The NFL’s Big Hits
No sooner did I write humorously, I thought, about judging the impact of an NFL defense by the number of stretchers on the field to remove injured offense players, the league had its most violent weekend in history.
There were at least four helmet-on-helmet hits in Sunday’s action that were so fierce and literally concussive, that the NFL was moved to release a statement about it and start threatening players with suspensions and fines.
Besides awesome accidental timing on my part that gives the appearance I am some kind of blood-lusting animal, there are several other observations that come to mind.
First of all, to NFL fans who have suddenly discovered their sensitive side, please spare me. Professional football has always been and always will be- the single most violent of all our sports. Big hits are a part of the game. Illegal hits intended to cripple a player are not part of the game. Big hits on a receiver catching a pass over the middle of the field, however, are as American as apple pie.
It’s as if people suddenly figured out that the NFL plays a rough game. Ok, you want it not rough? Outlaw tackling. Put little flags on the player’s pants and turn it into the National Flag Football League.
There are lots of potentially violent acts in football that are now against the rules; actions that, 20 years ago, were perfectly allowable. These include, spearing (leading with the helmet during a tackle), clotheslining, and general “roughing,” like hitting a Quarterback after he’s thrown the ball.
I have no objections to the proposed suspensions and fines. If it’s against the rules to tackle or hit another player leading with your helmet, then, fine, suspend them. But for fans to suddenly start going “tsk, tsk” and professing to be shocked that the NFL is violent, is just plain silly.
These men choose to play this game and they are fully aware that the end of their careers is just one play away. It’s why they get paid so much and good for them. The average career of an NFL running back is about four years. I say they should be able to make as much they can for as long as they can. They not only risk their careers but they also risk their future health. There are plenty of NFL players who can barely walk at age 60.
I’m not necessarily proud that I am such a fan of this sometimes grisly sport. But speed, power, intricate coordination and regional pride are hard for some of us to resist. I suspect they’re also the reasons why football supplanted baseball as the national pastime.
Let’s just face it- Americans are big fans of this violent sport. Why, I do believe, we invented it.