Saturday, September 4, 2010

Greed and sports

When it comes to activities we enjoy, it is easy to look the other way when unsavory elements are added to it.

This is especially true when it comes to sports. Like many reading this, I am an avid sports fan. In fact, I probably like sports more than the average person.

This time of year, I am like a dog with its head stuck out the window of a moving car. I do not care where I am going. I just want to find a game that will entertain me.

Right now, it is easy to find entertaining games. We are at that glorious time when the baseball and football seasons overlap. Good games are guaranteed all the time.

Here in the South, we especially like football. The big crowds that go to youth and high school games are evidence of that. Additionally, many college teams are starting their seasons this weekend, and professional football will start next week.

However, of all the sports, football troubles me the most. Especially at the professional level, we are seeing more and more players who are suffering from long-term physical problems because of their participation in the sport.

The National Football League is easily the most popular sports league in the United States. As we know, when something becomes enormously popular, pressure builds to expand on that success. Recently, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the possibility of increasing the league's schedule from 16 to 18 games.

According to Goodell, all that would have to be done is replace two exhibition games with two real games.

After all, what could be better than expanding the regular-season schedule so that there would be more games?

No, Goodell is dead wrong, and if fans really care about the players, they should oppose this proposal, too.

The last thing that players need is for the sport to add more games. Jeff Pearlman of Sport's Illustrated recently wrote an on-line column about the long-term health difficulties players are having.

Pearlman wrote: "Need examples? Former Raiders lineman Dave Pear can barely walk. Neither can former Bears lineman Wally Chambers. Or Tampa tight end Jimmie Giles. Brent Boyd, a Vikings offensive lineman from 1980-86 suffered a stroke last week – the latest in a long line of medical setbacks he relates to the game. Ted Johnson, the standout Patriots linebacker from 1995-2004, suffers from amphetamine addiction, depression, and headaches related to post-concussion syndrome and Second Impact Syndrome. Only 38, he already is showing signs of early Alzheimer’s disease. The list is endless – hundreds upon hundreds of men permanently broken by professional football."

If that does not get a person's attention, I do not know what will.

Of course, there are counterpoints to the information I am presenting. After all, the NFL simply wants to move two exhibition games to the regular season. So, players will still be playing the same number of games, right?

Wrong. Exhibition games are nothing but glorified scrimmages. Starting players participate little in these games, and many do not play at all in the final exhibition game.

Another counterpoint is that nobody is forcing these players to play professional football. Everybody knows it is a physical sport, plus they are paid very well to play.

While this is true, researchers are only scratching the surface when it comes to the long-term effects of multiple concussions on athletes. Also, when compared to baseball, football players make less money and their contracts are not guaranteed. However, I agree they are well paid.

The bottom line is professional football is a rough proposition. We should expect more and more horror stories related to injuries as time passes.

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