One of my little dark secrets is, I’m kind of a sports fan, and that includes American football. I never played it (except for flag football in middle school gym class), but I’ve watched both college and pro football since I was a little kid. It’s always been a rough game, potentially dangerous for just about all the players on the field at some point. I wonder if it has gotten worse in that regard in the last few years, but I guess it really hasn’t, although I think the players have tended to become a bit more big and beastly. That’s fun in some ways, but I am having second thoughts now. These thoughts are due to recent discussion on the long-term effects of repetitive trauma to the heads and bodies of football players. Retired players are reported to be developing serious medical issues in the years following their careers, some of them even dying prematurely from cumulative damage suffered years ago on the gridiron. While the National Football League is making some efforts to reduce the number of concussions suffered by players, some retired players are organizing to get more help and redress from the league.
The New York Times reports today on a player who chose to walk away, mid-season, just before he would’ve been vested in his retirement benefits. (Quitting the N.F.L.: For John Moffitt, the Money Wasn’t Worth It) We may not know the whole story here, but the player says he just realized that the benefits weren’t worth the injury risks to him anymore. Keep in mind, a player at the pro level already has, usually, at least eight years of high school and college football before they start their pro careers, maybe more. That’s a lot of opportunities to get hit.
One commenter to the NYT article, perhaps, speaks for a lot of fans when he said, paraphrasing here, let the players know the risks, but stop introducing rules designed to protect the players so the league can put a more entertaining product out to satisfy fans. Yeah, they’re not players, they’re part of a Product, and gods forbid some entitled jerk full of beer doesn’t get to see 320-pound guys slamming into each other with enough force to go airborne. If you ask me, I’d rather see more games with 70–59 scores due to a lack of bone-crushing defense than patronize a system that results in so much damage to those trying to entertain us. But, hey, that’s just me.