Last night’s Monday Night Football game gave us penalties, fines, suspensions, hard hits, late hits, some taunting, and some good ole violence all in the name of competition. And America loved it! The ever present question of player safety, always lingering in the background, was brutally brought to the forefront. So what now?
This is the football a lot of us grew up watching. It’s not that we didn’t care about player safety; it’s just that we never really thought about it. They were football players. We held them to a higher standard of pain tolerance; of toughness. Those guys couldn’t really get hurt, could they? Well, yes, yes they could. But that idea was foreign to us for an entire generation.
With the advancement of science and medicine, we were initiated into an era of concussions, brain scans, and so many potential dangers that somehow found a comfortable place in the lonely recesses of our collective minds.
Most football fans want to see a hard hitting game. We love the competition, we love the aggression. I doubt anyone wants to see anyone get hurt. But the game last night made a lot of us really think about where we draw the line. Yes, we want the players to be safe. We want them to live full lives after their playing days are over. We want them to enjoy family life when the lights go down after each game. We also realize that by softening the game in order to make it safer, a lot of what draws us to the games slowly slips away.
I wish I could snap my fingers and create the perfect co-habitation of safety and hard, well fought football. But I can’t. I wouldn’t want to be on the player safety committee either. It seems like a no-win situation.
So we’ll continue on; we’ll deal with the suspensions, flags, and judgement calls that have to be made in a split second. For the record, I don’t envy the refs either. I’ve seen a lot of people accuse the NFL of being inconsistent when it comes to handing out these suspensions and fines. Each case seems to have so many slight variations that I feel we need to just let these guys do their jobs while we sit back patiently and simply enjoy the games.
We’ll continue to yell louder when it affects ‘our team’, but we’ll be back the following week, ready to cheer some more and, in the back of our minds, hope for that perfect football hit, that bone crunching sack that brings us up out of our seat. You know, as long as no one is hurt.