The NFL season gets underway tonight when divisional rivals Dallas and New York square off tonight. I was going to do a post on the game until my five year old son said to me “Daddy, daddy we are going to watch football today. Are you playing?”
It made me stop and think about when I did play. I also thought about how something I said on our weekly webcast, Post Sports Live, bothered my colleague Dan Steinberg. I said something about how I enjoyed delivering big hits and never felt bad about them.
Football is not at a crossroads. Football has made some discoveries, particularly about head injuries, that need to be addressed. As a result of many of these one-sided reports about concussions and injuries, participation is down some. But don’t expect that to last for long.
In my estimation the only difference between today’s NFL and the NFL of the 1970s and ‘80s is the amount of media exposure. There was a time when football was really barbaric, when truly anything and everything happened out there on the field. Head slaps, clotheslines, chop blocks and lots more, anywhere on the field.
Many of us who play or have played the game refer to the field as the Serengeti, where it’s kill or be killed. Now, nobody is going to actually try to kill a guy, but the phrase does tell you how hard guys play out there. That sentiment also proved to be disturbing as we continued our debate about the physicality of the sport on the webcast.
Football is different from other sports in the sense that all who play it realize that they are engaging in a contest for physical and mental dominance. It’s the sport closest to combat. Battle references are common in football, and football references crop up in the military. Many people in football were once part of the military in some capacity. Football stadiums carry names like the “Coliseum” and “Death Valley. ” Teams are the Titans, Spartans, Falcons and Eagles. Need I say Lions?
Can we please stop acting like we are oblivious to what football represents to us? We all know that football is a sport that we created in the United States, to showcase teamwork, strength, agility, hard work, perseverance, intelligence and community.
I would go so far as saying that football is the best out-of-classroom education for a young person. You learn discipline, respect, admiration, caring and sharing.
It’s no surprise that football isn’t for everyone, but we love this game because it represents our way, the American way.
Just as the sport evolved to become a better game back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it will continue to do so now. This phase of football bashing shall too pass.
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