Sunday Too Far Away: Random Thoughts on Football

Annie BurdeosContributor IJuly 12, 2011

FootballRick Stewart/Getty Images

Sundays. Autumn. Football. NBA. World Series.

Let's see. No NFL (but that looks to be returning shortly). No NBA (when  it comes back is anyone's guess.)  So how are we filling the time? 

NBA owners threatening to forgo an entire season just to prove a point. Blogs and chat show hosts and newspaper columnists discussing the ramifications of Deron Williams' decision to play in Turkey. Ama're flip-flopping on going to Israel to further his basketball career. Yao Ming potentially retiring since his agent will not confirm til his upcoming press conference. Shaq going to TNT. Two big men gone within days of each other.

Dwight Howard may fancy himself Superman but he will never match Shaq's enthusiasm and dominance. Yao, whose career was cut short due to foot and ankle injuries, averaged 18 and 8—Pretty good numbers for a fellow so very tall. Perhaps without injury he might have averaged this for his entire career.

Appreciation for Yao opening up China to the NBA. Durant tweeting his reaction. Bryant considering doing a barnstorming tour through China and other faraway countries. (They only seem far away. Hop aboard that Virgin Airlines and they are seemingly around the corner). The San Antonio Express articles on whether the Spurs can remain competitive if and when the new CBA gets done.

Ohio State putting themselves on probation as a means to ward off the upcoming sanctions to be doled out by the NCAA. The potential for CAL and LSU to be implicated in a potential recruiting service scandal such as Oregon encountered. The insidious corollary creeping into view: To pay or not to pay athletes! Cries of "They are on scholarship!" "Its free money" "If you pay, then more corruption will appear!" "When is enough, enough?" "They are amateurs!"

The formulation of the new Pac 12 and UCLA football projected to finish 11th out of 12. Former athletes, among them Oscar Robertson and Ed O Bannon, fighting to retain the rights to their images long after their playing days have ended. Is that fair? 

Dodger fan favorite Steve Garvey being terminated late on a Friday afternoon in hopes of the story being ignored. What is Frank McCourt thinking? Hasn't he done enough to destroy the Dodgers, a franchise beloved by so many.

The significance of Jeets getting 3000 hits and the very first Yankee to ever do it. The beginning of Roger Clemons perjury trial. Who really cares? Will he be able to skirt the law and emerge relatively unscathed? After all, he has a team of well paid lawyers to fight this battle for him.

An unfair unforeseen tragic accident and the question is raised whether ball players should acknowledge fans' call for a ball. Baseballers declining invites to the All Star game for various reasons.

More attention being paid to the euphoria of women's soccer advancing against Brazil. The extrapolation of Rory Mcllroy as the next best thing. The kid's crowning has seemingly already been conferred. Better than Tiger Woods whose fall from grace seems to increase daily. My local newspaper, the LA Times had a great article on The Next Best Thing. I might add The Never Was or The Disappointed as well. Ryan Leaf? Eric Lindros?

While we are paying attention to golf, soccer, hockey, and with NASCAR gaining in popularity, it's football that dominates our lives with baseball and basketball not too far behind. Recent Harris Polls show football is the most popular sport. In 2010, 35% of those polled listed pro football first. Sample size was 2,276. 2009 yielded similar results in a sample size of 2388 adults.

Google most popular sports and the answer is invariably the same. Football rules having surpassed America's national pastime. (Wiki 2011,, USA Today January 2011, Yahoo). Depending on the survey, college football is first among 12% of polled population (Harris poll 2010).  According to USA Today's survey of 2331 adults,  football was the best.

The NBA's ranking fluctuates (4th according to WikiAnswers behind baseball yet is ranked first as the sport most played according to but without a doubt it occupies us from late fall to early summer. College basketball is first among 3% of the sample conducted by Harris in 2010. Yet come March Madness we are all college basketball fans!

Yet why is football so prominent in the US? Internationally it has a lot of catching up to do and trails behind soccer and rugby. Girls and boys play youth soccer. Adolescence hits and it's on to football, basketball and baseball as a general rule.

The NBA has long dreamed of having a a franchise in London and witness the many European players that have changed their addresses for Los Angeles, San Antonio, Minnesota. Past drafts have always had a great number from the international markets.

Perhaps why football is so hugely popular is that we as a society are somewhat defined by the sports we play and follow. It is part of our culture. Its a tremendous money making enterprise. It provides a source of employment. It makes Vegas happy. It can be generational. Entire families are Bruins, Trojans, Buckeyes, Gators, Eagles, Badgers etc. We as fans hold these fellows dear to our hearts. Whether or not they are to be considered role models is up to each and every one of us and how we define it.

We admire how they play on the field and some of us aspire to be like our favorite player. Some of us have no favorite and just like to watch the violent nature of the sport. But it is not without consequences.

Some football players are dying from dementia. Most recently, Dave Duerson and the great TE John Mackey succumbed to this devastating disease.  Former UCLA Bruin Fred MacNeil is in the beginning of such.  Too many violent hits to the head. Too many violent body blows. The human body is immensely resilient but after awhile it breaks down and can no longer absorb such trauma.

Published in Bloomberg News July 2, 2011, football accounted for 57 percent of trauma-related sports deaths among youth, many that would have been prevented if athletes with head injuries had been kept off the field, said researchers who analyzed 30 years of data.

The report, which reviewed information from a U.S. registry of 1,827 sudden deaths of young athletes from 1980 to 2009, found that 261, or 14 percent, were caused by blunt trauma. The study, published in the journal of Pediatrics, analyzed data on fatal injuries that occurred during 22 different sports.

Twelve percent of the 138 football deaths caused by head or neck injuries involved students who returned to the game after a concussion, researchers said. In some of these “second-impact syndrome” deaths, athletes were cleared for play despite symptoms from a previous head injury. More education is needed for coaches, trainers, parents and students on the consequences of repeat head blows, the researchers said in the report. But will this be done to the very best of our abilities?

In a 2000 study of 1090 former football players (study published in NY Times Oct 21, 2010), more than 60% suffered head injuries. A 2007 study conducted at the University of North Carolina Center of retired athletes who recalled sustaining 3 or more concussions, 20% had been found to suffer from depression. That's 3 times the rate of players who did not sustain a concussion. (Results published NY Times Oct 21, 2010).

A lasting memory of Hall of Famer Steve Young for my nephew and myself?  His lying flat on the ground after being kneed by Aeneas Williams. He didn't move and as we watched, we feared for him.

So while we applaud their grace and effort and occasionally abhor the violence attached to it, we still show up on Sundays. We still turn on ESPN, ABC and NBC and FOX and the local cable affiliate. We still purchase tickets to go to as many games as we can afford.  And that's why without talk of free agent signings, exhibition game results, rookie pay scales and concern for the start of the new season, Sunday is too far away.