My 15 year old nephew broke his leg playing football this weekend. Now, even before this happened, I was planning to write this article based on my worries about my own kids playing the game. His injury just confirms my worst fears about a game I love to watch but do not want to see my children – or any kids in my family – play.
This worry of mine goes back to my getting hurt playing football when I was a teenager. I can remember the play as if it happened an hour ago. All the surroundings are vivid in my mind – the blazing red and orange leaves falling from the trees, the cool autumn wind blowing over the field, and the ball leaving the quarterback’s hand heading in my direction. I never caught the ball because the guy who tackled me crushed his helmet into my lower back, knocking my legs out from under me. I remember lying there on the grass, staring up at the cruel blue sky and seeing a dark bird that seemed like a vulture checking me out.
All these years later my back still hurts – a car accident seven years ago reinjured the same area of my back to make things worse. Now I see my nephew lying in a hospital bed with a cast covering his foot and going all the way up to his groin, and I figure that he will now have to deal with rehabbing it, and hopefully it won’t hinder him for the rest of his life as my back has. But I am also hoping that he got a message loud and clear – no more football.
Football has been getting a bad rap these days with NFL players behaving like criminals. We all know their names and their alleged misdeeds (no need to rehash that here), and no matter how much we fans of the game want to spin it, we are a long, long way from the feel good days of Mean Joe Green sharing his Coca-Cola with a young fan in a TV commercial. There have just been too many incidents, and the stench goes all the way up to the top – Commissioner Roger Goodell is sitting on top of one messy heap of trouble.
But none of that has to do with why I say “NFL” for my kids – “No Football Leagues.” A lot of it has to do with my own injury, and injuries to friends and relatives over the years. Then what inspired me to want to write the story was the tale of a teenage Long Island football player who died after being injured in a game.
When I see the picture of young Tom Cutinella, I think of my family members and my own kids and I know that I don’t want them near the gridiron now or in the future. Tom’s picture has been in all the newspapers and on TV, but my nephew’s photo has just circulated among the family. They were just two teenagers who got hurt playing football, but despite his horrendous injury my nephew got lucky – it could be much worse.
My kids both play soccer now, and I am under no illusions that they cannot get hurt in that game either (anyone watching the recent World Cup matches knows how those players get hurt too), but the nature of the game is not shock and awe; it does not have a grind-into-the-ground philosophy. Just watch any National Football League game and you are going to see aggression that is worthy of the battlefield, and how often do we need to see NFL players getting carried off the field on stretchers to know that this is not the best game for men to play let alone children?
I recently read an article in which a youth league football coach is complaining about parents being afraid to let their kids play football these days. He says that if steps aren’t taken, youth football could “disappear.” Well, I don’t know about other parents but I know I am definitely worried and, if you look at a picture of this guy’s players, they are wearing protective helmets that make them look like astronauts. I don’t care about all the protective measures taken, football is an inherently violent game that is very dangerous, and my kids will not be part of that.
Yes, other sports hold dangers as well – I won’t be going out to get my son a hockey stick anytime soon – but football is a game built on crushing the opponent. I was watching my Jets only earlier today, and my son said, “Dad, I hate football. I only want to play soccer.”
As they say, “Out of the mouths of babes,” so I took the remote and turned the TV off. We went outside and kicked the ball around (boy, does my back hurt when I do this, but I don’t let him know that). I didn’t need to watch the Jets lose another game anyway.
Photo credits: ny daily news, ny post
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