Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are that solely of Dan Kotnik.
It’s been a topic talked about for the last several years; the fodder for debate for sports pundits and ammunition for those that wish the NFL ill: concussions. The most recent sighting of this specter came this past weekend after Patriots wide receiver Julian Eldelman stayed in the game after a brutal hit. Gaining a lot of legs because it’s the perfect “scare the hell out of moms” kind of news topic, I have heard over and over again one main theme:
“The NFL needs to do something about this now! Make the game safer, we need more rules, more protocol!”
This theme never seems to get challenged, just simply regurgitated more and more by whoever is holding the discussion. Nothing new is brought up and we’ve learned nothing. So I’ll ask it.
Why does the NFL need to do something to the rules? Why does the NFL need these protocols? Why?
Let’s establish something that should be obvious but somehow I feel like it gets lost in the conversation: All of these men in the NFL are adults. They choose to play a dangerous game. No one is forcing them to play the sport.
We put the burden on adults in every day society to be held responsible for their well-being and the well-being of those in their care, like children. And there are things in society that we understand if we do them, we have a pretty certain expectation. It’s taught at a very young age. “If you do/act like this, this will be happen”. If I choose to work at a job where I’m in the sun all day, I’m going to have a higher chance of getting sun burnt, maybe even cancer. If I’m working a job around loud noises, I understand my chances of hearing loss become much greater. Very simple logic. It’s up to you to decide if the rewards of whatever you are doing is worth the risks.
So why is it not the same for football players? You can say “well we didn’t have all these statistics five years ago that we do now”, but that’s such a cop out. Ignorance does not relieve you from the burden of personal responsibility. Just think about it. You see all these ex-players who can barely walk due to the fact of the physical nature of the game, years of knee and back strain taking their toll. Now, and be honest with yourself, can you really rationalize that your brain, the control center of your entire body, would be the one thing on your body that would come out unscathed after years of playing football? You can’t. For some reason, though, we don’t put the same burden on our professional football stars.
It’s a very easy decision for them. Is the chance that you will develop some memory loss and other brain damage worth the success, the glory, the financial security, the lifestyle professional football can provide? That is for no one to decide except for the individual player. Let’s let them make that decision.
And, to wrap it up, even if you want to disregard all of this and think something should be done, why are some of the best doctors and our lawmakers putting so much effort into this? I guess compared to trivial things like the economy, wars, cancer, incurable genetic diseases, making a sport safer for the extremely small population that play it is clearly the more pressing issue. This is an NFL/football issue. Simplfied, it's an issue about a game! A silly game. Not disease or national security. It's a game and should be treated as such.