Football is dangerous, but we can’t let it go

Posted Monday, Aug. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

engel The football season has not begun and, on Monday, LSU coach Les Miles announced that one of his players is retiring because of concussions.

Ideally, right tackle Josh Williford would have started Saturday against TCU, but instead, at 23, his career is over.

In Buffalo, former Stephenville and University of Houston star quarterback Kevin Kolb is reportedly considering retirement from the Bills after he suffered another concussion Saturday night. He is 29.

In the moment, as I write these sentences and you read them, sympathy is the prevailing emotion. People should not have to retire from anything before they reach the age of 30.

Now that we have acknowledged that we all feel bad for Williford, Kolb and anyone who suffers a concussion as a result of playing football, we can move on to the important thing: Who is playing in their place when the game starts?

An alarming number of medical studies show that concussions and CTE issues have a direct correlation with high-contact activities — like football. But I’m not giving it up. And neither are you.

It would be wonderful if we could make the game safer, but there is far too much satisfaction as a player, owner, coach and consumer to quit. And there is no substitute “patch” for American football.

We are all too selfish to stop.

We now know, or highly suspect, that former players such as Dave Duerson and Junior Seau killed themselves due somewhat to the problems related to the brain trauma suffered in their long careers. We care, but not enough to stop.

We know there are many people who played and do not suffer the ill effects of the game.

You can disagree on the origins or the severity, but what is indisputable is that there is a far greater risk in playing football than we have ever been previously aware.

Even as the medical evidence and anecdotal tales of former players with scrambled brains pile up, we would rather get our fix. Oh, we will ask for medical research and ask that football equipment manufacturers build better helmets, but regardless of the latest findings or new research, we’re not quitting.

Documentary film director Sean Pamphilon has made a new film titled, The United States of Football; it is roughly a 105-minute state of the game in this country. It is not flattering for any level of football.

After watching this film, the viewer should not want to watch football, let alone play it.

“Football is not like smoking,” Pamphilon said. “I quit smoking seven years ago because they taste like [poop]. Football tastes like ice cream to the consumer.”

Don’t forget the player.

For some players, they hate the game but love the check.

For most players, they are junkies because there is no other outlet like it.

In the documentary, Pamphilon interviews scores of former players, current players and media. He spoke to the ESPN NFL Sunday morning telecast crew, including former Denver Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson. Jackson told Pamphilon that he doesn’t regret for a moment playing.

“I loved it when I was doing it,” Jackson told Pamphilon.

It’s not too dissimilar from war veterans who decry the sometimes pointlessness of combat but admit they loved the rush, and would love to do it again.

In long chat that I recently had with Pamphilon, we both acknowledged that we are the problem. Both he and I and have seen behind the curtain of this cutthroat business. We should turn away but remain addicts.

“I am totally the problem,” he said. “I have a Russell Wilson jersey.”

It is telling that a handful of players, most notably Bengals linebacker James Harrison, tells Pamphilon that they would not let their sons play football.

Alarmists insist that all of these injuries will eventually kill the sport. Not buying that.

Even far outside of football-worshipping Texas, football is woven so deeply into our collective psyche, it’s almost a spiritual event. Football has replaced the church as a gathering place to catch up with friends, and to bond.

The thread is no longer Sunday service, but tailgating before the game, the actual game, our fantasy team and then the postgame party. How many of you go to early service on Sunday in order to catch the noon kickoffs?

The concussion issue in football is not only genuine, but it is never going away. Studies, and prevailing common sense, say that if you run into something continually at a high speed, eventually your body, and brain, will suffer as a result.

Not long after we express sadness and sympathy over Josh Williford and Kevin Kolb having to retire, we will adjust our fantasy lineup, and plan on meeting our friends to watch TCU play LSU.

And I have no intention of quitting.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?