Posted: 2:43 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013
We can sort of understand why former football players are suing over concussions. They may have been misled at times by organizations, schools and teams about the danger. That’s definitely possible, and three former college players, including N.C. State’s Dan Ahern, have filed suit against the NCAA.
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But on the other hand, it’s somewhat like smoking: there has been a general understanding for decades that football is a very dangerous game. Older players like Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan understood it. Dick Butkus sued the Bears in 1975 claiming the team kept him playing when he should have been recuperating. One of the lesser known arguments in favor of OJ Simpson’s innocence in his wife’s murder was that by that time, he was virtually a cripple and might have had difficulty in physically overcoming anyone, much less running away (we’re not advancing that argument, just acknowledging it). Columbia suspended its program because of injuries and deaths – in 1905.
In the old world of the NFL, there was always a value to keeping people on the field after a guy had had his bell rung. By value we mean everyone thought that was the admirable, the tough thing to do.
Now of course we have a much clearer understanding of the dangers of concussions, much less repetitive concussions.
Still, parents have kept kids away from football for decades now, and schoolchildren have long understood that if you play that game, you will get hurt. It’s not if or when but that you will. It’s inescapable.
So yes, there may be the basis of a lawsuit, but at the same time, it’s not like people had no idea that football was dangerous. It’s always been dangerous.
So why does anyone play? Well, that’s simple: they like it. Some guys adore the violence, the freedom to just plaster someone else. Chuck Cecil enjoyed the violent aspect of football so much that Sports Illustrated suggested he might be a danger to the game, let alone himself.
Like boxing, football is not for everyone. But it’s worth asking this question: if there are not regulated, safe outlets for people who enjoy a certain level of violence, what do you suppose they’ll do instead?