I know he's not everybody's particular brand of vodka, but I love Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe has spent a lot of the season (and now the offseason) getting attention for things other than his punting—whether it's for his video game playing, his advocacy of marriage equality or his harsh criticism for those involved in the Saints Bounty scandal, Kluwe is not what you'd term a shy individual.
Dear Commissioner. I was curious about what you thought on the role of traumatic injury in the NFL, and the dichotomy between making the game safer versus giving the fans the hard hits and satiated bloodlust they so clearly desire. It seems to me that a lot of the popularity of the game boils down to the fact that there is that risk of injury, so I guess what I'm essentially asking is how are you going to balance that going forward without people feeling like you're never going to give them up, or never going to let them down?
Please note the very sly "RickRoll" at the end of the question there.
As always, as much as Kluwe tries to be funny, he also has a serious point which the humor takes nothing away from.
There is always a certain amount of concern regarding the nature of the NFL and how it might change given the evidence we keep finding of post-football damage and trauma.
The fining of big hits, the difficulty of calling those penalties evenly, the hard task defenders have of hitting anyone with the ball—all these things have caused both players and fans to wonder where the NFL is going and what it will look like.
Kluwe's question (even with a "rickroll") is a valid one and more than a few people commenting on the thread echoed his concerns (although not nearly as many who merely enjoyed the joke).
Goodell did answer Kluwe (though I have no idea if he knew who he was talking to and doubt he got the joke at the end of the question)—unfortunately, it wasn't exactly much of an answer.
The game of football has always been tough and always will be. Even before the NFL was founded, President Teddy Roosevelt called the college presidents in to make sure that the safety issues of the game were addressed since there had been 17 deaths in 1905 alone. From there came the first and ten, forward pass and the inception of the NCAA. Since then, the game has flourished while sticking to the fundamentals of fair and competitive football. Our football coaches and executives wanted to bring the game back to the fundamentals of tackling and blocking. We have seen some of the best NFL football in our history during this season's playoffs. Hope we finish with another great one on Sunday.
And actually if you follow that link, Goodell talked a lot about player safety and changes to the game. I don't know if they were all good answers (and I didn't read all the questions to be honest) but he at least made some effort.
As for his "psuedo-answer" as I call it, yes he's right. The game has changed many times and will continue to change. Forget the concussion issues of recent years, even without those problems, the NFL would have changed.
On the other hand, Kluwe didn't ask for a football history lesson, but an answer to the concerns we all have for the game and the future of it.
Ultimately though, the game today is much different than what was played in the 1970s, which was barely recognizable when matched with the game from the 1940's. And so on and so on.
The changes we see in the NFL are a little off-setting to be sure. However, ultimately changes will come. They always come.
Here's hoping we can preserve the game we love while finding a way to protect the players who allow us to enjoy it so much.
Meanwhile, like Jon Stewart, perhaps it takes the NFL's resident loudmouth (and comedian) to ask the questions we want to ask, if not get the answers.