Would you -- or for that matter, do you -- let your son play football?
President Barack Obama, a major sports fan, has weighed in on football safety issues with an interview in The New Republic.
Obama told the publication that he's a football fan but that if he had a son, considering the impact the game has on its players, he would think long and hard before allowing his son to play.
It's a hypothetical question, of course. Obama has two daughters.
But what about you? Have you seen all these concussion-related studies? Do you know about the lawsuits? Do you think Junior Seau committed suicide because of the damage the game did to him, or were there other underlying reasons? Or, on a less severe note, do you think the violence is worth the risk and the reward of all that football played at any level can bring?
It's quite a debate. I think each household answers it differently.
I have three boys who are 14, 12 and 9. However, they go to a small charter school that doesn't field a football team. They are basketball and soccer players and have never expressed an interest in playing organized football anywhere else, although I have made their pickup football games in the backyard be two-hand tag (they prefer tackle, and when I'm gone they sneak in a game of tackle football sometimes anyway. You know this if you have ever raised a boy -- some part of them inherently likes contact. It's hard to keep them off each other).
I will tell you this: I love football. And it scares me. And like Obama, I've never had to make this decision, but I would come down about where he does on it, in the "think long and hard" area. I honestly don't know if I'd say yes or no.
I've attended the NFL hall of fame induction a couple of times and it's a real eye-opener, all those former NFL greats who now have trouble walking and, sometimes, talking. And those were the best of the best.
The game extracts a toll on everyone who plays it. No one gets away from the pain if they play long enough. And yet we love it.
Obama said that football fans are going to have to wrestle with the fact that the game will probably change over time to try to reduce the violence. The president says that some of those changes might make football, in his words, "a bit less exciting" but that it will be much better for players.
"And those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much," he said.
Obama also said he worries more about college players than those in the NFL because the pros have a union, are well-paid and are grown men.
"They can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies," Obama said of NFL players. "You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about."
Lastly, if you are in the mood for an absolutely harrowing story, you must read this piece from Dan LeBatard in The Miami Herald about the damage Jason Taylor did to himself while becoming one of the best defensive ends ever. It is ridiculous, really, what Taylor put himself through -- but not uncommon. And he would do all of it again.
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