I must admit when it comes to sports, this acorn has fallen far from the tree. Pop was a baseball fan from the top of his head to the bottom of his soul. I, on the other hand, am a follower of football. Although sitting at this desk requires that I report on all sports, it always gives me pleasure to have football as my topic du jour.
Sometimes my subject leaves me with a queasy feeling in my stomach and a sour taste in my mouth. Today is such a time.
The latest news from the hierarchy of football is that NFL Commissioner Roger Godell is planning to change the format to an 18-game season. When I heard that, I thought, “This man must have bumped his head.”
It is interesting to hear your thoughts being broadcast from your TV just as you have thought them. I watched an interview of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis a few days ago, and since the subject was on the 18-game proposal, I was very attentive. I have spoken my thoughts on the fact that it is easy for some suits in an office to send players in harm’s way while they enjoy a scotch and soda in the luxury owner’s box. Ray’s words were a little different, but his message was the same.
My first question concerns the need for an extra two games. This can only be attributed to greed, because the fans certainly haven’t demanded it. Last season, 22 games didn’t sell out. This resulted in a TV blackout in some areas. This season, four games haven’t sold out. So my point is why add more games when your product must need help in other areas.
My next concern addresses the seeming disinterest of the commissioner of the health of the players. As you read this, the House Judiciary Committee is addressing head injuries in football since so many result in concussions. And concussions in so many cases have long-term consequences.
Many of you readers are still in mourning over the midnight exodus of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis. You cheered with them during the glory days and you lamented with them during the hard times.
During those glory days, the stadium rang with the announcer’s words, “Unitas to Mackey for the touchdown.” John Mackey was one of the heroes of the old Baltimore Colts team, and he had his share of concussions. Now he is suffering from dementia. His wife doesn’t know from day to day when John is going to exhibit all of his faculties. The sound of his name once brought smiles to the faces of fans, but now there is sorrow where the smiles once were.
Concussions aren’t the only concern when it comes to the health of players. There is damage to joints, ligaments, bones and vision that plague players after they are forced to hang up the cleats.
Most of us over 35 remember Earl Campbell “The Tyler Rose.” Campbell in his first year not only won the Rookie of the Year award, but won the award for most rushing yardage. He carried the team on his back, now he needs a walker to carry his war torn body from place to place.
Darryl Stingley had a successful career on the march when everything was cut short by Raiders hit man Jack Tatum. The hit was clean, but Stingley spent his remaining years in a wheelchair.
Followers of the game remember Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett’s unfortunate collision with a Denver player. Everett was taken from the field on a stretcher and it was later reported that he had a spinal injury. His surgery and rehab were successful, and he is able to walk though he will never play football again.
There are too many of these horror stories to fit in this space, but it is noteworthy that at the moment there are more than 60 NFL players on the injured list.
Can you imagine the carnage that will come out of a game in Green Bay during the middle of February? Maybe Roger Godell should examine this issue from an angle that focuses on the health and wellbeing of his players.