When it comes to the future of the NFL in regards to player safety, everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject.
One of those opinions came from the President of the United States.
In an interview with New Republic, President Obama said if he had a son he would have to think twice before letting him play the game.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama said. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”
The NFL has taken a hit publicly when it comes to how they have tried to change the game in the name of player safety. The NFL is currently facing a massive lawsuit by former NFL players in regards to the long-lasting effects of concussions and repeated head trauma. But the President, who is a big Chicago Bears fan, stated that his greater concern is for football players in the college level.
“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re 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. “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.”
President Obama’s quote about American’s most popular sport on the eve of its biggest game on one of the biggest days of the year was probably more than just a mere coincidence. The last time the NFL stood before Congress in regards to concussions and player safety was in October 2009.
Plenty think a new hearing before Congress is in the NFL’s future.
Speaking of the NFL’s future, Baltimore Raven’s safety Bernard Pollard has a different take on the future of the NFL.
In fact, according to Clark Judge of CBSSports.com, he doesn’t think the NFL will have much of a future.
“Thirty years from now,” Pollard said, “I don’t think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.
“The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety],” he added, “but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.”
Pollard’s reaction may seem a bit over dramatic, but his point might be a legitimate one. Fans may indeed be turned off by the changes the leagues will make. But as history has shown the game of football and the NFL has shown great resiliency to adapt, overcome and improvise to the changes over the years.
The facemask, close-line and head-slap were all at one point legal, now they are all illegal and made a penalty and the NFL has moved on just fine.
Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame legend Jim Brown once quipped that by the year 2000; there will be no more professional sports. Thirteen years later, the NFL along with all other pro sports is still going stronger than the Energizer Bunny.
The NFL has survived 46 now defunct franchises in its first decade of the league in the 1920’s, nine more between the 1930’s-1950’s, two NFL Strikes, one played with replacement players, countless teams moving to new cities, the AFL-NFL Merger, an NFL Lockout, a NFL Referee Lockout, countless current and former NFL players disgrace the shield by their run-ins with the law, the NFL has survived all of that and then some.
In fact, when John J. Miller released his book in April of 2011 entitled “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football”, it describes how the game of football was at a crossroads, facing extinction due to 18 players being killed during the 1905 season alone. President Roosevelt convened a meeting of over 60 colleges in late 1905, with a commitment to make the game safer. The result of the meeting introduced what would later be the NCAA and with that a new set of rules to make the game safer.
One major rule change.
The legalized forward pass.
A quote by the New York Times in an article of September 1906 on the widespread skepticism of the future impact of the forward pass on the game of football sums up the short sightedness many had back then.
“There has been no team that has proved that the forward pass is anything but a doubtful, dangerous play to be used only in the last extremity.”
As far as the lasting impact on the forward pass, we all know how that turned out.
History will always repeat itself. It goes in cycles. The famous quote ‘those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it’ couldn’t be truer than right now.
We all need to take a step back from our own short sightedness and realize that we are going through what happened over a hundred years ago, the game of football is in the midst of major changes. The future of the NFL and the game of football will live on. Coaches will coach differently, players will play differently and fans will continue to watch.
Football will live on.
Football will endure.
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