I grew up with football. I played in a tough city league in 6, 7 and 8th grade. Practices were long and hard and most of the exercises the coaches pushed us through were wrong and hard on our bodies. We used to “duck walk” around the field. We would actually squat on our haunches and walk…probably the hardest and dumbest thing you could force your knees to do. Our coaches didn’t know better.
In High School practices got longer and tougher and when we did the “2-a-days” in August, the Indiana humidity took its toll on many of the guys. We took salt tablets and drank lots of water but every day one or two guys keeled over. Again, our coaches didn’t know any better…taking salt tablets was stupid. They can damage the lining of your stomach and make one nauseous and bring on vomiting which totally dehydrates a player. We didn’t have electrolytes replacement drinks, like Gatorade.
My father and I shared the autumn Saturdays at Ross Ade Stadium watching the Purdue Boilermakers. Sunday’s were reserved for the NFL and the Chicago Bears.
I bring up these memories to explain how so much has changed to the game of football, which so many of us have loved and followed for decades. A particular event sticks in my mind that goes back to 1960. My dad was in shock. He couldn’t wait to show me a particular player with the Detroit Lions that season. He walked up to the little black and white screen and pointed at Roger Brown and said, “Look at the size of that big bastard, can you believe it?”
Roger Brown, 1960 Detroit Lions (later with the Rams) was the first NFL player to have a playing weight of 300 pounds. My dad couldn’t believe what it must feel like to a 175 pound running back being tackled by a guy that big.
Today, they TV lineups never tell you the size of the player like they used to. It would shock the fans. I had to check the Super Bowl rosters on line to get that kind of “secret” info. The 49rs (I report sadly in defeat) had 12 players over 300 pounds and 11 players between 250-300 pounds. The Ravens had 13 players over 300 and four of those were over 340 pounds. They also had 17 players between 250 and 300 pounds. These big guys are faster and stronger than any of the former NFL players of past decades.
That’s why brains are getting scrambled. The National Institutes of Health recently autopsied the brains of 34 deceased NFL players. 33 of those brains were diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the disease of Junior Seau who recently committed suicide. I believe my father, like myself, an avid football fan, would be slowly changing his mind about the NFL because of the brutality of NFL Monday nights, Thursday nights, Sunday afternoons and Sunday nights. Then there’s the brutality of the sales pitches of the half-naked bimbos trying to sell me weak-tasting beer and fast cars every few minutes. Also the obnoxious low-IQ commentators have to replay every two-yard plunge to explain what just happened.
Yeah, I could be a sore loser tonight, but I’m also saddened by the 4000 ex-NFL players that are suing the league for medical help. It’s pretty cut and dried now; if you play football you will suffer some brain damage. How much it will affect you later in life is a guess. I think two guys to watch closely are two well-spoken good looking heroes that were forced out of the game because of concussions. Troy Aikman and Steve Young are current football talking heads that are on every week. Pray that 20 years from now, they don’t suffer the horrifying effects of CTE.
I believe my father would not allow me to play the sport as a youngster today. I think this will happen to tens of thousands of youngsters over the next decade and the sport will change dramatically.
Remember boxing and horseracing?