As the dawn of a new season arrives, I’m here to tell you that the game that we love so much is under attack. Usually, this space in a publication such as this one is reserved for a cheery “welcome back” piece. Something to get you excited for all that’s about to take place and the memories that are about to be made.
But this year is different. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen it for the past few seasons with your own eyes and now it’s obvious. Our great sport is under attack. Yes, the War on Football is being waged.
It’s being waged by the mainstream media, consisting mostly of those who have never played the game. It’s also being perpetuated by those who have actually played, but have seemingly forgotten all the good it brought them.
Let’s be frank, nobody steps on a football field without knowing the stakes. Nobody. There’s a reason for all the protective equipment. From knees to collar bones to neck to head, there’s a good chance you’re going to injure something if you play the sport.
Everyone knows the body, specifically the head, can only take so much pounding. When athletes of the highest level spend eight months of a year getting bigger, faster and stronger only to go out and collide with those who did the same thing, you know there’s a chance for problems.
And yet, the modern-day gladiators, and yes, I’m talking from the pee-wee players to the junior varsity to the NFL, decide to take that risk. Why is that? That’s the part that’s being lost in the mix.
Are they stupid? No. Far from it. Football offers the kinds of rewards and recognition that an athlete simply cannot get in other places. Basketball is fun, baseball is cute, but football is the star quarterback dating the head cheerleader.
Football teaches in the most painful of ways that in life we can put our heart and souls into something and come up short. I’m talking things such as business, marriage, to impossible hobbies such as golf. But the point is, you get up, dust off, limp back and fight to make the next play.
Football also promotes the concept of teamwork. This is 11 guys armed with a role and a goal. If even one screws up, it could mean total disaster for all. But you don’t banish the one who screwed up. You yell at him, tell him where he went wrong, slap him on the butt and encourage him to get better. Most often, he does. This is how competence is nurtured.
These great virtues can be taught elsewhere. Just not as violently. Just not on such a big stage. Just not with so much at stake.
And to the victors go the spoils. When you succeed in high school football, it’s in front of the whole community. In front of the pretty girl you’re trying to impress. Most importantly, in front of your parents and family.
At higher levels, football can lead to a free college education that will send the recipient on a nice path in life. It could also mean millions of dollars in income.
I have no clue where this War on Football will lead the sport, but the early results aren’t promising.
Referees are now put in impossible positions to make game-changing penalty calls often on what they think they see and not what really happened. Players are now faced with overbearing rules about whether they can continue playing if they got their bell rung.
And at the high school level, many potential players and their parents have simply been scared off.
What a loss.
No one is naive to the fact that there are serious repercussions to head injuries, many of which don’t become fully realized until far down the road. That’s a sad reality of a great sport. The good outweighs the bad, however. The overwhelming majority of current and former players are just fine and always will be.
To those who are risking it, I say thank you for putting on a show and enjoy the rewards that come with it. No matter what the scoreboard says, you’re a winner and that will keep paying off for your entire lifetime.