Written by DFW Contributor Dave Richardson a.ka. Ravage
I was watching a little TV where one of the subplots involved a college football player who had suffered a concussion. After being told he could suffer permanent damage if he were to play again he did so anyway and suffered another head injury. While the damage was repaired with surgery he was asked why he would play again and take that kind of risk. He said something along the lines of that was who he was, it was all that he was, and he didn’t know anything else.
That’s hard for many of us to imagine, that a sport/game could mean so much. Then I thought of a college roommate I had, a great guy, smart, football was so much more in his mind. He was a decent nose tackle for a small college team. It was his last stop for football though and he knew that. One year in intramural basketball he tore his ACL, I think it was. He was one of the first to get arthroscopic surgery in the state of Iowa. The results weren’t as good as they would be now and he was no longer able to play the game he had always loved. This was the game that, at the time, defined his life… … in his mind at least. For the rest of his time at college, as far as I know, he never attended another football game. He even went so far as to leave campus during football games because the sound of the crowd reminded him of what he was missing. He did eventually get over that and now coaches a high school football team in Missouri. I know he would have been one of those guys to return to the game with a concussion.
I couldn’t understand how the game could mean so much to him. I had played sports in high school basketball, baseball, tennis, cross-country, and I was in a few plays too. I did it all to have something to do though not for true love of the games. I really enjoyed basketball and baseball but I was not in love with the games.
This made me think about the NFL and the safety issues that has arisen especially the one currently surrounding concussions. Almost all of these guys have been playing football since pee wee leagues or junior high. While maybe not all of them have that love for the game when you get to the NFL there is another reason to stick with the game, money.
The NFL has always had a high risk of injury. To prove that, just watch any old-timers day a NFL team has. Most of those guys are shuffling out there not because they’re 80 years old but because their knees are nothing but bone on bone after playing 10 years in the NFL. The first real bad injury I remember was Darryl Stingley, in a “means nothing” preseason game. He lowered his head into Jack Tatum’s shoulder pad and was a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Joe Theismann had his career ended on a sack by Lawrence Taylor. We must face the fact that this is a dangerous game. Not so long ago the foremost factors in deciding whether a player got back into a game was, will more tape work and how many fingers am I holding up?
Ex-players have filed a suit against the NFL over the concussion issue saying that the league and therefore teams knew that they were dealing with an injury that could alter their lives after football. So now the NFL takes more precautions with someone who has had a concussion. Javid Best suffered his last concussion on Oct. 16th, 2011 and still hasn’t been cleared to play due to post-concussion symptoms. Every week, it seems, another player has had a concussion or is dealing with trying to get back on the field after a concussion. According to the Chicago Sun-Times
there are an average of 1.5 to 2 concussions per game in the NFL. That’s somewhere between 24 and 32 concussions in a fully scheduled NFL week of games. Is the game too dangerous? Are these men putting their futures at severe risk by playing the game we have come to love?
Kurt Warner a Super Bowl winning QB has said that he wouldn’t let his kids play football and others stars from the past have chimed in. What if Archie Manning had decided the same thing years ago? So will the game slowly fade away as parents decide that it is too dangerous? I don’t know the answer to those questions. As fantasy players it should be something we are concerned about. We seem to talk around the subject but we don’t seem to talk about it. All it takes is one person saying it’s a bunch of bull and the topic goes away until the next major injury.
It is estimated that there will be 34 million fantasy football owners this year. Only just over 17 million people attended NFL games last year. The power is in our hands. I want the NFL to be here for my son and his son after him. Maybe it’s time we worried a little less about our current teams a little more about the future of both of the games we love, the NFL and fantasy.