Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Future of Football

Aaron Hernandez
As I write this there are ongoing investigations regarding three NFL players: Aaron Hernandez, from the New England Patriots who is accused of being an accomplice in a murder, and Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins who are on opposite sides of a racist, bullying action that seems to be of more concern to the fans than to the players or their teammates.

NFL players problems with crime are nothing new, and the two mentioned are hardly the worst examples. Ray Lewis, recently retired with honors was charged with murder on his own part and escaped with a reduced charge of Obstruction when he finally gave up two “friends”, who were prepared to testify against him.  Probably the most famous was O.J. Simpson, who would be a free man today had he not decided to stage a Hollywood retrieval of his Heisman Trophy.

So what’s the big fuss now?

Helmet testing 1912
Much of it comes from the League’s own actions and rules changes, which are designed to demonstrate that concussions are unnecessary to the sport in spite of the growing awareness that more retired football players have brain injuries than boxers.


Junior Seau
The magnitude of the problem was exasperated by the death last year of Junior Seau whose cause of death was determined to be Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Since then there have been a litany of players and player’s groups expressing their concerns in the media.  One of the more recent was Jim McMahon, a scrambling quarterback who received more than his share of bumps and bruises.


Frank Deford
One of my favorite commentators, Frank Deford recently visited this subject.  While eschewing the brutality of the game he reminded us that this has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, responsible for much of the funding for colleges and a significant chuck of television programming, with consequent advertising revenue.

My younger son is a Physical Education instructor at a parochial K-8 school, where they have an active after-school program.  The fall sport is flag football, and that suits Tim well.  He believes students should not play serious contact sports until they are sixteen.  Most of the advantages of football: team-building, speed and agility, strategy, ability to be coached can develop as easyly in flag football as in tackle, and he wishes parents would let their children play in diocesan league rather than Pop Warner.

My grandson is in his sophomore year at El Toro high school, which graduates about 600 students a year.  He expressed an interest this year in trying out for football.  The school normally is a champion contender but this year seems to have fallen on hard times.  Ryan grew five or more inches in as many months but still weighs less than 130 pounds at 6’2”.  For whatever reason, he or someone changed his mind and I don’t mind a bit.  I hope he instead stays with basketball.  Even in Southern California the games are more comfortable to watch.

When asked whether he thought football would survive these concerns (sports sales for football gear is down 16% over last year) he opined that if you put 100 mothers in a room and asked how many would allow their sons to play, if  thirteen said “no”, it would only be a matter of time. 

Sixty years ago when I graduated from Mason City (Iowa) high school only one of our high school players received a scholarship from the University of Iowa, which was nationally ranked at the time.  As it turned out, he didn’t make the team, but I think it was largely scholastic-driven.

Nowadays scholarships are real, valuable, and represent a way out of poverty for a large number of players.  But there are true concerns that the “free” education may come at a high price.
In my next post I will share an idea that came as an Epiphany while driving recently.  If Bill O’Reilly can claim that inspiration for Killing Jesus came from the Holy Spirit, I may claim Divine inspiration for what I am calling “God Point”.  Stop on by.

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