think; imagine what someone who hates the sport would be saying…

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to the week of February 16th – two weeks from this writing.

That’s when pitchers and catchers report to either Florida or Arizona for Spring Training.

 

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Clayton Kershaw, the reigning King of Baseball (at least among pitchers)