Sports, like most pursuits in the life of the average American, prey on our willingness to ignore information that limits our ability to have fun or be lazy.
We all know that driving a vehicle is incredibly dangerous. Everyone knows people who have died, or were severely injured, in car crashes. We all still drive on nearly a daily basis.
We all know that fast food is horrible for our bodies. It is packed with preservatives and artery clogging fat. I'll still go out on a very stable limb here, and say that McDonald's is not going out of business any time soon.
Ignorance, in our cushy, American lives, is truly bliss. We take ignorance to new levels, as we all actually know the information. We just choose to ignore it. This is easy to do, as long as our favorite awful past time, television, doesn't force us to hear about it over and over.
Recently, the average American male's news channel, ESPN, has been forcing us to pay attention to concussions. They have made it a point to talk about law suits, lingering issues in retired players, and suicides. Did any of us really ever think it was okay to hear football players use the term "got my bell rung". Of course not, but we were willingly ignorant, because it's fun to watch. Nothing compares to football in the American landscape. It's one of the few things that is enjoyed by people of all walks of life. White, black, gay, straight, male, or female. It doesn't matter. And no part of America's game is more exciting than a big hit, so we stayed in our bubble.
During our recent obsession with concussions, we have yet again shown off our willingness to only focus on the information that is currently being forced upon us. Concussions have recently been a very hot topic. There have been studies done over the past few years that have moved along what is known about the short and long term effects of multiple concussions. Because of this, concussions have become the ultimate football injury. Whenever fans hear that a player has a second or third diagnosed concussion, they now start to feel that player should be cut or retire. This is the exact outrage that our beloved ESPN likes to create.Everyone likes to use the line "The team should cut him to save him from himself." The problem is that the information about concussions doesn't say that every person who has multiple concussions will end up with long term health issues. Are the odds higher that they will have issues they would not have had before the concussions? Yes. Will they definitely live a shorter, more unpleasant life topped off by suicide? No.
Here's my issue with this current debate. We have chosen to ignore a very prevalent and easy to spot problem in football. One which we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, will have adverse long term health effects. Obesity. Every team in the league has at least a handful of morbidly obese guys manning the offensive and defensive lines. Morbid obesity definitely leads to heart problems, heart disease, and/or diabetes. Heart disease is one of the top three causes of death in America every year. This is something that will definitely happen, if these guys keep doing what they are doing. They will have health issues, because they are so large. Why do we allow them to eat 7500 calories a day without batting an eye, but say that guys with concussions should retire?
I'm sure the first retort will be that they are professional athletes. A 350 lb. nose tackle isn't the same as a 350 lb. guy who only leaves the house to buy cheese curds or $12 worth of food off of McDonald's dollar menu. I will agree with that point, and that cheese curds are upsettingly delicious.
The flip side of that is the amount of stress that a person that size puts on their heart by running around so much is going to be tough, or impossible, to cancel out after their playing days end. Also, for this point to be reasonable, these guys would need to cut down a huge amount of that weight after they retire. Does that consistently happen? Even the linemen who are on TV for a living are still obese. These guys have been huge their whole lives. They can't just turn it off.
I think it's time we focus on the real problem in football, big fat asses. Maybe if nobody on the field is allowed to be over 250 lbs., there wouldn't be so many concussions from running into these brick wall buffet destroyers.
It's time we save linemen from themselves. Teams should start enforcing strict diets, and cut any player who can't get under 250 lbs. Marshawn Lynch should be fined for throwing skittles after TDs. He's just being an enabler.
Obviously, this isn't going to happen, because it would make our game less enjoyable. We aren't leaving our bubble until we are forced out while kicking and screaming like a child who didn't get a PlayStation or Barbie, or whatever it is that these kids like nowadays, for Christmas. We will happily ignore the way these men choose to destroy their bodies, because it's fun to watch.
The NFL needs to enact some sort of lifelong wellness program which helps retired players recover from all of the awful things they do to their bodies for the game. They are changing the rules of the game to try to prevent head injuries. That's a good first step. The next step is not turning their backs on players after they retire. Otherwise, all of this recent campaigning about making the game safer is just a show. And that show needs to be more entertaining, or none of us will care.