No One In Their Right Mind

March24/ 2015

  I had never heard of Chris Borland until last week when he retired from the NFL at the age of 24.   Borland enjoyed a fine rookie season as a linebacker with the 49ers.   His voluntary very “early out” from a dream career in The NFL sent the public and pundits into tizzies.  …… “Tizzies” always get my attention.

At issue in Borland’s personal career decision is the increasingly  roilin’ boilin’ debate over how dangerous is Football.   Looming down that road, of course, is IF “they” deem that Football is “too dangerous” will it go the way of DDT, asbestos, lead paint and mercury in the water supply?

Barring a federal mandate to completely eradicate the activity at every level, might it become so “sissified” as to be unrecognizable from what NFL Films used to tout as The Nutcracker Suite?

“Wearing a helmet” is mandatory in Football.  So is wearing one when riding a motorcycle in many states..  Whats next – seat belts for deep snappers?

In my neighborhood in the early 60s we played “sandlot tackle football” with no pads or helmets at all.  Which may explain to B’rer Kennel how I became a crazy right-wing guy…. except BK probably did too as a kid in New Bern during The Roaring 20s.  I know for a fact BK played catcher without a mask ’til he got to college.  Kennel and NCSU’68 and I all rode our bikes after the mosquito fog trucks too.  Which really explains a lot.

I’ve been around Football for 60 years.  For ten of those years, directly involved with the injury aspect of the game.   Granted that was in the Jurassic Era of 220 lb tackles and LBs like my buddy LRP – the L stands for “Little”.   He played beside Burly John Bunting and mighta topped 200 lbs with a bowling ball in his britches.

The simple physics of much greater denser mass moving faster thru space creates more violent collisions now than back then.   They were pretty violent back then.

“Iron Man” Chuck Bednarik died last week at 89.  Chuck and Ray Nitzchke and Dick Butkus hit pretty hard in the 60s.   A TV special told us about The Violent World of Sam Huff.   Jack Tatum and Jack Lambert were celebrity “headhunters” in the 70s.


Even into the 90s, when a guy got his bell rung the formal protocol was “how many fingers do you see”?   If he guessed within two of the correct number that was close enough.   “Coach, I’m ready…..

As the participants at every level from high school to the NFL have gotten “bigger – stronger – faster” the collision factor has increased.   Equipment has seen technological advancements over the years, as have “rules”; but bones, joints and brains stopped evolving eons ago.

Nutrition, supplements, even PEDs haven’t done anything to protect the most vulnerable parts of participants bodies from the basic fundamentals of the game.

I haven’t heard anyone ever claim “Football is a perfectly safe activity”.   It carries assumed risks at every level.   The most basic fundamental of Football is hitting your opponent whether that is a block or a tackle.   Whether one delivers the blow or absorbs the blow….. there is pain involved and stress placed on muscles and joints.

So it comes down to that “assumed risk” question.   Chris Borland is of age and of sound mind so he has opted out of that risk.   Yes, Borland might step off the curb and be hit by a bus or a median-jumping drunk driver ten years from now…. or a bolt of lightning.  Or, my personal favorite, when the argument eventually get to the absurd – fall down in a bathtub.

Yes. Every activity including posting provocative commentaries on the Internet carries certain “assumed risks”.

Has an 18 y/o kid with 3rd grade reading comprehension read “all the literature” on the inherent dangers of Football?

Can / Will Chris Borland insulate himself from all threats of bodily harm?  Of course not but he does not HAVE to play Football.

Every branch of the Armed Services has an elite commando faction.  The applications to get into Seals, Delta Force, Force Recon far exceed the quota.  Those guys REALLY “assume a risk”.   Some guys are wired that way.   Good thing for our society that some guys opt for the dangerous jobs of police and firemen, while others choose accounting and academia.   We need both.

Pat Tillman voluntarily left the violent world of The NFL for front line combat in Afghanistan.  We know how that ended.

Is Football doomed because the Nanny-state faction seems to be forever advancing in “knowing whats best for us”?   A damn fine case can be made that “they” have Football on their short list for eradication…. along with soft-drinks, chocolate, Big Macs, the flag, the pledge, Nativity scenes and talk radio.

To abolish Football “they” do not need to do anything with The NFL.   Simply cut off the player feeder sources – Pop Warner – High School – College.   Maybe College FB is too powerful to abolish but Youth Football isn’t.

Not to get too AgentPiercey on you but the “they” that now control public education including high school athletics ain’t exactly the strongest proponents of rock’em sock’em Siss-Boom-Baa.

Where YOU come down on this really doesn’t matter any more than how I feel about it.   I can envision an America without Football.   If I still have Brunswick stew and audiobooks I’ll survive.  ….. and Baseball.  “They” might eventually abolish Baseball too but I’ll be playing a celestial harp by then.   Will I find Dean “up there”?  Still wondering where he went.

At the core of Mary Willingham’s crusade is expanding the career options for young AfAm men whose only marketable talent is “playing Football”.   The current Eligibility Imperative has eliminated the “marketable education” option.   What is the market demand for bodyguards for Rap stars?   What will the “Football is all I got going for me” faction do?  I’m going to guess that does not include any one you know.

Our daughter never once expressed interest in playing Football so we never had to weigh that decision.   She did take three years of Tai Kwon Do but never considered the Ronda Rousey route.

I’m not sure how I (or Obama) would feel about the sons I/we don’t have “playing Football”.   I do enjoy watching the game.   When a player is motionless after being coldcocked and they bring out the neck thingy and the cart to carry him off, he is somebody’s son and friend.

Chris Borland’s parents and friends won’t have that to deal with now.

That noisy faction that, by their own admission, don’t care if players are getting an education or not….. don’t much care if those same players get permanently injured or not.   If it’s the hated rivals’ star players…. they kinda like that.

End with a reminder of BobLee’s incredibly insightful ever-widening chasm between Gladiators vs Spectators analogy.


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