Football Is Back!

Football is back, and I am talking about the unique sport of American football…. It is September now and the sports calendar is turning, the NFL is back with all it’s smash and crash, it’s dash and flash, the spectacle of watching 11 grown men try to advance the ball across a marked field against the best efforts of another 11 grown men to score points…It is back also with all the bumps and warts of an ever increasing, incessant  drumbeat of criticism regarding player safety…Football is by nature inherently violent, it is a collision sport played on a large field by mostly over sized men moving at full speed as they crash into each other, blocking and tackling as they have been taught all their lives by their coaches…

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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, right, pulls in a pass as Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox defends in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 13, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)nfl1

Football is a multi billion dollar enterprise, and according to the experts who measure such things, football has replaced baseball as the national pastime….Part of this is because of the entertainment value, but an even larger part of it is because football just seems to have been made for television, and we are a nation of confirmed television watchers…

The slow-mo, the super slow-mo, the reverse angles and even the constant replays of a certain play in every football game are all available in frozen time…We sit fascinated, hypnotized by the spectacle of brute force mixed in with skilled plays and watch talented athletes willing to risk their future lives and health for the immediate right now payoff of the rewards of a good hit, a great tackle, a sensational catch or run….

How can baseball measure up to all this multifaceted visual impact, all this in your face action where you can hear the clash of heavily armored larger than life men colliding, mostly protected by their helmets, shoulder pads, knee braces etc. smashing into each other, with reckless, willing abandon on each and every play? The linemen are always the biggest men on the field, these behemoths average around 300 pounds, and every time the ball is snapped to the quarterback, the leader of the offense, these two massive lines, defense and offense surge towards each other in a desperately furious rage and surge of adrenaline, energy and strength…

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Denver Broncos center J.D. Walton (50) prepares to snap the ball during second quarter action against the Oakland Raiders in the NFL game at Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO September 30, 2012. (AP Photo/ Eric Bakke )

Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN on December 28, 2008.

If the defense prevails, the quarterback is usually either sacked before he can unleash one of those beautiful, spiraling passes down field to the wide receivers or tight ends, or the running back is stopped short, tackled for no gain or a loss….Since the so called “skill position” players are so athletically talented, the quarterbacks are usually able to drive their offensive teams down the field, 10 yards at a time, registering first down after first down by a mixture of athletic passes and catches with strategically chosen running plays until they reach their goal, the end zone where they are rewarded with 6 points for a touchdown for crossing the goal line…

How does baseball compare to this kind of non stop action? According to my Google sources: “It has been a long, long time since baseball was truly America’s pastime, and it has nothing to do with anything baseball has done wrong. It has been since … television. Television universalized and quantified viewing experiences, and ratings’ ability to capture just how many people are watching at a certain time incentivized the “event” nature of football rather than the everyday perpetuity of baseball.

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15, May 2008: Braves catcher Brian McCann #24 readies to catch the ball and tag out Phillies catcher Chris Coste #27 who tried to score on a sac fly, at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. The Phillies won the game 5-0. ****Editorial Use Only****

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The NFL is terrific to watch on television in a way baseball isn’t and never was, and we are a nation of television watchers. The minute people realized how easy football was to follow on television—even if it really tells you very little of what’s actually going on—was the minute baseball stopped being America’s pastime. According to a new Bloombergs Politics poll, 67 percent of Americans say football is the national pastime, as opposed to 28 percent who say baseball is.

Once the NFL season begins, its nationally televised games on NBC and ESPN instantly become the most-watched shows on television that week. Americans might have their issues with the safety of football, but they’re not voting with their feet: They want the NFL on their televisions. The NFL behemoth cannot be stopped. The NFL isn’t just America’s pastime; it’s difficult to figure out what would even be second place.

during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

DENVER - AUGUST 29: Quarterback Dennis Dixon #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is sacked by Robert Ayers #56 as Justin Bannan #97 and D.J. Williams #55 of the Denver Broncos get in on the action during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. Perrish Cox of the Broncos was called for illegal use of hands on the play resulting in a Steelers first down. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) scrambles away from San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler (56) in the fourth quarter during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, in Denver. San Diego won 29-24. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

And as more and more research pours in on the devastating cumulative effects of concussions and repeated blows to the head causing permanent long term damage amongst both present and former players, the medical evidence is mounting and more damning on a daily basis…Again, according to my Google sources: “While much of the health and safety debate over football and other contact sports focuses on the risk of developing severe, headline-grabbing neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and CTE, a growing body of evidence suggests that both concussions and sub concussive blows can alter mood, cognition and behavior while causing damage and structural changes to the brain.”

In it’s response, the NFL itself, headed by the air headed, profits driven NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, has cautiously admitted there MAY be some problems, but that more research is needed….According to the official NFL policy: “The league has warned its players about concussions, taken steps to better identify and remove concussed players from the field, publicly acknowledged – one time and only one time only, but still — the link between football-induced brain trauma and long-term harm.

The NFL supports a proposed concussion lawsuit settlement containing brain damage evaluation and compensation provisions that do not account for future scientific advances nor offer relief to former players suffering from impairment that fails to rise to the level of neurodegenerative disease. During a London visit last year, Goodell told reporters that “the game isn’t bad for you-there are injuries and you need to recover from them, it’s like anything.”

It is clear to see that the muddle headed, double talking, truth denying, Goodell is not going to do anything to slow down the record accumulation of profits…In 2010, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went on the record to say that he expects the NFL to achieve $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. Latest estimates indicate they are well on their way, making approximately $18 billion as of last year in total revenues…

This is the biggest problem any American sport has faced in years…I grew up being a football addict, playing pickup games in the street and religiously watching every season’s progression from opening kickoff to the Super Bowl all my life…But even myself, as a long time fan and a true lover of the game, can see there is something rotten in Denmark….The NFL is deliberately covering up the most damaging research, stonewalling the evidence already there, and glibly denying the severity of these injuries, all in the interests of lining their own pockets at the expense of the players, our own modern day gladiators…

Something must be done!…I cannot understand how we can design a helmet to protect astronauts from the frigid cold and vacuum of outer space, yet cannot design a helmet to protect players from head injuries! More of the NFL’s almost obscene profits need to be plowed back into player safety and injury protection programs, as well as owning up to the damages already suffered by past NFL greats we have all worshiped….

If I were a father with sons today, I would forbid them to play football until proper protective gear was designed….Just like the fairy tale, the greed of the NFL and arrogant, pompous jackasses like their front man, Commissioner Roger Goodel, are slowly but surely killing the goose that lays the golden eggs…Enough is enough!

For more information on the NFL replacing baseball as the national past time, see http://www.bloomberg.com;
For more information on the state of research on football related injuries, see http://www.sportsonearth.com/

For more articles by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com@wordpress.com

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