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NFL Football: You Cannot Eliminate Risk From the Game

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 17:  Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans is brought down by linebacker Jovan Belcher #59 and cornerback Brandon Flowers #24 at Reliant Stadium on October 17, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2010

Since when has the National Football League turned into one large game of chess?

As of right now, you can barely touch a quarterback, you can’t touch a kicker or punter at all, you can no longer hit a receiver anywhere above the chest and now—get this—the NFL is suspending players for just about all shots to the head.

Concussions are nothing to balk at, and we’re all aware of the permanent damage they can do to a man’s long-term quality of life.

You can call me gruff and insensitive, but this is football we are talking about here—a sport where vicious physical contact is as essential to the game as the football itself.  

A hard-hitting NFL linebacker such as Ray Lewis used to be able to greatly alter the outcome of the game through both physical and mental intimidation. 

Quarterbacks were always on the lookout for Lewis and receivers would rather climb Mt. Everest in a pair of boxer shorts than jump for a high pass across the middle while Lewis was anywhere on the field of play.

The guy was a one man wrecking machine and it was exciting to watch.

Fast forward a few years and that fear is virtually non-existent.

Quarterbacks might as well be wearing their red “no hit” practice jersey during regular season games and receivers might as well leave their helmets in the locker room.

No one wants to see an athlete injured and no one wants to see a guy unable to remember his name at the age of 50.

But everyone who ever picks up a football is well aware of the risks they face.

Skiers know they can die during a downhill race.

Race car drivers know they can die during the Daytona 500.

Basketball players know that they will more than likely be walking with a limp by the age of 45 due to the strain put on their knees.

Baseball players know that a 95 mph fastball to the face can cause serious damage and even death.

Even professional golfers know that they are likely to suffer from terrible back problems in their later years due to the wear and tear of the golf swing.

And NFL football players and NHL hockey players are aware of the fact that they may suffer concussions during the course of play.

This is not just limited to sports either.

Miners know they can be killed on the job.

Fighter pilots know they run a greater risk than most of dying in a horrific plane crash.

Cops and fire fighters know that they can be killed in the line of duty.

Actors know they can be killed while attempting stunts.

There are many professions where risk is a part of the job, and professional athletes are no different.

We’re not going to stop pilots from flying because they run a greater risk of dying in a plane crash, are we?  

We’re not going to eliminate all cops and fire fighters because of the dangers they face in their everyday jobs, are we?

And we should not be severely altering the way the game of football is played because of the associated risks.

Things like revenue sharing, Monday Night Football and Super Bowl Sunday got the NFL to where it is today. 

Eliminating a vital aspect of the game could send the NFL back to the dark ages in terms of its popularity.

At the end of the day, professional sports are a form of entertainment. 

Some forms of entertainment have risks associated with them, and all football players, from Pop Warner right up through the NFL, are well aware of the risks associated with playing the game.

So are hockey players, basketball players, baseball players, miners, fighter pilots, cops and firefighters.

Risk is simply a part of life, and it can never be fully eliminated.  

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