The kickoff to Super Bowl week normally escorts feelings of elation for football fans, even those without a team in the big game. They’ve invested countless hours watching games and adjusting fantasy football rosters for the better part of a year; and this is the culmination and final celebration. The Super Bowl week is as engrained in modern American society as the Fourth of july; yet the induction to such a joyous week has been soured by countless sources, claiming the game has become too dangerous.
The self-inflicted deaths of former football players over the last two years raised eyebrows on the long-term implications of concussions. They included former Chicago Bear, Dave Duerson, and more recently former New England Patriot, Junior Seau. The “Concussion Discussion” has been served as the centerpiece to a week normally reserved for football jubilation.
This week’s conversation began with a current player, who will suit up to contend for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. Bernard Pollard, a defensive-back for the Baltimore Ravens, told CBSSports.com, “The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety],” he said, “but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees.”
Then the President of the United States, Barack Obama, chimed in via an interview with the New Republic. “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.”
So much for the confetti and champagne.
But luckily a solacing voice for fans with an appetite for the game can be found in one of the most unlikely sources: Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler. Sure, he’s not normally the most media friendly athlete, and yes, his fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, made news when she told DNAinfo.com Chicago she’ll try to keep their newborn son out of the game of football during his life. But Cutler had it right when he told ESPN 1000 back on Nov. 20 that there are worse things in this world for his son than the game of football and that the concussion issue has been a bit over-hyped.
“I think as a culture and as fans of football everyone got caught up into the concussion mania and awareness, it’s kind of — I don’t want to say blown out of proportion, because it is a significant issue and something that needs to be paid attention to,” he said. “There is a lot of other things I worry about for Cam other than football. I have diabetes, our food situation in America with preservatives and everything else we put into it, that’s something I worry about a lot more than him getting concussions playing football.” (Side note: I imagine there is some tension at the Cutler Residence tonight.)
There is no argument that the game of football is dangerous. It may in fact be affecting the future health of players. I hope, as I’m sure it will, modern science can help alleviate these injuries and improve the quality of life for retired football players. But these men are in a professional football players union that was chartered to protect them. They are paid hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to play the sport with the option to leave. It is a life they chose.
So is all this fanfare over America’s beloved game really necessary? Jay’s right, there’s a lot of things worse for us than football. There’s endless amounts of things killing us slowly. It’s ironic that one can call into a local sports radio station to voice that the game of football should cease to exist as it does, all while this individual can smoke a cigarette and scarf down a Big Mac. He’s probably not earning an NFL sized paycheck either.
Perhaps the media has us tuned in a little too deep. We must step back and evaluate how to approach treating the players rather than taking a small sampling size and dismissing this game as too dangerous to play. Who knows, maybe ten years down the road we’ll find that the steps the NFL has taken today have worked, and less and less players will be seeing life-altering effects from the game.
Consider this the official endorsement for my future son to play football.
Now let’s get back to the football part of football and enjoy Super Bowl XLVII.
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