“Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” — Albert Einstein.
When you read or hear about the problems that former football players are having with the aftermath of concussions that they suffered while playing the game, what goes through your mind? What do you think about the fact that this issue has been covered up for so long and even the results of head injuries among the high school football players (and even younger athletes) have not been given the attention they deserve? What do you think about the fans who get especially excited about particularly damaging tackles? Do you ever wonder just how far those in charge will go to draw in the violence-obsessed crowd and make big bucks for vested interests? Have you ever wondered why parents of young players who have suffered such injuries aren’t up in arms about the situation? And, finally, aren’t our young men more valuable to us than the perpetuation of such a vicious game?
I’ll never forget Sonny Zeck. He was a boy I knew in my class who played football for Orange Union High School in 1945. I was watching that day when, after a brutal tackle during scrimmage play, Sonny didn’t get up. He lay there a while and attempted to stand, but fell down again. Finally, he was assisted to the sideline with a coach on each side to hold him up. We learned that he suffered a concussion.
I remember wondering what such a traumatic head injury like that might do to a person. And then, when Sonny finished out the season, I thought he must be OK. A few years after I went off to college, I read in the Santa Ana Register that Sonny had died. Apparently, he had succumbed to spinal meningitis. Some said that he had never been quite the same since his football injury — that maybe his brain was more susceptible to the effects of meningitis because of it. Who knows? But still, to this day, every time I read or hear something about brain injuries suffered by football players, I think of Sonny. That was many years ago, but only recently have the effects of head injuries incurred while playing football began to be seriously investigated. Even, as recently reported by Bill Moyers on PBS, “subconcussive hits” can also cause brain and neck injury as football players frequently knock into each other and fall hard to the ground.
And yet, the American obsession with football and the resulting brain-rattling injuries continue as we sacrifice our boys and young men at the altar of this violent sport and athletic departments of educational institutions, along with corporate interests, continue to attempt to cover up their complicity and try to protect against any potential liability. In his Sept. 19 column, George Will reported that the label inside college football players’ helmets cautions: “No helmet system can protect you from serious brain or neck injuries including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not participate in the sport of football.” Outrageous!
And then there are the fans. Seems they just don’t care so long as they get their highs from watching young men display their machismo and risk serious injury while they scream and yell like they’re watching the Roman gladiators in the Coliseum destroy others just for entertainment. As fans lose themselves in the football mania, they must be in complete denial of the seriousness of the situation.
As Ann Killion wrote in her Sept. 15 San Francisco Chronicle column, “Crushing hits not something to cheer” about the “Woo” that fans roar after a “bone-jarring, head-snapping blow that takes out a player and is a staple of America’s favorite form of violence.” ... “The ‘Woo lick’ can be a death sentence. The wealth of evidence on concussions ... by an array of experts was chilling.” Ms Killion added: “Last month, the NFL settled lawsuits with 4,500 players for $765 million. ... The deal specifies that the NFL has no admission of liability.” And to add insult to injury, no one is allowed to see the research and reports they came up with when they studied the situation. What are they hiding?
“The Addictive System invites us to compromise our personal morality at every turn. Furthermore, it gives us all of the tools we need to do so. Self-centeredness, the illusion of control, abnormal thinking processes, denial, defensiveness, fear, frozen feelings and each of the other characteristics of that system are handed to us as ways to avoid being moral, responsible persons. They silence the voice inside us that speaks the truth.” — Anne Wilson Schaef, “When Society Becomes an Addict.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is email@example.com.