This past weekend, I watched an Major League Lacrosse matchup between Denver and Long Island. Lacrosse was one of my favorite sports growing up as a kid, and its always brings back a fresh sense of nostalgia every time I get to see it on TV or in person. The game was in its earlier moments, and a Denver defenseman delivered a huge hit on a Long Island attack man. My reaction to the play didnt even come out before yellow laundry hit the field. Was the hit high? A little, so by the letter of the lacrosse rules, the call was legit. But once the play-by-play announcer made a reference to “the league taking a stance for concussion prevention”.Once the c-word came out of his mouth, I turned the channel.
I fully support the various league powers who are making the necessary steps to protecting players, particularly in the NFL. Every employer should make it their priority to protect their employees. Financially and morally, it seems like common logic. The problem with this logic is that the NFL, much like the MLL and the NHL, is no common sport. They are some of the last sports that are truly contact sports, descendants of the times gladiators used to fight to the death in the middle of the Coliseum. In no way do I want to see some guy in the middle of Soldier Field with a spear fighting an actual bear (maybe they should do that during halftime, or whenever Chicago’s offense is sputtering*), but many fans and current players seem to be against turning their league into a watered down version of the sport they were introduced to as kids. On that same historical context, football used to be played with leather helmets. Players were not the physical specimens they are now, but that didnt stop them from hitting their opponents full speed. Hockey players, some going with the old school helmet that has no facemask, go full speed into each other constantly. Changing a few rules, and throwing out suspensions is not going to change the culture of a sport that is predicated on violence. Medical concerns be damned, when you sign up for boxing, and you get hit in the head, you write that off as an occupational hazard. The same thing should go for other contact sports.
What this new “concern” over concussions has marred several sports that thrive on their fans’ thrill [lust] for violence. NASCAR fans go to races to see crashes. Boxing and UFC fans go to matches to see knockouts. Football fans go to games to see….touchdowns? Lets not fool ourselves here. If scoring was the first thing on football fans’ mind, they’d be basketball fans. The “Jacked Up” Segment of Monday Night Football Countdown was a collection of the biggest hits.
How do you make football, or any contact sport, safer? Unless you change the very complexion of the sport, you cant. The same reason you cant make boxing any safer or politics any less corrupt. For goodness sake, we are talking about professional sports. If this concussion fiasco gets any worse, then we are on the verge of having to sit through seasons of contact sports that are officiated by referees who are hair-trigger happy with throwing that dreaded helmet-to-helmet
flag. Its no wonder flopping became such a problem in the NBA soon after the competition committee made increased scoring a priority. The game was being played too rough. People dont want to see low scoring games, that won’t fill up arenas. We need to appeal to a broader audience.
News flash, NFL: if you gain a huge mainstream audience, but lose your hardcore followers, you have about a 5-10 year window of prosperity before your company completely folds on itself. Its happened with the NHL, the WWE, even with countless musicians. It will happen to you as well.
Im not saying take the necessary precautions to keep the players safe, but don’t mess up the integrity of the game. Calling a flag on any play that seems dangerous looking is complete overkill. Monitor the aggressiveness, but do not eliminate it. If you want to keep your head concussion-free, then I suggest you not play football. And if you want to remove the risk of concussions in football, lacrosse, and hockey, the only way to do that is remove the helmets entirely. And even then, its still a possibility. Its a physical sport. I suffered a concussion a month ago in flag football.Flag.
We watch these sports subconsciously because they are our modern day super heroes. They are doing something, enduring things that most people on the earth can’t. When that playing field is leveled, what were once superhuman performances seem pedestrian. And damnit, Im not paying to watch pedestrians play.