The hot topic in football right now is concussions and brain injuries. President Obama is the latest high-profile person to weigh in on the topic, and he expressed serious concerns about the sport.
Speaking to Franklin Foer and Chris Hughes of The New Republic, Obama was asked if he takes "less pleasure in watching football, knowing the impact that the game takes on its players":
...I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.
Obama did say that he is more concerned about football at the college level than the NFL because of the structure and organization between the players at the professional level:
You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.
That is a great point that not a lot of people seem to talk about. With the family of Junior Seau filing a wrongful-death lawsuit against the NFL, there are now 199 lawsuits that have been filed by former players against the league for physical and mental problems.
Since there is no union in college football, it almost turns into an every-man-for-himself sport. When you are a part of the university and you get hurt on the field, there are going to be doctors there to treat you.
But once you are gone, who is there to help you? Remember, only a tiny fraction of all college players actually end up in the NFL. Their earning potential is not nearly as great as players moving to the NFL, meaning their insurance is not going to cover as much unless they are willing/able to pay for a premium package.
As much fun as we have at the expense of the NFL for weakening the game by throwing a flag when a player makes a hard hit over the middle, it is being done for a reason. This is a dangerous, unnatural game.
When you think about football, the purpose is to move the ball without having someone drive you into the ground with all their force and might. It is basically a glorified version of boxing or mixed martial arts.
Plus, the NFL has condoned these kinds of dangerous hits in the past. If you do a search on Amazon, there are old videos for sale about the NFL's "Greatest Hits" and "Hardest Hits."
The league has obviously gotten rid of these highlight videos as we have learned more about concussions and brain issues, but the fact that there was a point when the league highlighted them, not to mention that we still see all the big ones in highlight packages and replays, does feed the beast.
Hearing Obama say that he would have trepidation about allowing his son, if he had one, to play football should not be a surprise. Any parent should think long and hard about letting his or her child play this game, because it is not safe.
Give the NFL credit for trying to make it safer by penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits and other dangerous elements of the game, but the game will never be completely safe because you still have one player trying to smash the other player as hard as possible to prevent him from scoring.