I love football. It is by far my favorite sport to watch. I'm a huge NFL nut and lifelong Miami Dolphin fan. But since having a son I've never really thought he was going to play the sport.
I'm not posting this because of what just happened to Junior Seau, that just reminded me of my thinking for the past few years, despite the joy it gives me to play "hike" with Carter and Evie in the backyard.
I did play football in high school… for one spring. Yes, a spring. During one practice the coaches mixed JV and Varsity and had each player do a one on one drill where you try to tackle the ball carrier. I was put against the star fullback, who for all intents and purposes was similar in size to Mike Alstott. I hadn’t really bulked up by this point in my adolescence either.
Whistle blows…well that was all I could remember after my JV teammates picked me up off the grass.
I was a smart kid with good grades and was just starting to work on the school paper, which required some afterschool hours. I certainly wasn't a gifted athlete but could’ve started if I worked hard. After that hit in practice it didn't take me long to figure out it was probably smarter to pursue something that might serve me in the future.
And that is why I don’t see how I would have my son play football. Everyone reading this is probably aware of the science coming out about concussions but I just keep thinking one thing: The part of the body that leads to most people's lifelong success is between their ears. Why put it in the line of fire at a time when it’s still developing?
Even if you’re a pro athlete, the best ones have a mix of skill and brains. For everyone else in the world the brain is everything. Unless you’re a celebrity. You're not going to get hired in the workforce because you played high school or even college football. You're going to need skills that are taught in a classroom or learned through experience. You're not going to get promoted if you can't process information well and execute on it.
Sure, you can get life lessons from organized sports – there are others than football out there too – but they can be learned elsewhere. Want your kid to exercise? I played pick-up basketball, beach volleyball and even worked out at a gym when I was a teenager. My son can too. Well minus the beach sports here in Chicago I guess.
So why would I want him playing football when the greatest to play the game can’t remember what room they’re in like Terry Bradshaw, or end up even more tragically like Seau?
It's sad because I love the sport. I love watching it. I love teaching Carter, and Evie, about the rules. I love yelling "Touchdoooooown!" when they run past me with the ball. But thinking about Carter playing the “real” sport freaks me out a bit.
I heard a few major names on ESPN radio say they wouldn't let their kids play the sport and that the NFL may actually suffer down the line as other parents think the same thing, shrinking the pool of potential talent.
I wonder what other dads are thinking about it right now. Is it overprotective to think this way?