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"Football Does a Body Good: Nannyism doesn't"

"Playing football is good for you. Being a wuss isn't."

Thus concludes the article by Daniel Flynn from the American Spectator. Article here.

On the other side of the spectrum is John Kass of the Chicago Tribune:

"American football is dying," John Kass writes in the Chicago Tribune. "It's about time." For parents who shuttle their kids to Pop Warner practices, he advises: "So why not make it simple and just give the kids packs of cigarettes instead?"

Flynn responds to the popular Kass sentiment:

Journalists have parlayed a few tragic anecdotes among tens of thousands of retired professional athletes into a national anti-football frenzy -- in a football-crazed country, no less. But statistics, experience, and observation strongly suggests that the people playing football are healthier than those watching it -- and even those refusing to watch.

Flynn goes on to show that football is not as horrible as its being currently portrayed, especially compared to other sporting activities.

The Flynn article is an interesting one. I'd like to get your thoughts on it. We discussed some of this the other day on "Between the Posts" but thought it was worth discussing again because the conversation soon changed in the comment thread.

Before posting the Flynn article, here is my own personal take on the issue of concussions and the player lawsuits.

My response starts with quoting a former player:

"I can’t blame the NFL for every issue that every former player in the NFL has," noted former player and current ESPN football analyst Cris Carter. "I signed up to be in the NFL. It wasn’t like someone had to force me. I kinda knew what I was signing up for."

While terrible, concussions and the long-term impact of those concussions and other football injuries is an unfortunate reality brought about by choices in participating in a violent impact sport. There is something to be said about being personally accountable.

We live in a litigious and sue happy society. "With more than 1,500 players involved in litigation against the league, all of whom hold the NFL responsible for not warning them that high-speed, head-first collisions between large, muscular men might present a risk of head injury.

I’m not an attorney, but I have to think that one of the first questions the defense might pose when the first of these many cases hits the courtroom will be, "Exactly what did you think would happen?" (Bob Frantz, News Herald)

I have to question the integrity of many of these plaintiffs and if they are simply jumping on the money train or sincerely concerned with improving safety in the NFL.

That being said, the NFL should vigorously pursue better helmet technology to protect players and continue to tweak the rules for player safety. The NFL should also do all it can to help retired players with health issues. This isn't the 1950's football anymore, both players and the league should take more responsibility in their actions. The league in protecting current and past players and players taking responsiblity for being involved a sport that could be hazardous to their health. (Any athlete of any sport should)

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Now back to Flynn's article. He actually makes some good points on health related issues of football versus other sports that aren't getting reported by the lemming mentality reporting on the negatives of football.

Click here for his full article. See highlights below.

In response to comparing playing football to smoking cigarettes and the over use of antecdotes:

There's strong evidence, not speculation, that cigarettes cause cancer. There's no evidence, just speculation, that football caused Junior Seau to kill himself. Writers making connections between the self-administered demises of two retired stars (Seau and Dave Duerson) and the gridiron might as well ponder the pitfalls of their own profession. Do the unhappy endings of Ernest Hemingway, Hunter Thompson, and Arthur Koestler demonstrate a link between scribbling and suicide?

Journalists have parlayed a few tragic anecdotes among tens of thousands of retired professional athletes into a national anti-football frenzy.

So rather than speculate Flynn puts forth some statistics regarding football deaths vs. other sporting activities.

A government study commissioned by the NFL Players Association found that athletes in the league lived longer than their male counterparts in American society. The study looked at 3,439 men who played for five years or longer in the league between 1959 and 1993 and discovered 334 deaths. Had the results mirrored statistical norms among American men, the researchers would have found 625 deaths. It turns out that professional football players have lower rates of cancer and heart disease.

Who would have guessed that there are health benefits to all that running, jumping, pushing, and pulling?

The number of football deaths at all levels has fallen dramatically over the last half century. Present hysteria aside, rule changes and advances in equipment have made it a safer game. During the second half of the 1960s, brain-injury deaths averaged more than 20 per year for football players. That figure is now less than five per year in a sport played by millions.

Perhaps four deaths annually, and an uncountable number of concussions, is an unacceptable price for what amounts to an amusement. Former American Spectator writer Malcolm Gladwell said as much in that NYU debate by wondering aloud about the ethics of watching a game in which contestants risk life and limb. But every year about 40 Americans die skiing, about 800 die bicycling, and about 3,500 die swimming.

Are those dangerous activities permissible because they haven't captured voyeurs the way the NFL has?

Like football, there are benefits to skiing, cycling, and swimming. There aren't figures on how many lives those activities extend and enhance. But sensible people know that skiing, cycling, and swimming are on the whole good for you.

So is football.

So sport and outdoor recreation are good? Right? But wait, they aren't you say? It's too dangerous? So the alternative is to stay inside....exchange Football for two hand touch? Or worse...... Here's what Flynn states:

One rarely sees neighborhood kids in pickup football games anymore. They're too busy playing video games, text messaging, and friending strangers on Facebook. The unhealthy aversion to football (and other sports not named "soccer") has little to do with head injuries and much to do with an indoor society that's lost its head. Surely strenuous outdoor activity is a fine remedy for what ails climate-controlled, obese, antiseptic adolescence.

Playing football is good for you. Being a wuss isn't.

So there you have it. Flynn is the counter argument to the attack on football. Has he swung the pendulum too far? Is he on target? Is he somewhere in the middle? What do you think?

What do you think of the conclusions I made? Fair enough?

There are also so many different layers to the debate. Is it only about personal accountability, both for the player and the NFL? Is football any different than any other sport or recreational activity? Should the litigious saturated culture be partially to blame? Is America too overly concerned with "warning labels"? Do we all just need to "man up" like just about any other period in history, in sport, in life, in war? Or is "manning up" old fashioned? Is the attack on football really an attack on masculinity? Is the male mentality to toughen up and play through injury a construct of culture or it is that simply an inherent male trait that defines who we are as men? Eric Anderson and Edward M. Kian argue in their article, “Examining Media Contestation of Masculinity and Head Trauma in the National Football League” that it is simply a construct. The Feminist Wire article concludes that "playing like a man" is bad choice and by doing so it contributes to death. (Oh and this article was written by a man, see whole article here.)

I think we can all agree the NFL needs to continue to pursue rule tweaks and technology to make the NFL safer. And the NFL needs to take WAY better care of its retired players.

I also know this article is SUPER long...so I've said my bit. What do you think of all these issues?

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