Who Cares about Ryan Hoffman?

March07/ 2015

Did you see the NYTimes article about former UNC FBer Ryan Hoffman?  If not, it’s LINKED here.  That this involves UNC FB is totally coincidental, but ironic in light of all the other crap surrounding UNC Athletics.

No doubt there are a LOT of Ryan Hoffmans out there in varying degrees.  How many is “a LOT”?  Not enough that rabid fans much care.   Do you?

The LINK re:  Ryan Hoffman.

NOTE:  Slog your way thru the first 2/3 of this.   I artfully bring it to focus on “what Mary really wanted” in the final 1/3.

Are Ryan Hoffman’s life issues related to his playing football for 8-10 years of his young life?   No clue, but I appreciate that that possibility is being considered.   If so then certainly “others” in whatever numbers are/were similarly affected.

Are there “a lot” of guys who had similar football careers to Ryan Hoffman and even more so that have NOT shown the residual effects under consideration in his case?  Absolutely.   Do we consider the Ryan Hoffmans as anomalies and proceed as though they don’t matter?   Should Hoffman’s family take that laissez faire approach?

Is “playing football” worth the risk to whatever degree of “risk” there might be?   Who determines “if its worth it”?

Should people be allowed to use lead paint or asbestos in their homes?  Should seat belts and motorcycle helmets be mandatory?   At what point does a “nanny state” supersede your rights as an individual to assume whatever risks you choose to assume in living your life…. assuming you are aware of those risks?

Did Ryan Hoffman and his family consider “risks” as he embarked on his football career as a young boy?   Was his current situation ever considered and rejected, as “it won’t happen to us”?   Until the past decade or so, the risks associated with “playing football” were abstract…. bad knees, shoulders, hips, arthritis in old age, cauliflower ears, etc.   Not anything a virile boy 10-20 years old much worries about.

Football has always been a “violent collision” sport.  The adage is “basketball is a contact sport ….. football is a collision sport”.   It could be argued that “the leather helmet” era prior to all the current protective equipment and safety rules were even more dangerous for participants.   Some also say all the protection and rules have given a false sense of security to the sport.

Participants, especially on the college and NFL levels, are bigger, faster, stronger than ever before.   Those factors affect the applied physics of those afore-mentioned collisions.  Bones and joints and brains are pretty much the same as they have always been.

Are there Life Lessons to be learned on “the gridiron”?   Yes, it is argued.  Getting one’s nose bloodied and getting back up after being knocked down has application in one’s adult life.   Life isn’t Fair and neither is Football.   What you learn in 2-a-days in August will pay dividends in business situations and corporate competitiveness.

Can those same lessons be learned via participation in less violent sports endeavors?  A valid argument can be made, yes.  Teamwork, dealing with adversity, not being first-string, being coachable, getting fouled ???

NOTE:  Keep slogging…. I do make my point at the end.   Trust me.

I don’t think I’ve offered a conclusion to any of these questions.   Just illustrated that there are questions.

You will quickly forget Ryan Hoffman.   There might be some follow-up from former teammates or other concerned parties but the sport of football from Pop Warner to The NFL will not radically change because there is a possibility that Ryan Hoffman’s life was pretty much ruined by the decision he and his parents made for him to “play football” back in the 80s.

There are dangers in most vocations and avocations people choose to participate in…. from carpal tunnel syndrome to assorted seeing/hearing maladies to actual life-threatening issues.   There are also “rewards” to be gained from facing those risks.

If, alas, one does not reap those rewards but does fall victim to the risks…. who is to blame?

Ryan Hoffman never achieved NFL status with its relative career rewards.   He was a BMOC on campus in high school and at UNC to various degrees.   That BMOC status doesn’t help him much now.   He has no NFL pension nor any chance of being aided by any NCAA legislation.

So….. VOILA…. here we are back at Mary Willingham’s concerns about UNC and about the pervasiveness of UNC’s issues across the major college landscape.

Ryan Hoffman was a white kid from, I will assume, a middle-class family.   No clue what he majored in or what career he pursued before he was waylaid by whatever combination of circumstances have waylaided him now.

How “well educated” was he upon leaving UNC?   Did he have a marketable degree that prepared him for a mainstream occupation?   Was he progressing “in the mainstream” before these concussion-effects began to manifest themselves?   I don’t know.

♦ ♦ ♦

Mary Willingham has has never been “a jock-hater” at all.   Her sons played sports.  One was a batboy for UNC Baseball.   One son is a competitive diver at a small college.  Her husband is an avid LA Dodger fan.   Their family follows sports and enjoys going to games.  Not quite the image her attackers have manufactured…. Huh?

Mary is not even against recruiting semi-literate young men to UNC or other legitimate colleges.   She recognizes that their semi-literacy can be traced back to a piss-poor public education system that simply “does not educate” these kids.   That is a bigger issue than she can affect.

All she asked is that UNC and similar institutions make a legitimate effort to try and make-up for the lack of education these kids received prior to arriving on-campus.   Hiding them in paper classes and in a series of meaningless “eligibility electives” does them no good whatsoever…… UNLESS “keeping them eligible” is the only objective.  Some sort of “remedial academy” could have a positive effect on that.   UNC refuses to consider that option.

“College” is the last chance at an education these kids will have.  But if they are NOT going to get a legitimate education then at least pay them a few dollars.  What is the equivalent dollar value of being able to read ???

The board monkey/ Fat Cat argument that these kids CHOOSE to squander their opportunity at a education is ABSURD.  These boys, and whatever family structure they have, are totally at the mercy of (1) smooth-talking recruiters then (2) football staffers who “arrange their classes for them” based on practice schedules.

“Playing football” exposes all these kids to the same latent circumstances that seem to have befallen Ryan Hoffman.   Even with a “real education” they are susceptible.   Without a “real education” they are virtually helpless to their circumstances.

But hey….. so long as we beat those sorry sumbitches over at (fill in name of hated rival) who gives a damn?   Concussions, eligibility majors, illiteracy etc…. screw all that noise.  It’s about Bragging Rights.   🙁

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