By Marty Russell
It’s that time of year again. No, not back to school time, football season, which, for many people unfortunately, is the only legitimate reason for having schools in the first place. After all, you can’t have sports leagues or teams unless they represent something so a lot of folks grin and bear it that you have to at least pay lip service to education in order to have sports.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big football fan myself even though I never played the sport having been blessed with a greater level of self-survival than testosterone. But in recent years I’ve found it a little hard to justify being a football fan what with all the scandals, money and swagger on all levels of the sport. And I would think that even the most diehard football fans must have been scratching their heads over the past year or so at the apparent paradox that the sport has become.
First we had the shocking revelation that the New Orleans Saints, the most underdog of underdog teams in the NFL’s history, a team so bad that fans used to wear paper bags over their heads at their games, was deliberately trying to injure opposing teams’ players. I suppose we should no longer refer to players as tackles and start calling them obstacles or speed bumps or ball-carrier pace setters.
Then, this July, more than 2,000 current and former NFL players filed a lawsuit claiming they were never told of the risk of brain concussions that could be suffered as a result of playing the sport. I guess they thought all the helmets and pads were just there to make them look bigger and meaner to the opposing team. I suspect that the league’s response to those lawsuits may be that, in order to claim brain injury you have to have one first and that’s questionable because otherwise you wouldn’t be out on the field letting players with nicknames like “Refrigerator” fall on you.
So I don’t know what the future of football holds if even the players are complaining that they might get hurt. Might we one day sit down on a Sunday afternoon or Monday night and hear something like this:
“Frank, this is a big play. If they don’t get a first down here the season’s pretty much over for the Wombats.”
“I agree, Howard. Here’s the snap, the quarterback is handing off to the running back, the back is approaching the line of scrimmage and here comes big tackle Joe “Concrete Road Barrier” Jones. Let’s listen in.”
“It lies between Poland and Hungary!” Joe screams.
“Slovakia!” the ball-carrier answers.
The referee blows his whistle and a yellow flag hits the ground.
“Five-yard penalty,” the ref says.
“You didn’t phrase your answer in the form of a question!” says the ref.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.