Even if you didn’t watch the last couple of games, you no doubt have heard about Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy getting knocked into a state of stupor usually reserved for alcoholics and toddlers (which are eerily similar when you think about it).
There is all kinds of attention being paid to what the medical staff did or didn’t do, when he should be allowed to play again, what this means for the future of concussions, and about 900 other things. Believe me when I say that I understand the concerns about players and their safety; I’ve had a few concussions in my day and I am fully aware that they’re not really anything to joke about once they reach the frightening stage. For instance, Ben Utecht had an article in USA Today this week regarding how he’s got patches of non-memories that he attributes to his serious concussions. It’s scary.
But there’s an inherent risk in playing football and all of these guys are aware of it.
I’m not saying I would do it. Being faced with the choice of millions of dollars or the seemingly 50/50 shot that you’ll die young and in a lot of pain is a pretty insane choice, but that’s the pseudo reality of it. These players know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.
At an early age, the parents are the ones who are aware of the risk more so than the kids, but that changes. When kids start getting into high school and see some friends experience pain and injury, their eyes begin to open. Invincibility fades.
Some people don’t go through with it. Plenty of young men see the risks, understand the risks, and say “football is not going to be worth it for me.” These guys go on to do endless amounts of great things – after all, 99% of people who played football don’t make it to the NFL.
But maybe we should stop worrying so much about these guys. They know damn well that they’re playing a sport where the most famous coach of all time once said, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.” These men are not being thrown onto a full-contact game show where they have to sign waivers beforehand in case they get hurt. They’re willingly signing a contract detailing what the risks and rewards will be of playing in the National Football League.
Lately, these men have seen the stories of ex-players and the trauma that football has led them to. Sure, some of them say that they wish they would have gone an alternate route, but that means some of them are okay with it, too.
Hindsight is always 20/20, as the saying goes. And these men have been training to do little else besides play football for a long time. They know that the opponents are out to stop them by any means necessary – and that includes trying to knock you down 100% of the time.
It’s a part of the game. Professional baseball players know the story of Ray Chapman dying from being hit by a pitch and the pitchers know of various players whose careers have ended because of line drives hitting them. They know this, and they accept it. It’s enough to stop some people from playing again, but those who are okay with it can move on.
It’s tragic, sure. I don’t like seeing people get injured and I don’t like the idea that it will affect the rest of their lives, but that’s part of why it wasn’t my dream to play in the NFL.
So play on, I say. Let James Harrison keep committing attempted manslaughter on defenseless players. Let players like Roy Williams continue to horse-collar tackle. Penalize them, but don’t act like it’s never going to happen again and we need to find a way to eradicate it completely. This is a violent sport played by violent men. Accidents and injuries happen.