Kill 'Em Hard: Big Hits, Bad Behavior Paralyze Future of NFL (Part Two)
Continued from Part One
Juice It Up
The attribute of steroid abuse has also played a large role in player deaths and permanent disabling injury. Since its inception in 1931, there have been over 1,500 fatalities resulting from participation in organized football.
That’s right; many retired NFL players are dying from a never-ending plethora of hits that they have received on the field. The average NFL career lasts about four years and the injuries experienced by players are often permanent, cause severe pain, and require life-long treatment.
To add insult to injury (pun intended) let’s take a look at the role of steroids in this scenario. Players juice to get bigger and faster, so they can hit harder and better—essentially to hurt opposing players. This is one aspect of the sport that should be addressed immediately.
First of all, players should use their god-given abilities to succeed on the field, not a chemical substance that only increases the likelihood of violent behavior.
Bill Romanowski, for example, attributes his despicable behavior on the field to his long-time abuse of steroids.
On-field altercations involving “Romocop” include but are not limited to: kicking Arizona Cardinals fullback Larry Centers in the head; a helmet-to-helmet hit on Carolina Panthers Quarterback Kerry Collins (Collins was left with a broken jaw); spitting in the face of 49ers Wide Receiver J.J. Stokes; and numerous other illegal hits that garnered fines, but rarely suspension.
On one occasion, he attacked and ended the career of one of his own teammates, Marcus Williams, during a scrimmage in which Romanowski ripped off Williams’ helmet and crushed his eye socket with a single blow. Players claim that Romocop was suffering from “roid rage” and Williams, who was awarded $340,000 for the incident, says that he and his lawyer “just wanted to prove what is right and wrong about football.”
From my standpoint, Williams should have been awarded a seven figure sum, holding the team liable for endangering other players by teaming them up with a player who was mentally unstable and morally psychotic.
Players like Romanowski should have been imprisoned or at the very least banned for life from the game of football for the wild and criminal-like behavior he displayed on the field.
Instead, he is enshrined as one of the greatest and most valued linebackers in the history of the game. But where would he have been without the hard hits fostered by steroid use?
This guy exemplifies everything that is wrong with the game and players like Bill are the reason why, unless changed, the rules (or lack thereof) of organized football will inevitably lead to its downfall.
Bringing Down the House
Romocop has admitted to head-hunting, breaking fingers, and even biting players at the bottom of dog piles. While he and players like him have been revered in the football world, my rational sense of human compassion leads me to believe that players like this should be banned from the league, forever.
Now I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe that the league (at the very least) should institute policies that make helmet-to-helmet and other unnecessary hits punishable by season-long suspensions.
A helmet-to-helmet tackle should be completely illegal regardless of the situation. If a player violates the rule, they should be suspended for the entire season and, in certain cases, banned from the league.
The aim here is not to handicap defensive players, or to sabotage the excitement and intrigue that so defines the sport—the goal is to protect the lives of athletes.
Surely Ray Lewis can and will tackle with ferocious intensity, but if he slips and goes helmet-to-helmet with another player (with the consequence that both players could receive severe brain damage), he needs to pay the consequence—suspend him for the season, fine him, do whatever it takes to make sure that players on the field are protected and their counterparts get the message that they aren’t getting paid to injure people.
The sad truth is that violence is so entrenched into the game of football that it begs the question of whether or not the sport could survive without it. Even the mere rules of the game imply that violence, aggression, and power are probably the most important aspect to winning. The object is, nevertheless, to tackle the person with the ball. Not tag, not shove, tackle.
The bottom line, though, is that players should fear punishment from over-the-top hits, not dance around the rules.
Again, hard hitting is part of the game, but if the NFL wants to survive into the 21st century (with the likes of baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, and other less-violent sports) Commissioner Goodell needs to implement a series of regulations and precautions against potentially career-ending tackles.
Rather than feel entitled by one’s on-field dominance and ruthless tactics, players should feel lucky to be on the field with other great athletes on such a large stage, and they should respect the lives and health of teammates and opponents alike, regardless of a paycheck.
I feel the game could be better off if players competed with moral respect for one another, rather than try to kill each other.
Certainly players should still try their hardest when out on the field, but hard and intense play should not come as a consequence to players dying off the field because of the cerebral hits they received or dished out to other athletes on the field.
I will be the first to condone the idea that professional athletes should always put forth their best effort. That is why professional sports is what it is: because great athletes train and play harder and faster than normal folks. They bring it all to the field and leave nothing, and no player exemplifies this better than Ray Lewis.
A hard hitting defense is probably the most prized possession in football, but these players are ruining the game by playing too aggressively.
Am I arguing that players should lighten up on the field and ease up on plays? Certainly not. But I believe the level of aggressiveness (the cultivation of which begins and ends with coaching) needs to be toned down a few notches.
After all, the idea is to “tackle” the quarterback, not kill him.
But this is precisely the mindset that coaches teach their young players. I for one would not want my son to grow up learning that he must destroy the on-field careers of opposing players only to further his own. I would rather he learn the values of sportsmanship, compassion, and the notion that while winning may be the most important thing in sports, it surely isn’t everything.
In any event, the penalty for unnecessary roughness should be more severe. Like Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher said regarding the Haynesworth-Stomping incident: there is no place in the game for that kind of behavior.
If Commissioner Goodell imposed a minimum two-game suspension as punishment for all unnecessary roughness calls, I believe we would see fewer injuries out on the field, or at the very least it might keep the future Bill Romanowskis in check.
Maybe I’m wrong about this entire thing. Maybe violence is so entrenched into the sport because it is an inevitable product of the way it is played.
If this is true, then I feel bad for all the hardcore NFL fans out there, because your favorite sport has a troubled future ahead.
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