How far would you go to preserve something you love?
When it comes to the NFL and its increasingly grave CTE crisis, it might not matter. Yes, as the stars of the NFL start to make their entrances to training camp, either by way of Rolls Royce or fire truck, the staggering tragedies of closed head traumas loom. In the recent landmark Boston University study of 111 former, deceased NFL players, 110 had CTE. But where does a figure like that leave us? We won’t have to wait long to find out. A movement is stirring, sides will be chosen, and the result will be a new NFL, or possibly none at all.
Football is dangerous, and possibly life threatening. That’s not a shocking revelation, like, say, when Kylo Ren killed his father, Han Solo, at the end of The Force Awakens. What is starkly concerning, however, is the ways in which its dangers and risks were sort of voluntarily muted for the sake of pure entertainment and revenues. Back in 2005, the same year that Lollapalooza became exclusive to the city of Chicago, the Brady/Manning rivalry was the apex of appointment television, and the league’s meteoric rise to success reached a state of perpetuity. Twelve years later, Madden for Playstation is still booted up regularly by millions of fans, but the NFL faces some harsh realities.
Throw out the media for a moment. Throw out the Will Smith movie. And, throw out hastily assembled initiatives like “Play Hard” designed to provide research on making the game safer. A primary reason people love football so much is its physicality. The acrobatic catches, tight needles threaded, and viral-worthy sacks, build the allure of the game. The rough nature of the game provides an odd catharsis for fans all over the world. And the players? Well, like the song “OPP”, that’s not so simple. But, it depends on who you ask and when you ask them.
One of the more troubling aspects of the CTE crisis is how the afflictions of the disease alter or distort the personalities of players we know and love. We are all too familiar with what happened to Junior Seau.
Cases like his have struck fear into the hearts of current players, or those who have recently retired. Like former Northwestern Wildcat, Mike Adamle, who is more than candid about how the rest of his life will be affected. But for some players, they’re at peace with their decision to live the game, come what may. Jamal Adams, made polarizing waves recently that he would be happy to “die on the field”, because he loves football more than anything in life. Patriots former tight end Martellus Bennett stated in no uncertain terms, that he will not die for the game of football.
One does not choose what to be passionate about. It’s coded deep within our DNA, in a places Bill Nye couldn’t even find. Football happens to be a very fun sport, and can teach kids growing up with the game to learn the virtues of teamwork and critical thinking. But, when you have an unfulfilled job posting for middle school coaches in Green Bay, Wisconsin going unfulfilled, you know there’s a serious dilemma. I am not a parent, I’ve heard it’s a rewarding life experience, but in the given situation, I’d probably encourage my son or daughter to give cricket a try.
So, how far would you go to preserve something you love? And, faced with the reality that living, breathing humans are underneath those helmets, do the ambassadors of the game love it enough to do enough to keep it?