Thursday, November 13, 2014

No football for you!

I get where LeBron James is coming from. I do.

The best basketball player on the planet says he won't let his young sons -- ages 7 and 10 -- play football, and if that means even someone rarely spooked by anything is spooked by the notion that his kids could someday wind up not being able to remember their own names, you can't blame him. Especially when you consider that, given his kids' athletic genes, that's a far more likely scenario for LeBron than it is for the average parent of average kids.

People get hurt playing football. And the longer they play, the more they get hurt -- because the longer they play, the bigger and faster and stronger they get, and the bigger and faster and stronger they get, the more foot-pounds of force they generate. And the more foot-pounds of force they generate, the more violent the collisions in a collision sport.

Stand on an NFL sideline and you get the full weight of that, because the collisions sound like car crashes. Their violence cannot be overstated. That's why, by November, every NFL season is as much dictated by who's not playing as by who is -- or at the very least, by who's playing at less than 100 percent.

LeBron knows that as well as anyone, and so would rather see his kids' superior athletic genes be diverted elsewhere. Again, you can't blame him.

Here's the thing, though: Hardly anyone out there has to worry about kids with superior athletic genes. And if you don't, and you decide to let your kid play football because he dreams of being the next Peyton Manning or Calvin Johnson ...

Well. Let's just say no one should be questioning your parental judgment.

Maybe the day will come when the concussion issue makes football obsolete, and every football field in America will return to prairie. It's a legitimate concern, because the concussion thing is a legitimate concern. But I don't think it's going to happen.

First of all, there is value in the game, particularly at the lower levels. I saw it every Friday night for 38 years. And second of all, seeing the game up close for so long, I also saw what an adaptable creature it is.

If players are bigger and faster and stronger now, and their collisions more violent, I have little doubt that the game will change to accommodate that. It's done it before. It will do it again. And if the old-schoolers wail and gnash their teeth, saying the game is becoming sissified ... well, the old-schoolers said the same thing when they abolished the flying wedge 100 years ago. And when the facemask was introduced. And when the head slap became a crime.

On and on. Forever and ever.

But you know what?

Despite all that sissification, the game's more popular than it's ever been. And so it will survive whatever changes are coming down the wind, because it's football and changes are always coming down the wind. If football in the future will be different, football in the future has always been different -- and there will always be parents like LeBron who remain wary of it anyway.

That's fine. The game will survive that. And, it says here, should.


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