Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Joe Pa is right, or at least halfway there

Joe Pa wants to remove facemasks from helmets to reduce concussions and other injuries? I have a better idea: ban helmets, cleats, and shoulder pads altogether. Helmets and pads are supposed to be protective, but end up being used as potent weapons. Cleats provide leverage for hits that injure both the hitter and the "hittee."

Those who run football are between the proverbial rock and hard place right now. Studies are showing that their sport causes an inordinate amount of concussions, and that those concussions aversely affect the quality of life of participants, years after the damage has already been irrevocably done.

They know something needs to be done, but they won't want to detract from the "tough" nature of the sport. Telling players not to hit when they have been trained to do so their entire careers, as the NFL is attempting to do, is a losing proposition. It will bring nothing but controversy, and enforcement will go back to current levels after awhile, much like hockey did after a year or two of trying to call Stanley Cup Playoff games tighter.

It works for awhile, but the game always tends to go back to its inherent nature. With this much protective equipment, the inherent nature on defense in football is to use yourself as a weapon with which to destroy ball-carriers and recievers. The gains made in conditioning and technology were supposed to prevent injury, but have just made players more likely to injure both themselves and others within the natural flow of the game.

Football is an aggressive sport, and equipment enables players to be more aggressive. So, the only way to change the culture is to change the nature of the game. And the best way to do that without sacrificing any of the toughness, integrity, or effort players put in is to simply ban protective equipment. Knee pads and cups are appropriate because neither gives a player any leverage that can be used to hurt themselves or an opponent. Shoulder pads and helmets only help players get hurt.

Besides, players of this era would like it because we would be able to see their faces while they play. It would be easier for players to "brand" themselves, even before they are allowed to take any money. And they would have more brain cells left when it is time to hang up their shoes, relax, and spend some of the money they earned.

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