The topic of brain damage may be just as, if not more, sensitive than taking a knee. Why? It’s not a choice.
I relate to this issue on a personal level for two reasons. One is that I played football as a running back, which endures the most physical impact out of anyone on the field.
The second reason is because my grandfather played football in highschool with one of the best players in the country, who will be called Joe to keep his identity private. Joe had a lot of speed to go along with his then 270 pound frame.
Joe went onto to play Division One football and eventually compete in the NFL and did extremely well. Fast forward to 2017 and Joe nowadays can’t even find the bathroom in his own house.
So why is this issue more pressing? Joe doesn’t understand what taking a knee would even mean.
Because of former players like Joe, the NFL is being reduced every year by rules to make it less physical and more complicated. I think we can all agree that the league being less physical is not helping the cause. This forms a wild misunderstanding between players and fans.
Players are on the field to make a name for themselves, while fans want action, big hits and entertainment. This gap of silent disagreement is an only growing gap that is fed every year by upset fans and even more upset doctors that horrifyingly examine the brains of these players after years of head trauma.
What is ‘CTE’?
CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Simply put, the brain becomes severly injured over time. A quick search will tell you that it’s caused by repeated hits to the head. Football may provide such. It’s not a complicated concept to grasp.
Wacking your brain against your skull over a stretch of years and calling it a job will not result in a life of longevity and a clear head while watching your grandkids on the playground.
Many of these players develop advanced forms of dementia and many other mental disorders to list. This is real. This is scary. The scary part being that a social standard is indirectly taking life.
Football is game of passion. One that I hold dear and forever will.
Imagine the level of commitment and love at the professional level. Try to picture having the opportunity to do what you have dreamed of since being a little kid and then actually being able to live it out.
Now imagine being told your best friend lost his brain functions and took his own life to the same dream.
Every player, highschool to the NFL, is now put into the same moral dilemma. Regardless, do you stop doing the thing you love for a more meaningful life or do you sacrifice quality for quantity of life?
I am in no position to say which is right because everyone has their own perspective. Yet, this unique decision of life is closer to our lives than anyone could suspect.
These men knowingly do what they love because it is a life well lived, even being told the consequences.
Football is a game. So is life. Who decides the cost?
I believe each person does in how they decide to live. “If I did not have football, I don’t know where I would be in life,” said Cris Carter who proudly sits in the hall of fame along with every list of the best to play the game.
Where is the line? When does quality of life become so great that there is a sacrifice of it? Does living out a dream for a few years beat out being okay with being okay for a lifetime?
I know that I will watch a battle of 22 men every Sunday afternoon as I have since my earliest memories. I will continue to idolize these men. I will continually be mesmerized by the popping hits and ankle breaking acts of athleticism.
However, although these warriors in helmets and jerseys have reached their goal of playing in the NFL, there’s a statistically terrifying chance they won’t even be able to recall any of it.