So Notre Dame wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. is now under something that didn't used to exist -- "concussion protocol," they call it -- and that is a good thing for him and for sport in general. Safe rather than sorry is always the way to go when it comes to blows to the head, even if for a long time everyone unknowingly leaned toward the latter.
Well, they know now. A couple of decades of study have enlightened them, or at least most of them.
For the others, the rub-some-dirt-on-it crowd, "concussion protocol" will no doubt always be just another signpost on the road to a thoroughly sissified society. So be it. Let 'em glory in the days when not being able to remember your name at 50 was just the price you paid for playing games, and no one ever seemed to question if that price seemed a trifle high.
They do now. And that's good.
It's good because if you saw the hit that laid out Hunter the other night, you really didn't want him to just jump up and get back in there. The rub-some-dirt-on-it crowd might have seen that as toughness, but the rest of us have come to understand that toughness lives right next door to stupidity, and stupidity has a bad habit of marching into toughness' house and tracking mud on the carpet.
Which is to say, again, better safe than sorry.
(A brief aside ... although no penalty flags flew on the play that laid out Hunter, it seemed a pretty obvious example of targeting. The only explanation the Blob has for why it wasn't flagged is the Texas defensive back who delivered the blow clearly wasn't aiming for Hunter's head, but was simply trying to knock the ball loose. Which he did. It was a good defensive play, and maybe the officials weren't inclined to penalize a good defensive play. Would have been interesting to see what the call would have been if the DB hadn't knocked the ball loose.)
Where were we again?
Oh, yeah. Concussion protocols. Better safe than sorry.
The worm has turned in that direction for the same reason it so often does: The expansion of knowledge. The researchers who discovered and continue to explore the causes and effects of CTE have forced even serial deniers (the NFL being chief among them) to come around on this issue. The rub-some-dirt-on-it crowd may sneer to the rooftops, but they've lost this argument. When even the son of Dale Earnhardt decides head trauma is nothing to mess around with, you know it's all over.
Dale Jr. took a shot to the head at Kentucky in July, and hasn't been back in the car since. He continues to have some vision and balance issues, and so, wisely, he announced late last week he was shutting it down for the season. Said there's no way he should be in a race car right now.
His dad, faced with the same circumstance, would no doubt have called the docs a bunch of candy-asses, bluffed his way through the protocols and climbed back in the car. But then, this is the same man who refused to wear the HANS device that protects against basilar skull fractures, and who climbed into a car with broken seatbelts at Daytona on Feb. 18, 2001.
He died that day. From what was apparently a basilar skull fracture.
Better safe than sorry never looked like a wiser choice.