Monday, February 27, 2012

A Dream Dashed

Hello, my faithful and wonderful readers. I trust that this ol' world has been treating you well since our last convergence. Recently I read a couple articles about football and concussions. One is from Yahoo's The Post Game writer Patrick Hruby (on Twitter @patrick_hruby) and the other is from CBS Sports writer Gregg Doyel (on Twitter @greggdoyelcbs).

End Game: Brain Trauma And The Future Of Youth Football In America - Post Game
Death of football? That's crazy, until you start thinking about it - CBS Sports

**Disclaimer: I know nothing about parenting. Anything related to it below is pure speculation and guessing on my part**

My wife and I do not have any children....yet! But we will someday (relax, all you eager beavers!). And when we do, there's a 50/50 chance that we will have a boy. And I'd be lying if I hadn't thought about my future son playing sports--specifically football (yes yes, a girl could also play football if she wanted to). Now, I'm not going to be one of those dads that seeks to live out his childhood dreams through his child and I certainly am not going to turn our son or daughter into a robot who's only goal and purpose in life is to play in the NFL. No no. I want to be supportive and our son or daughter will be able to freely pursue whatever they want, Tiger Mom be damned!

Shifting gears for a moment: I'm interested in reading that Tiger Mom book after having read an article discussing it. The article escapes me at the moment, I'll have to try and dig it up later.

All right, back on track: After reading these two articles about football and concussions I've come to the conclusion that I don't want our child to play football. There's too much at stake and all of the "character building" and "toughening up" that purportedly comes from football can easily come from other, less dangerous sports. The mantra of red-blooded booze swilling Americans is that football is a man's game that teaches boys how to be men. Getting nailed in the head so hard you can't remember your own name is just part of the joy of football. It makes you a man. Being concussed into oblivion and having your brain turned to a rotten swiss cheese mush is also part of the deal. Becoming crippled, potentially abusive and suicidal are also part of it. All for the glory, right? You sacrifice your body for the beauty and wonder of the sport. It's part of the game. Right. Just because that's the way it's been for years and all of these kids are brainwashed into believing that doesn't make it true. Football is violent. Football can be deadly. Yet so many play it.

Football is a game that I've enjoyed and lusted after since I was a child, just as countless other people have. I played flag football in my youth and one year of tackle football in middle school. I've played in the backyard and put up with the pansy (there I go, perpetuating that stereotype!) rules of intramural flag football at my college. I watch it on television and I've even been to a few games. Actually, the first NFL game I went to was on September 10, 2006. It was in Kansas City and I saw Trent Green get knocked out cold. At the time I didn't think much of it. I vaguely hoped that he'd be okay, much like most football fans probably do when an injury like that occurs. We as fans don't really care much about what happens to the players. As long as somebody good is out there for our team it doesn't matter. It's entertainment, right!??! Those guys get paid millions and they know the risks! Sure sure.

We start to care when it's our family members, though. When you see your kid get laid out and later see him stumbling around the sidelines, you care.

As I said before, I want our child to be free to pursue what they want in life. If they're set on playing football, I don't know that I'll be able to stand in the way. Can you really forbid your offspring from participating in a sport? Sure you can! They may resent you for a long time, but you could do it. I don't know! Football folks are in uncharted waters right now. But science is starting to map out where the violence of the sport leads. The fog of football is slowly rolling away to reveal uncomfortable truths about our nation's real pastime. As the CBS article discusses, the death of football seems preposterous right now. But give it time.

When the time comes for my wife and I to discuss sports and other extracurricular activities with our children (around, say, three years old? Give or take a few?) we may be in for some difficult times. I have no idea, really, what we're going to do. I guess we just do our best to educate our children about the benefits and the dangers of activities that they're interested in and be as supportive as we can.

But I'm hoping that my son or daughter doesn't take a shine to football. Basketball's a fine sport and we've got my dad to help in that department. He was quite the roundball player in his day. :-)

My perspective on football has changed. Like so many other follies of youthful thinking, the scales have begun to fall from my eyes.

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