Last weekend, before the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio, there was a big flap over Junior Seau’s posthumous induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. Seau, a middle linebacker for the SanDiego Chargers, took his life on May 2, 2012 amid speculation that he was troubled by brain damage due to CTE, a condition traced to concussion-related brain damage with depression as a symptom. After submitting Seau’s brain for study, the family sued the NFL over the brain injuries suffered over his career, claiming that NFL does not provide enough information and protection for its players.
In so many ways, the whole concussion controversy that is currently dogging the NFL is hypocritical all the way round. Let’s face it. Football is an incredibly violent game. We cannot dispute that fact. So, concussions and injuries are going to occur. There are a number of things the league can do to lessen the violence and protect players, but the nature of the game itself is violent, and that’s not going to change, unless we get rid of helmets, eliminate tackling, and put the players in flag belts. As those in rugby, boxing, rock climbing, and skydiving – Junior Seau new the risks of playing the sport he loved. Did it lead to his death? Probably so. Should the league recognize that fact about the game? Yes. Should the league be held responsible for Seau’s death. Absolutley not. I wish Seau’s family all the best. May Junior Seau rest in peace. However, to sue the NFL for what is obvious to all is hypocritical and duplicitous.
We all – players, families, owners, and fans – must face the reality that professional football is an incredibly violent game. That’s why America loves it. Injuries are going to happen. Concussions cannot be avoided. In the NFL, fans know that they are watching action, danger, and intrigue – without CGI or special effects. Fans are watching a group of men who are paid large amounts of money to put their lives on the line to win a game… and America finds it exhilirating. Is that a good thing? I can’t say. But I can say, that the NFL reflects who we are as a country. There is a reason that the British love tennis and cricket while we love football, mixed martial arts, and action movies like Mad Max and Terminator. So, concussions and injuries be hanged. After the last professional football game is played in February, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, fans know the NFL will say with a wry smile, “I’ll be back.” And the NFL knows that America will be waiting with open arms.