What A Great Time To Remind You That Football is Stupid

This week I was going to write about publishers who complain that their tech stacks are so complex, they can't prevent ad fraud or assure ad viewability. But the humor in such protests is too self-evident to further berate.

No, on the eve of Butch Americana's Grand Celebration of Professional Concussive Violence Interspersed with Frightfully Expensive Clarion Calls for Conspicuous Consumption Usually for Something That Will Make You Even More Obese, the following caught my eye: A new study of NFL retirees found that those who began playing tackle football when they were younger than 12 years old had a higher risk of developing memory and thinking problems later in life. In tests given by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, those players recalled fewer words from a list they had learned 15 minutes earlier, and their mental flexibility was diminished compared with players who began playing tackle football at 12 or older.

I realize it is a fool's errand to use this weekend to try and jumpstart family discussions about how stupid football is, but it cannot be repeated often enough. For the record, I allowed both my sons to play Little League and high school football. Given what we have learned in the interim, it was a mistake. Both played under the explicit warning that if they ever got a concussion they would never set foot on a football field again. My GREATEST fear was that one of them would have been talented enough to be recruited to play in college. Neither was.

I told the headmaster at my youngest son's school -- which prides itself on academic excellence and community involvement -- that medical science is about two years away from being able to draw a very straight line between football and brain damage that emerges later in life. When that happens he will get a call from his insurance company who will say, "We will no longer cover you for football." Why not, I suggested, get out in front of it and drop football now, saying that there is no place for it in a school where the highest value is placed on learning and development. As you might have expected, he gave me the whole "athletics is part of our mission" nonsense before I reminded him that there are about 20 other sports played at the school. We agreed to disagree.

There is nothing more intoxicating to a teenager -- who is trying to figure out what it means to be a man -- than to be showered with praise and rewards for being more violent on the football field than the next guy. A good deal of that intoxication washes over the dads, and to an extent, the moms.

In this process, no one ever says: "There will come a day when all of this will come to naught and you will have to unlearn these instincts and this role model in order to become a real man." There is something ingrained in the American psyche that admires the gladiator, as long he can be controlled.  The debate over "American Sniper" is a great example. So too are the rape convictions of the Vanderbilt football players.

I suspect there is nothing harder in parenting than telling a strong, spirited and willing kid that he can't join the rest of his friends on the football field. There is no tomorrow at that age. Having a clear mind for the rest of his life is not yet on his radar. There is only what makes him popular and "a stud muffin" today.

What will happen to football (if it hasn't already) is what happened to the "volunteer army": those with sufficient awareness and means to avoid it will keep their kids away, leaving only those who need it out of economic necessity to trade away their future health and well-being in exchange for the Friday night lights.

It may be true than not every kid that plays high school or college or even pro football ends up with early-onset dementia, but why even play Russian roulette? The stakes are simply too high.

10 comments about "What A Great Time To Remind You That Football is Stupid".
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  1. Steve Ellwanger from Marketing Daily, January 30, 2015 at 9 a.m.

    I think you nailed the issue with the "controlled" gladiator. Because there are rules to football, its violent nature--people continually and purposely crashing into each other, and doing so voluntarily--and its attendant consequences can be overlooked in the spirit of the game. If all high school kids were forced to play football and endure the intense physicality, you might have more people in your end zone with this column.

  2. Robert McEvily from MediaPost, January 30, 2015 at 1:15 p.m.

    As a younger man, I played in a flag football league and loved it. (Baseball better suited my frame as a kid; never played organized tackle football.) To anyone who's never run full speed while managing to catch a perfectly throw pass, I gotta say it's a thrill, truly, and very specific to the sport. I wouldn't say the game itself is stupid, just the blockheads who encourage the violence. (Most DBs don't tackle, instead they collide. This is coached?) Anyway, just sayin'...

  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, January 30, 2015 at 1:23 p.m.

    The astronomical amount of money directed at football, the deception about safety, the amount of testosterone expended by weekend, wannabe coaches, the legacy of life long injuries and the macho culture that it antithetical to being a mature man in our society...all add up to stupid. (Although it has it's moment of great personal satisfaction, no doubt.)

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 30, 2015 at 4:14 p.m.

    What percentage of football scholars make it to the NFL ? What percentage of those scholars make it past the 1st or 2nd year ? What percentage who make some of the larger salaries blow it entirely ? Better to play the stock market or roulette.

  5. Tim Okeefe from Spider Juice Technologies, February 1, 2015 at 5:14 p.m.

    There are lots of long guesses in this article. Sorry to disappoint you that they will not find in two years a straight line to concussions and football and brain degradation much different than society as a whole. You see until they prove that which they never can or will. There is no proof. Sampling one variable only compares against a bad sample. You need the general population to cut open.

    No more than they will for playing as a child is connected to memory issues. Lots of the implied causatives are not from concussions necessarily. Its just that the money is coming into the brain research. Why no pineal gland research which has been shown to cause depression in returning warriors and the loud concussive noises they get. Or hey maybe its called good ole depression because stuff happens in life. All those depression pills sold on TV are not all going to football players.

    When you get to play a kids game for over half ones like and then its over. And let me tell you they do not sell drugs that as good as the one the body makes as you walk that tunnel. Forced retirement might be mildly traumatic to ones esteem and direction. Hmm maybe a good ole Id Crisis? I know I had one after just college. A good chunk of athletes tend to get divorced post career. Maybe that can be blamed on concussions too. The sloppy science is proved daily as the research conflicts with the prior days. Or that they are studying a limited sample. My wife got a horrible concussion as a child and I cannot tell she is ready to off herself anytime soon. Maybe me when I do not take out the trash;-)

    And I had one for sure I know about and I really do not like hurting myself at all. I tend to get whiny when I stub my toe. And the last thing anyone would declare me is depressed.

    To so easily throw away a game would not be because of concussions. It is the other reasons mentioned. Gratuitous violence for the sake of violence. Without mission or value.

    There was a day when syruppy stuff could be uttered and believed by coaches. When integrity mattered. When values taught from team, striving for something beyond self, winning AND losing mattered. Indeed sir that IS what life is about. I agree having a team in a corporate environment is difficult. But is being done pretty well at places like Whole Foods. The more at bats one takes more chances for a win. You should learn that is most sports.

    IT is simply because the coaches of yore demanded values and mission. The at one time winningest coach in college, Amos Alonzo Stagg when asked what he thought of his players success one year answered. "I will not know for another 20 years". The great John Wooden who looked at Stagg as a mentor would say nearly the same.

    Deflate gate can be argued all day. But the real issue is integrity. When pushing the rules like a lawyer does. Like the Patriots do. Takes away from the beauty of the game. And gives cynics like you one more bullet.

  6. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, February 1, 2015 at 7:32 p.m.

    Kinda rambling take on all this..but look instead at boxing where head trauma clearly leads to damage..don't think we have that long to wait for proof read football.
    At the end of the day he is your kid. You doing what's best for him - or you?

  7. Tim Okeefe from Spider Juice Technologies, February 1, 2015 at 10:57 p.m.

    If you go after someones head it is a penalty if not an ejection. Football is not boxing. Has been for a long time. Now with the added awareness it is even more careful. They took a guy out of the game awhile ago to get checked. They never would have done that years ago. And I coached my kids for 11 years as many kids. It is a huge pet issue of mine. AsI coached my guys in proper safe form. It is not for everyone and it is dangerous. But I experienced more injuries from the boys horseplaying at home than on my field. The kids parents are 99% thrilled they went through my program. Rambling? IT was more informed than the article yet it is rambling?

  8. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, February 2, 2015 at 12:13 a.m.

    The awareness you celebrate was more the result of lawsuit than enlightenment. In my view improvements in equipment and style of play are offset by the increased size and speed of the players. all levels. Moreover I would make a distinction between those accepting millions in exchange for future sanity and injuries to the young who have no idea - nor do you - the real price of those collisions.

  9. Tim Okeefe from Spider Juice Technologies, February 2, 2015 at 1:13 a.m.

    Nor do you or the risk you take on the way to work in the morning. Its scary out there isnt it? I really do not celebrate the newly found awareness that perhaps you are afraid of. I have lived it . Its not new to those inside only others I guess and those wanting a pay day. If you didn't know 30 years ago or before that it was not a game for every body then you had your head in the sand. The game has many issues , concussions is about 5 or 6 down on what can kill it.By the way Soccer is about as risky as football when it comes to concussions. Do we need to end that too?

  10. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, April 24, 2015 at 10:45 a.m.
    and there it is

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