The fact that football is a dangerous game isn’t exactly news. As far back as 1860, universities such as Columbia banned the sport due to its inherent violence. Still, football continued, and 45 years later, in 1905, there were 19 fatalities nationwide, inducing clamoring for some sort of reform.
Since then, various modifications have been made along the way, from the advent of thigh pads to moving kickoffs up to the 35 yard line, but it remains evident that football isn’t safe and never will be, despite any new helmet technologies that might arise. Thus, expecting a serious decrease in head injuries by teaching proper tackling techniques or something of the sort is entirely unrealistic. Just as one can take a tiger out of the jungle, but can’t take the jungle out of the tiger, one can try to water down the contact in football, but the violence is impossible to remove.
Changing small things here and there like kickoff distances or broadening the definition of what constitutes roughing the quarterback is entirely unproductive. So if the football-obsessed American public is really serious about curbing the amount of head injuries sustained by players, the real way to do so would be to entirely change the way football is played. This would entail essentially eradicating tackling, which obviously would be unpopular with even the most casual of football fans. A more dramatic risk, of course, if the proposal of changing traditional football to a flag variation went forward, is that football-mad states like Texas would secede from the Union. That would do more good than harm, however, for the simple reason that it would remove the burden of Ted Cruz and Rick Perry from the nation’s conscience. Anyhow, it is certainly an unlikely event.
On the other hand, America, as the football obsessed nation it is, could collectively say, “screw it,” and football could continue as it has in years past, though fans will constantly be forced to wonder who the next Junior Seau or Dave Duerson will be. If that is indeed the case, then all the new rules about protecting the passer and “defenseless receivers” could be eradicated, as they haven’t been shown to make football any safer than it was previously, despite what the NFL reports about the decrease in concussions. I am very much a football fan myself, and spend much time poring over crucial fantasy football decisions each fall, but all this fruitless rhetoric about modifying little things here and there is getting ridiculous.
Reports of high school football players dying from complications of head injuries suffered on the football field are, at this point, to be expected every few weeks during football season, and while this may be portrayed as a harbinger of football’s impending death, it really isn’t anything new – merely just the addition of more names to a list that has been growing throughout football’s history. At this point, it’s time to make a decision: do we keep football as it is, risking the heads of those who play it, or decide to take a stand to stop the head injuries, and change the game in such a drastic manner that the product wouldn’t even be recognized as football? While these two options provide no universally sound resolutions, the fact remains that definitive action is needed.
While neither option presented is attractive in any way, and will make a lot of people unhappy, the status quo is getting unbearable. Making small adjustments here and there is not the solution – there must be a definite resolution. Continuing on with football in its state of limbo in is the only wrong answer to perhaps the most pressing American sports question of this time.