A recent TIME Magazine article says that the NFL still won’t “come to terms” with concussions.
If I understand the arguments, they revolve around the fact that the NFL, while making millions of dollars by letting me watch their games, should do one of two things: They should compensate players for their concussive injuries or stop the injuries from occurring.
It seems to me that we are not acknowledging the elephant in the room.
I like to watch football. So I tune in every Sunday. The television networks know that I like football, so they pay the NFL for the rights to televise the game and I bet I know why. Advertisers want me to see their commercials. So the advertisers pay the networks. Here come the millions of dollars that I don’t have to pay. And of course this doesn’t take into consideration the money that other people pay to get into their stadiums and watch the game without commercials. It doesn’t include the parking and concession dollars. I may not have it exactly right, and I’m sure there’s much more involved, but I’m close, and that counts in everything but horseshoes and grenades.
If I’m not mistaken, there are other people out there like me. Now here’s that elephant I was referring to. I really don’t want anyone to have a concussion, but when I see a great hit by a middle linebacker, I make that same “Whoaaaaa” sound that these other people make. The next day, I’m likely to say to my friend, “Did you see that hit in the third quarter?” And my friend will say “Whoaaaaa.”
I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but the reason I watch football—the specific thing that makes it different from most other sports—is that a player runs the risk of getting hit while he’s playing the game. Oh, lots of times I’ll say that Peyton Manning is an artist, or that I enjoy the athleticism of the game, but that’s pretty much window dressing for the fact that the excitement of the game is in direct proportion to the risk involved.
So if nobody knew that there was a risk of injury, why are those guys wearing pads and a helmet? And why are they being paid a gazillion dollars to play this game for sixteen Sundays in a row? And why do they make even more if they survive longer than that?
Surely, somewhere, maybe in fine print on an NFL player’s contract it says “We’re going to pay you eight gazillion dollars to play this game for four years and oh, by the way, it’s a rough game and you could get hurt. Just saying.”
I have a good friend who is a physician. (he says “Whoaaa” too.) He pointed out to me that a concussion occurs when one’s head hits something hard enough to make his brain rattle around inside his cranium. And that helmets, no matter how hard or modern, will not stop concussions. They might avoid a cut or a bruise. But your brain is still going to rattle inside your cranium if you get hit in the head. The case against concussions is the battle of the rattle. The logic follows that if you don’t want your brain rattling around inside your cranium, then take measures to not get hit very hard in the head, and lacking the ability to do that, you should take up stamp collecting or poker. Be aware that those also have risk. It could happen.
I’m guessing I could end all the injuries and all the lawsuits and all the commotion by turning the television off, and refusing to pawn my firstborn grandchild to get inside the stadium. I’m guessing that without my interest, professional football would fall back into the 1940s when players required a second job to make ends meet and to help deal with concussions. Apparently leather helmets didn’t help with them either.
I’m guessing we would be rid of these lawsuits from former players: Defendant: The National Football League. Plaintiff: Harvey Linebacher, To Whom You Paid Millions Of Dollars And Who Knew It Was A Stupid And Dangerous Game Right From The Start.
Here’s the dirty little secret about me, apparently known only to the NFL, the networks, the advertisers and the guys with the pads. Here’s what the elephant in the room would whisper about me:
“He LIKES it.”
I doubt that any of the other millions of football fans will admit it, but I’m letting the secret out. I suspect I’ll be banned from their midst and the secret handshake will be changed.
Why do I enjoy something like that? Is it the only way for modern man to enter into battle these days? Maybe. That and the fact that they’re doing it and I get to watch from a chair in my living room. Do I secretly enjoy a vicarious battle? Yes. Yes I do.
Some of you will say I’m two-faced about battle. My reply is the same as Lincoln’s: If I had another face, do you think I would be using this one? I’ve said at other times and in other ways that I’m an anti-war protester in my old age and it’s true. War—the real war—is nothing but old men arguing and young men dying. So I generally don’t care for it. Each of those young soldiers ought to be quoting Mark Twain and saying “I have no desire to kill people to whom I have not yet been introduced.”
Yet, consider what people have said in the past, before we were timid little creatures:
Patton: “Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.”
Bismark: “The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood.”
Hemingway: There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
Churchill: “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at with no result.”
Teddy Roosevelt: “Wars are, of course, as a rule to be avoided; but they are far better than certain kinds of peace.”
Finally, Vince Lombardi, speaking specifically of football:
“…I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
To be fair, I found plenty of quotes against going into battle, but maybe these explain why, on Sundays, we turn the television on. Maybe we invented football because wholesale killing tended to get on our nerves and give us indigestion.
While they’re arguing about concussions, I’m thinking about the dirty little secret.
Time to lay off the NFL. Yes, I know, they’re not perfect human beings. I could surely write another full piece on that. But if we’re going to pile on here, let’s make it about something logical. Tell me somebody absconded with some money. Make it something larcenous, so I can understand. Don’t tell me that well-paid athletes are clamoring because they got hurt playing a game they knew would likely hurt them.