BobLee Says

The Future of Football ????

Feb 2, ’13:  It is incumbent on me to weigh in on the public debate over The Future of Football”.  This debate and speculation is not anything new.  It is rooted in the basics of human nature and an individual’s responsibility for his own well-being.  Can we toss football into the same socio-cultural crock pot as “having an abortion”..... “being gay”..... “eating a Big Mac”..... “smoking marijuana”..... “riding a bicycle on a busy street”?  Does it “take a village” to determine what sport you can play? ......

Am I the only one who finds it fascinating that the main topics of this week are:
 (1) Is Football too dangerous?..... (2) Whether it is or not, should gay men (or women too I reckon) feel comfortable playing it?...... (3) Whether it is or not and whether gays are playing, does God have a favorite team in The Super Bowl?

Maybe #4 would be ..... would Dan Marino be better off today if HE had met Lennay Kekua rather than Donna Savattere?


In 1960 America was introduced to The Violent World of Sam Huff.   Sam Huff was a middle linebacker for the New York Giants.  A TV documentary was produced highlighting the explosions and collisions that took place during the 3 or 4 seconds duration of a football play.   That documentary was narrated by none other than “Uncle Wally” Cronkite

In the early 60s it could have been Ray Nitzchke or Chuck Bednarik or Alex Karras or any of dozens of “headhunters” in NFL Football.  Huff was probably chosen for the simple uncomplicated nature of his name and the fact he played in New York.   Sam Huff was 6’1”, 230 lbs.

NFL Films was developing at the same time led by Steve Sabol.  Narrated by John “The Voice of Doom”  Facenda.  One of the most popular vignettes they produced each year was The Nutcracker Suite which was a montage of especially violent hits set to classical music.   Fans LOVED IT.   Coaches LOVED IT.  Players LOVED IT and vied to be featured among the hardest-hitters in the NFL.   

For the record..... in 1960, when America met Sam Huff’s Violent World, Lawrence Taylor was one year old.  A few years later in the late 60s, another NFL linebacker named Chris Hanburger (UNC’64) was popularly nicknamed “The Hangman” for his violent horse-collar tackles.  In the 70s, there was Jack Tatum aka “The Assassin”.  Jack hit a New England wide receiver Darryl Stringer and paralyzed him for life.   I don’t recall if a penalty was called on the play.

In 1964, NY Giant QB YA Tittle was memorialized in an iconic photo following a perfectly legal hit by Pittsburgh's John Baker (later to be Sheriff of Wake County).   Tittle suffered a concussion and cracked sternum on the play.  That photo, and the earlier Sam Huff documentary and NFL Films, helped to elevate “pro football” to America’s most popular spectator sport.

On Nov 18, 1985 (on Monday Night Football) America witnessed "the hit that, in ESPN polling, was the runaway winner as the most shocking moment in NFL history".  Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theisman's leg in another perfectly legal "hit" that both players and league officials never questioned was "simply part of the game".

What about any of the above would not clue anyone in to the reality that football is a very violent game where the likelihood of being seriously injured on every play is very high?

Today’s players at the “big time” college and NFL level are bigger, stronger, faster than ever before.  The pure physics of their collisions are therefore greater and more likely to have negative effects upon any number of human body parts including the brain.  That said, I doubt the “could get badly hurt” factor is all that higher today than it was 50 years ago.   It was abnormally high then..... and now.  

At that same time all across America, kids were even playing “tackle football” on sandlots without any equipment whatsoever.   In my town we had the annual turkey bowl on Thanksgiving where a bunch of teenage boys would gather on a local playground and essentially play rugby although we didn’t know that’s what it approximated.  "Protective padding" was "wearing two sweatshirts". 

A neighborhood sociopath named Jack Medley organized the bloodbath.  Jack had that same 1,000 yard stare in his malevolent eyes as Chris Hanburger.  Wonder what ever happened to Jack Medley?

Looking back, I guess taking part in that was a rite of passage of some sort to avoid being labeled “a sissy”.  Being given an interactive tour of Sugar Hill – our local “red light district” might have been less dangerous physically if not emotionally.  Some of my buddies may have done both.

Jumping ahead to 2013..... The American version of Football in now under siege as being “too dangerous”.   Former players are developing life threatening maladies from the latent ramifications of an activity they willingly chose to participate in.  In the new American Way they want to blame some deep-pocketed higher authority for not telling them that their “sport” was incredibly dangerous.

Our litigious society wants to put football in the category of “lead paint”..... “asbestos”..... and “smoking cigarettes”.   If I was a trial lawyer wishing to own my own G-550 and/or a beachfront manse in Maui I suppose I would jump on this bandwagon too.  A class-action suit representing “everyone who ever played college or pro football” could generate serious 30% commission.

Let me hesitate here.  I do sympathize with former NFL players of the 50-60-70s who are not receiving the pension benefits of more recently retired players.  I’m not sure how that inequity can/should be resolved but “respecting those who were the foundation” of the current popularity of the sport seems “the right thing to do”.

I certainly appreciate parents (or a POTUS) who are saying “I don’t want my son (or daughter in today’s gender-neutral society ??) to play football".  I don’t believe there should be any macho stigma attached to not playing.  There are aplenty of other activities where the valuable lessons of competition, team play, “thrill of victory – agony of defeat”, et al can be developed.    

If a child “wants to play” and the parent says “no” that is an intra-family matter.... not unlike a budding equestrian daughter having a tantrum because daddy won’t buy her a pony.    Should “the guvmint” mandate “a pony in every backyard”? 

Our "Kid" was/is a "girly girl".  Our family council decisions involved the investment potential of beanie babies and "the appropriate age for ear piercing".

The NFL Draft bears no resemblance to the "selective service" draft where 18 y/os were rounded up off street corners and soda shops, handed M-1s and ordered to storm Omaha Beach or wade thru a booby-trapped rice paddy.  No one has ever "run off to Canada" or cut off a toe to avoid The NFL Draft.  To NOT be drafted by the NFL is a life-defining disappointment.  As is not receiving a college "scholarship" to play big time college football.  

As with most perplexing socio-cultural issues everyone will choose the category of concern that best exemplifies “their ox” in this ditch.   

Fans in the stands or in their La-Z-Boys still salivate over The Nutcracker Suite circa 2013.  So long as “our favorite player” doesn’t get paralyzed or vegetabilize..... who cares?

The NFL likes lots of happy enthusiastic fans however they count them.  Would NFL execs, ESPN suits and team owners (aka “eeeeevil greedy owners”) still be “fat cats” if the NFL and/or football was banned or radically reconfigured?   Sure they would.

The NFL players kinda like making millions of $$$$ playing the sport they have chosen as their occupation.   For most of them the alternative is..... well there are no occupational alternatives for most of them.   But THAT is another socio-cultural issue for another day.

Where do YOU come down on The Future of Football?


As has become “a BobLee Super Bowl Tradition”..... Blondie and I will watch either a James Bond marathon or an HGTV / DIY marathon until five minutes before kick-off then turn on “the game”.   Whether I will watch halftime anticipating a Beyonce wardrobe malfunction is yet to be decided.   How about you?

WARNING: DO NOT watch the Go-Daddy commercial with SI swimsuit model Bar Rafaeli and the geek.  You've been warned.....  YUCK !!!

FWIW:  Our favorite political gadfly - AgentPierce - has REALLY kicked over some ant hills this week.  I swear that boy just can't stay outta trouble..... heheheeee.
Posted: February 02, 2013 at 9:10 AM by SaidWHATMedia | with 16 comments

All Comments To Be Approved By Moderator

Hill in ILM
BL: I enjoyed seeing you speak in ILM last week. I had to leave before I could say thanks for all the laughs. Best.

BL: Thanks. Great Group! Dont forget ".... in the tennis shop at Hope Valley Country Club." :-)
2/4/2013 8:14:38 AM

Sugar Hill, Eunice's court & the Cadillac Motel. Talk about bringing back memories. I remember delivering oxygen to Ms. Eunice in her later years. However, once my mother realized what a young 16 year old did in his job I was taken off the delivery schedule. I also remember when Ms. Eunice's place finally closed down. My Physical Education teacher at the time was a young coach Ed Emory. He made the comment that Ms. Eunice should be allowed to stay open because she provided a community service in that she reduced the number of teen pregnancies. Some of his students told their parents and Ed got called into the office. But he laughed it off and told us even the parents knew it to be the truth.

If the Global Transpark could only reach the success of Ms. Eunice's place.

BL: Pretty sure yours is the first Internet missive to combine Eunice's Court & GlobalTransPark. The public got "screwed" by both but "with a smile" at Eunice's.
2/4/2013 8:08:37 AM

Certainly a serious topic..... Football just doesn't make sense to me anymore, probably never did, but it sure was fun to play.
Maybe reducing the padding, going back to leather helmets without face masks, address tackling and change to a semblance of rugby rules football--more arm tackling, less collisions. Don't thin Nike and Wilson and Adidas would cotton to less-expensive armament, though. As kids, we loved to bundle up after a snowfall and play tackle football wearing several layers of clothes including quilted jackets--skinny little me playing big Jim Taylor running through the center of the line, my friends piling on......Such harmless fun.....

My daughter played that communist sport and refused to head the ball anymore after reading in a magazine article of a Bundesliga study over a 20 year period in which German "footballers" were losing IQ at an alarming rate--attributable to balls in flight (head balls). Even though back then I cautioned that the truth might lie in career accumulation of post game Becks and St. Pauli's. But FIFA addressed the head trauma issue and redesigned the balls so that they were less dense and not water soluble, and left the bars and beer gardens alone. And Nike happily designed new balls to replace the old ones.......

A different perspective today as I am in Phomn Penh where I watched the Super Bowl at 6AM this morning over flap jacks with Log Cabin Syrup and scrambled eggs and OJ--I rarely eat Western food so it was a treat.......My friend Greg an oil driller from Texas owns the Lone Star Bar and Guest House on Street 23 off Street 172 in downtown Phnom Penh......Place was packed with American football fans.......I bought a ten dollar square drawing two 9's and gave-up at halftime for a little more shuteye, needing a pair of safeties and a touchdown and a missed extra point.......

Won't be long before little leaguers will be armed like Barry Bonds at the plate......Remember sitting on an unprotected bench (no fence or dugout back then) at the JC Park as a nine-year old Bryan Cooper third baseman and getting hit by my teammate's hard liner right into my left thigh leaving a dark, purplish tattoo of the baseball seam, a wound that I wore with great pride for several weeks.......Facing an up-and-in fastball as a youngster or as a 90 lb. midget league footballer awaiting a lumbering fullback 30 pounds bigger barrelling down on you develops the kind of temerity and courage that shy little boys need as they scamper through the scary days of growing up.

Been traveling--off to Bali for about five weeks tomorrow......Enjoy reading both BobLee and Agent Pierce .......Is the new governor going to address the "freshmen" issue? Can you say "midget" league? :-)

BL: "Watched the Super Bowl at an American bar in Phnom Penh" - if I had a nickle for everytime I've heard that one !! - Was it named "Rick's" and had a piano player named Sam who would "play it again"?

Were Beyonce's thighs as impressive from where you were watching?

One aspect of the local scene of note - Jim Goodmon has replaced Frank Daniels as Raleigh's most in-your-face Liberal media mogul.... as AgentPierce frequently notes.
2/4/2013 4:12:35 AM

Dr Dale
Bob Lee,
I remember playing tackle football as a first grader in elementary school expected to tackle an 8th grader during recess. As we got older, we would play tackle on weekends. And especially in the rain and snow. Great memories and believe it or not, no one got hurt.

BL: There is a theory that too much protection leads to more aggressive hitting. Maybe everyone should just wear jeans and a ragged sweatshirt ??
2/3/2013 8:08:49 PM

The potential loss of limb(s), brain(s), life, is certainly a reality for anybody participating in a professional sport, collegiate sport, backyard sport. No one can actually put a price on any individual. We’d all like to think that we have some redeeming value no matter what it is we do every day. As you well know, our alma mater experienced the excruciating loss of an athlete about the time we were involved in that same athletic program. I suspect there are people today still very upset about that young man’s death, with justification. Anybody who doesn’t understand the loss that family, friends, employers, fellow players, coaches, etc. feel, most likely have not experienced such a loss first hand. You certainly do pose some interesting thoughts on the issue.
Allow me to add another more prevalent problem that professional athletes face. Many of them make incredibly huge sums of money and over half of them end up without any of their earnings 2-3 years after they had left the sport. Chances of making Football or any other sport obsolete because of such serious injuries are probably slim and none. As you point out, they make that choice. However, just a little education in how to deal with finances and with people would serve these athletes quite well. They need the financial education to help them understand what is good and what is bad in that arena. They need the people education to weed out the vipers who take advantage of so many of these athletes. They could and should take such courses, and take them seriously, if they really think they have a future in playing on television in their respective endeavor.
One man’s thought about today’s wonderful world.
Thanks for making us think a little now and then.

BL: The quick loss of their earnings thru ignorance & ego is a sad reality re: pro athletes. I don't see a solution to that.

In their mid-late 20s with no more $$$ and no longer able to capitalize on their one attribute - athletic prowess .... sad!
2/3/2013 4:29:23 PM

Interesting column. I watched in living color (had just bought our first color TV and got it set up for an NCAA game in Reynolds when Skywalker David Thompson (44) fell backwards over Phil Spence (I think - Phil was on the NCSU team) and looked like he was dead. My wife screamed that the new TV, which was NOT approved, had killed DT and I was responsible. I can get a notarized statement from her to that effect.
Then the other night, I watch Hairston collide with Strickland(?) and that fall was not quite as bad as DT's, but it looked ugly. THEN, in a city that purports to have liberals and universities and schools of medicine, they eventually let two of the Biscuit Boys try to carry him off and he collasped. THEN, the "learned" folks (from BC or UNC?) brought him back out into a brightly lit room and noisy environment and gave him a towel. Later on, he was removed (someone called and asked the team manager if they had EVER read what to NOT to do when a concussion was suspected) and he was taken to the locker room. He threw up (not good) and then they put him into a dark room and let his body recover. SO, BB is a dangerous sport....maybe POTUS will comment about it.
OPPS, this is about FB.....
The other commentors have nailed the stats. WHY is FB and FB injuries receiving so much "hype"? THE Vultures (er, Lawyers) are circling and they smell MONEY. Think of it.....suing for Jimmy Jones' franchise valued in the B's and all the OTHER franchises.....the 30% for that successful Venue, Kettle or Committee of Vultures would be a payday that little Johnny E would bow down to.
As an ex-Engineering Manager with a LOT of product liability experience and a few court appearances that I would love to forget, but the nightmares still haunt me, the LAWYERS are calling all the shots on the NFL's position on violence. One of the members of one of the teams still playing was quoted the other night on ESPN after he was fined for a legal, but HARD hit, was that the SUITS in the office (Lawyers and administrators) were just watching the films (actually there is NO film, everthing is more correctly VIDEO) and handing out fines....and that they, as Howard said, "Had Never PLAYED the Game".
In the SAME crawler, ESPN mourned the death of the X-Games young snowmobiler who "hooked the tip of his snowmobile in the ramp" as he tried to show how much speed and physical skill and lack of knowledge of Newtonian physics by trying to do a barrel roll turn.
Now THAT is a "sport" that needs some POTUS advice. BUT WAIT.....ESPN owned by Disney and having the key word "ENTERTAINMENT" in it is beloved by all liberals and no one would cast dispersion on publicizing it.
I also think back to the BobSledder that was killed after several accidents where the course was laid out, again, in defiance of Physics, but the On Sled footage was absolutel MAHVALOUS....THRILLING.....EXHILERATING....whatever.
I played football wearing a helmet that you could almost fold in you went to the varsity squad, you got a REAL plastic pot.
I also played Bumpety-Bump before school, during recess and at lunch in High School. Believe me, playing football with pad on Friday night was a piece of cake compared to being the POST in a Bumpety-Bump game when there were two or three high over the "fence" and the next guy up was a high jumping fool that weighed 200 pounds.....I think that I still have the bruises.

My SIL played HS football. My GS was in Pop Warner this year. It will be his decision as to next year. He will NOT be a Scholarship player....he does better in round ball, but that sometimes is worse.
HOW did we survive? More importantly, how did we let the Liberal's survive?

BL: Basketball is "a contact sport". Football is "a collision sport". No clue what freestyle snowmobiling is. .... and a Liberal politician is far more "dangerous" than a headhunting roided' up linebacker.
2/2/2013 10:26:27 PM

Ben in MO
It seems to me that the WWF mentality/attitude connected with most major sports today turns off a certain segment of the population, while at the same time energizing other segments. Obviously, the segment that is energized is also the one that spends more money on their obsession, so it is the "board monkeys" who determine the direction sports media will take. Sports media collect those dollars and dispense them to colleges, universities, etc. to ensure the continuation of board monkeys drug of choice. That is "lowest common denominator" social determinism in a nutshell. During the "golden age" of televised sports, the adults still held sway, but the slope was slippery early on. Now almost all media (sports, movies, video games and tv included) are aimed at either 12-year-old girls and their romantic fantasies, or 14-year-old boys and their macho/erotic fantasies. It will get worse before it gets better.

BL: Ben, that is an AWESOMELY accurate description of the situation. :-)
2/2/2013 6:09:24 PM

Maybe the social engineers of the Left will prevail and America will disavow football and its inherent violence and coddle to soccer where the violence is in the stands and on the streets during and after the games..
Just a thought.

BL: POTUS says "send women into combat" but "don't let boys play football" ?????
2/2/2013 2:34:32 PM

BC in PV
BobLee, interesting topic to say the least! As you know, I officiated football at various levels for 37 years. I am grateful that although my sons are big football fans, I am glad they chose soccer and basketball as their sports. Each played “flag football” on teams in college [sort of like our sandlot days]. Watching the collisions of today’s games [when fulfilling recording duties for Jaguar games] coupled with the maniacal “kill” demeanors of many players, I am very glad they chose sports other than football. And, frankly, I am not interested in whoever wins the game but I am totally turned off by ESPN and other media and their worship of Ray Lewis!!

BL: The "It's All About Ray Lewis" is simply another media over-saturation / play to a mind-numb audience.

Is the awareness of the dangers of football a black/white thing with "whites" being more aware?

BC in PV: BobLee, it may be a case of white players “caring” more. I know that many of the black players in Florida came from very poor backgrounds and learned early that sports may be a way out and for a while the paydays are huge As we know, for everyone that makes it there are many others who don’t. For the ones that do, the ride is often short lived Also, there is that old “invincible” feeling that most young people about everything they do which begins to wear off as they gradually mature. To some of them the fame and money that comes is more addictive than the worst of drugs. I know Tony Boselli and he recently stated that even with all of the surgeries [shoulders numerous times, replaced knees, hips] and despite the fact that he walks like he is 70 instead of late 30’s, he would do it all over again! Financially he is set for life, but physically he is a wreck! Also, he is white, has his degree and is bright!!

2/2/2013 12:25:55 PM

Queen City
I grew up without sitting in a car seat, drank soda, ate chips and played football when water breaks during practice were considered wimpy. I think the NFL and football in general is safer than X-Games snow-mobile jumping!! I doubt kids today are outside playing tackle football, although I thought we were supposed to encourage exercise and fitness??

BL: Excellent point about X-Games and Extreme Sports !!! A guy died at X-games this year.
2/2/2013 12:22:00 PM

Some of my fondest memories were playing football after school in the field across from Chick Herring's fix-it shop. I get teary eyed every time I hear Kenny Chesney's "The Boys of Fall". I remember details of high school games and practices from 40+ years ago - so there is some emotional connection. But the Super Bowl is maybe the only pro game I watch all the way through and even now I can't tell you anything about last year's game.

BL: What about the actual playing of the NFL game has turned you off to it as TV entertainment?
2/2/2013 12:14:05 PM

Jack Medley now there is a blast from the past. I had totally forgotten about him. I think he was in the John Laws era?

When I worked for JE Hood and Co., Inc I used to deliver narcotic Rx drugs to some of the ladies of the evening Sugar Hill chicks, that were still alive in the 60's. These ladies were the only residents in town who ever tipped me. Just saying...Good article...MMF

BL: Did you ever deliver sterno to the "smokedrinkers" in Happersville?

Jack Medey was Eddie Haskell to John's Wally Cleaver.
2/2/2013 11:35:42 AM

Nice in
We are the United State of Sisified blame casting victims. It gets more depressing with each entry.

BL: Normally I would agree totally but this has a different angle to it.... imo.
2/2/2013 11:31:29 AM

I can't wait until the nannies figure out that some 3000 people die from food poisoning every year, and move to ban food (veggies are much more hazardous than meat, btw). 600-800 people die on a bicycle every year. The last I heard there were, what, 15 football deaths? Granted, the head injuries need to be looked at, and every college freshman needs to see what a retired pro in his 50's looks like due to old injuries -- but even the most injured of retired players would give their right arm to play just one more down!

BL: I'm not sure about that "just one more play" bet.... which is what makes this a very interesting and substantive debate.
2/2/2013 11:02:39 AM

This comment totally not about football or the subject of the post, but you did bring back a memory. My father one day when I was taking him back home from a doctor's appointment in your hometown asked me to drive through a particular part of town next to the river. He then reminisced about coming there selling tobacco and well knowing what went on in "Sugar Hill". We drove around a few blocks with him pointing out houses and just what they were "back then" . Needless to say as a young 20 year old I was listening intently, but wondering just how he knew about the activities inside. Never asked and never discussed it again.

BL: Do you recall Eunice's Court in Hapersville? I was in school w/ Eunice's daughter.
2/2/2013 11:01:21 AM

Obviously, football is dangerous.

I think the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) issue is a bit different from the football injuries we're used to contemplating, though. We've known that old boxers can get punch-drunk (dementia pugilistica, a form of CTE) for decades if not centuries at this point, but with medical advances in just the last several years (and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are producing a lot of closed-head trauma) we've got more information than we've ever had before about just how dangerous a history of repetitive traumatic head injuries can be... and none of it looks good.

Many of the rules of boxing changed to make it safer for the participants; amateurs still wear protective headgear.

I have heard it argued that from the perspective of CTE, improved helmets and padding and so forth may have made it *more* dangerous for players, not less, by making it possible to tackle much harder. But there may be ways to alter the equipment or the rules that don't alter the game too much, but make it somewhat safer for players.

I'm betting the future of football will come down, long-term, to how possible/feasible it is to get insurance coverage for middle-school and high-school athletic programs. That looks none too certain to me right now.

BL: If it gets curtailed at the Youth level, the developmental pipeline gets pinched and extinction is a matter of when not if.

So.... does a 7-8 y/o Pop Warner rookie have the "right" to put himself at risk... or be put at risk by a parent wanting s football hero for a son regardless of the risk factor ???
2/2/2013 10:42:54 AM

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