So was that it? When the Dolphins player Richie Incognito this week (finally) faced a suspension for bullying his teammate in incredibly degrading ways — was that the final thing that will ensure my sons will never, ever, not while you're under my roof, play football?
Or was it the concussions and deaths related to the sport? The suicides, where players shoot themselves in the chest so their brains can be studied to prove their beloved sport caused irreparable damage?
Or maybe it was the animal-like behavior from amped-up football players in “Friday Night Lights” kinds of towns?
I’m not the only parent, of course, to cringe at the thought of my offspring playing the sport. Reports of dwindling high school football player numbers have been popping up like touchdown spikes all over the place.
I’ll be honest: I never wanted my boys to play football because of the injuries (we get enough of that with two brothers wrestling in the hallway). But this latest bit of nightmarish news out of the NFL proves to me that I don’t want them exposed to the culture, either. I type this as the Thursday-night football game is on. And I come from “Steelers country,” a place where I wore my Bradshaw sweatshirt until it was threadbare.
Yet the thought of putting a child into a situation where concussions are practically guaranteed and the tough-guy persona is not only a given, but encouraged by coaches at the highest levels, is simply counter-intuitive. Why encourage children to engage in a sport whose heroes are paid to hurt each other, put their opponents in the hospital, threaten even their own teammates or injure themselves just because they’re trying to play a game? Not to mention the players who have been associated with murder, and even charged. I could go on. (Hint: dog-fighting ring.)
To think that my small boys look up to people like this, and don’t have any clue why people may cringe when they yell “Go Redskins!” (And I’m not just talking about Giants fans.)
Of course, there is hope and there is glory in the way that we want them to know glory. And yes, not all players are like Incognito, or the coaches who push players past the point of no return. But the magic of the sport, the ease of Sunday afternoons watching games together, the idea of just joining the middle school team for a season or two for some fun — that all has been tainted. And that is what makes me grateful that my kids have a much greater love for baseball than for football.
At least that sport only has drug problems.