Saturday, July 7, 2007

Is the entertainment worth the price being paid?

It is early July, but we are only weeks away from the start of football practice for teams on all levels of play.

As the old cliche goes, many championships are not won in the cold of winter, but in July and August when teams go through grueling practices in preparation for the new season.

That may or may not be so, but there is no doubt that coaches and players nationwide will be sacrificing a lot in the coming weeks.

I don't think there is any question that football is the most physical and dangerous sport being played. Some players take a substantial physical pounding on every play.

Because of the sport's widespread popularity, the long-term toll this pounding takes on players is a subject that is not talked about a lot. However, the game does take a toll, and in some cases, the toll is tremendous.

Now, before any of you roll your eyes at what you anticipate will be a tantrum against violent sports, let me say upfront that I love football.

In the fall, it is not uncommon for me to go to a high school game on Friday night. As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I am a rabid follower of the Volunteers. On Sunday, most of my autumn afternoons revolve around how well the Tennessee Titans are doing.

I am a lover of the game. However, as with all things we love, it is important to be a good caretaker of it, and that it is why it is important to look at this topic.

Recently, the lid has been blown off a controversy involving the National Football League, its player's union, and retirees. This is a controversy that has been simmering for about a year, and it recently made it all the way to Congress.

At a hearing in Washington, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law heard testimony from the league, the union, and former players regarding the league's disability plan.

Former players have become increasingly vocal about what they say are unnecessary delays and other problems related to attempts to file claims.

During the hearing, many former players came forward with emotional testimony in which they charged that the league and union required players to go through mountains of unnecessary red tape in order to qualify for disability benefits.

Players like former Minnesota Vikings guard Brent Boyd leveled accusations of fraud and corruption. According to Boyd, he suffers from brain damage because of the lingering effects of concussions suffered while playing football, according to published reports.

Given its teflon image, it will interesting to see how this all plays out for the NFL. The NFL is the most popular and power sports league in America, and it can usually muscle its way out of any image crisis. But I am not so sure about this one.

This is an issue that will continue to unfold in the coming months, and my guess is we will see a lot of reform.

As for fans like you and me, what do we make of long-term injury effects? We get entertained by the games, but is it worth it when looking at the problems many players face later in life?

Obviously, nobody forces anybody to play this sport. Nobody forces anybody to play when they are injured as well.

However, I believe fans are guilty of a type of malpractice when we fail to look at the long-term price being paid just so we can be entertained.

I don't know what we can do to make up for this malpractice. After all, we are just the paying public.

Maybe all we can do is be a little more aware that this problem exists and be grateful for what the players provide us.

Many times when a player gets injured, fans react with indifference. It's a chance to talk to your buddy or go to the concession stand to get something to eat. If the injured player lingers on the field, we often get impatient.

In many ways, we have become desensitized to the peril the players often put themselves in just to please us.

So, am I saying we should all care a little more for them?

I hate to be sappy, but the answer is 'yes.' Caring never hurt anybody.


Chris said...

If you are interested in more information on this topic, click the 'Gridiron Greats Fund' link on the right-hand side of the home page.

Joltin' Django said...

"I don't think there is any question that football is the most physical and dangerous sport being played."

I hate to disagree, but did you ever hear of a head-rattlin' sport called "curling" ... ?! I hate to think about the physical deformities curlers will be displaying some 20 or 30 years from now, indeed!

reginald v. curling said...

How dare you criticize the sport my fathers and forefathers fought to bring to the masses.

Sure, bending over and doing all that sweeping in front of the curling stone looks pretty stupid....and all that stooping over can't be good for the back...or the knees...not to mention all the pain the wrists get from doing the sweeping....oh, never mind.

TNColtsFan said...

one of these days a football player is going to lose a limb on the field. as big and strong as nfl players keep getting it is inevitable. and you know what is sad? a lot of fans will probably cheer, and then missing limbs will be an injury on the next madden game.