The man who created the biggest buzz as Super Bowl week in New Orleans began was President Barack Obama, who expressed concerns about the future of the NFL because of its violence and said he’d have to think “long and hard” about letting a child of his play the game.
As Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed noted, ”When you’ve got the president talking about it, you got something.”
The comments sent ripples through the coaches’ and players’ press sessions. ”I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,” Obama told The New Republic. ”In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”
The coaches of the Super Bowl teams, a couple of guys named Harbaugh, are the sons of a lifelong coach and, they said they have no problem letting their sons play, but the guys who actually play now had a little more measured reaction.
San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh took the exit marked “Humor.”
“I have a 4-month old, almost 5-month old son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old. It’s still early. Like I said, Jack is only 5 months old. He is a really big kid. He has an enormous head. We don’t have a 40 time on him yet, but his wingspan is plus one, and as soon as he grows into that head he is going to be something. It’s early, but expectations are high for young Jack.”
Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, meeting the media after his brother, agreed. “It’s one less kid to compete against. Football’s a great game. And everybody who’s played the game know what a great game it is and what it provides young people and what it provided someone like me — an opportunity to grow as a person,” he said. “It’s challenging. It’s tough, hard. There’s no game like football. It’s the type of sport that brings out the best in you. It kind of shows you who you are.”
Some of John Harbaugh’s players — some of the league’s hardest hitters and they have the fines to show for it — agreed with the president. Safety Bernard Pollard questioned whether the league would exist in 30 years and raised the sobering thought that a player might one day die on the field, from injuries. (An Arena League player died of a spinal cord injury during a game in 2005 and a Detroit Lions player suffered a fatal heart attack during a 1971 game.)
“I am with Obama,” Reed said. “I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it … I can’t make decisions for him. All I can do is say, ‘Son, I played it so you don’t have to.’ ”
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said he’d leave it up to his child as well. “It would have to be his choice,” Suggs said. “Football isn’t for everybody. If my son … came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want to play football,’ then I would let him play.”
Bernard Pollard: NFL won’t exist in 30 years