Football is arguably the most dangerous sport known to man. Football is a collision sport that physically damages the bodies of every man that steps on the football field. Football players are becoming faster, stronger and all around more athletic than ever before, while kids are being trained younger and younger, preparing to be physically ahead of their competition and age group. The game of football has always been a physical game but throughout its existence the sport has consistently made strides to make the game safer. Dating back to when football was first established in the 17th century and they didn’t have any protective gear. The game then evolved to shoulder pads and cleats in the 19th century but still no protective head gear. Then, in the 20th century the game introduced helmets which were meant to protect the athletes from brain damage and head trauma. Although the equipment has evolved since the 17th century the game has not gotten any safer, if anything it’s gotten more dangerous throughout the years. Although the gear has been implemented as more protective it only gave the athletes leeway to become more destructive. Recently concussions and head trauma has been a big concern in the game of football and the question, “is football too dangerous?” has been asked many times. The NFL has taken strides to make the game safer with changing the rules but how much can they change until football becomes soft and the barbaric nature is no longer a factor?
In Marc Tracy’s article, “NFL rules changes: When is football no longer football?” he explains the rule changes that the NFL has implemented to make the game safer. For example ball-carriers can longer lower their helmets into oncoming defenders in an attempt to break tackles.The NFL also said the all star game, formerly known as the Pro Bowl will no longer have kick-offs. So, who are affected by these rule changes? Well, running backs, who can no longer gain extra yardage by lowering their helmets; kick-returners, whose jobs are now less prestigious and the possibility for special teams players to be selected to the pro bowl has become somewhat impossible; and defensive players have to focus on form tackling or technique tackling so they don’t get called for any unsportsmanlike conduct penalties due to their hitting forms. (cite) With these rule changes people think the game is going to become an offensive showcase because the defense is so limited in what they can and cannot do. NFL players have mixed feelings about the rule changes, like Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, when asked how he feels about the rule changes he said, “There’s a lot of stuff that’s getting called now that wouldn’t have been called when I first started playing, or when Lance (Briggs, Bears LB) started playing. It’s really hard to play defense. You’re talking about split-second decisions they’ve got to make on the move, two guys running in opposite directions and they’ve got to hit a target that’s about this big, and if they miss, they’re going to get fined and tacked with a penalty. Offensive numbers are going to go up. You like to see it as an offensive guy because it makes our lives easier. I wouldn’t want to play defense. I’ll say that. Is it good for the sport? There’s a big emphasis on protecting players, but at the same time we signed up for this stuff and it’s a contact game.” While Michael Griffin, safety for the Tennessee Titans said, “When I first came into the league, you rarely saw any flags for unnecessary roughness. Now there’s too much thinking. When you’re going in for a tackle, you’re thinking in the back of your mind how much you’re going to get fined or if you’ll be suspended. Now the flag is thrown on almost everything that looks like it could hurt somebody. I don’t think there’s a way to solve the concussion problem. You’re telling us to go low, and now you’re getting defensive players with head injuries. When you go low, you duck your head and you don’t see exactly what you’re hitting, because in order to go low, your head must take you low first. Now you’re getting kneed in the head.” You see there are mixed feelings about the rule changes and it seems to be based off players being on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.
Giamatti’s article, “Take Time For Paradise” explains the idea that people play sports to achieve a lost “paradise”. There aren’t many paradises that run off rules. I’m not saying that the NFL should implement a no rule policy but when is enough, enough? The NFL should carefully change the rules without making it impossible for players to continue to play the way they have their entire life. If the NFL changes the rules to the point the game is affected the paradise that NFL players play for every sunday will vastly become non existent and become nothing but a lost entity of the game.
Football will always be a dangerous sport. I respect the NFL for making attempts at making the game safer for the players. But, there is a fine line between making the game safe and soft. Like Jay Cutler said, athletes who decide to play football, they know exactly what they are signing up for. Football is not a game that can be played with fear but the game needs to be played with confidence. Players can’t worry about getting hurt or injured but they have to play at full speed trying to out challenge and out compete the man standing across from them. The NFL has to make sure they don’t forget to change the game so much that it becomes flag football rather than tackle football. Football is not a soft sport and the NFL is especially not a soft league. The NFL needs to keep those two factors and mind and make sure that while they’re making the game safer that they’re not making the game soft. I’m all for making the game safer but don’t take away the barbaric and collision aspect of the sports because that’s what makes the game of football so great and entertain to watch and most importantly play.