Football is a brutal sport. We all know this to be true. The National Football League recently took steps to make it less so, but the fact remains that one of the main objectives of the sport is for one player to wrestle the player holding the ball to the ground. When I think of football in this way, as opposed to a calculated effort to mix a ground attack with precise passes in order to reach the end zone, I can't help but wonder why exactly this sport is so popular. Don't get me wrong—I'm a fan of the game and I enjoy watching every weekend, but there are times when the game frustrates me.
Since it seems to be the hot topic of the week, I will begin with the issue of helmet-to-helmet hits. First of all, I disagree with the naming that term. Call it what it is: a headbutt. I don't care if you're wearing a helmet or not; launching oneself at an opposing player while leading with the head is a glorified headbutt. Rams and deer do this when they both want to mate with the same female. And now we have grown men doing this because another man is holding an oblong ball. Seems a little silly, don't you think? But that's the nature of the game, or at least it's what they tell us is the nature of the game. Players have been doing this for years and in doing so, they make it on the highlight reels. And now, just now, the NFL wants to put an end to it. And how do they plan on doing this? Through penalties and fines. Give me a break. On the college circuit, all of the Rutgers football program is looking on, waiting to see if one of its players will ever walk again, ever move his arms again, and an acceptable punishment for inflicting that pain is to move the ball backwards 45 feet? Really?
Of course, that's in college, so the player who put this poor kid in his current state can't be fined. I'll tell you what is going to happen to him, though. He's going to be drafted into the NFL because of his ability to deliver crippling hits. Is no one else bothered by that? Does it strike anyone as wrong that after the college bowl season when it's Mel Kiper's time to shine, he will have this kid listed as one of the top defenders in the country? Defender—that's a funny way of putting it. Hitting a person in a vulnerable position while he has no means of retaliation is not defense. People want to condemn the United States for invading Iraq unprovoked, but apparently holding a ball is enough to get a person paralyzed from the neck down. That makes sense.
Back to Mel Kiper for a second. How does one get a job like that? His sole purpose in life is to predict when young men will be drafted and by which team. That's all. Then the actual, non-mock-draft happens and he comments on how puzzled he is that players didn't go in the exact order he predicted. What the hell is the point? It's just more of this idiotic obsession with football. Why does ESPN show NFL Live year-round? Baseball Tonight gets a half hour during the baseball season. I'm not even sure NBA Shootaround is on every day during basketball season. People need to take a step back. Let football go back to being what is actually is—a game. I watch college football, but I am certainly not obsessed with where Jake Locker is going to play next season. I can recognize that he is probably the best quarterback in college right now. I don't need Mel Kiper to tell me that, and I certainly don't need to know in February who might draft him in April. Let things play out. The same goes for the four-hour pregame shows. Chris Berman and his team of retired players, while entertaining, do nothing for me. So you think the Cowboys are going to bounce back this week. Who cares? We'll find out when they play the game.
As for helmet-to-helmet hits, there is a simple fix. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but I heard Mike Ditka say it a few years back. Here's what you do to stop players from leading with their heads: take the face mask off of every player's helmet. I guarantee you James Harrison won't be so quick to smash his face against another player's helmet when it is sure to shatter his nose. What's the point of the face mask anyway? It is illegal to grab it, illegal to even put your hands on it, so why have it at all? I'm sure that a broken nose is better than a concussion, certainly better than paralysis. Good call, Coach. Maybe one day some of the NFL's higher-ups will listen to you. I did.