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Old 03-24-2013, 01:15 PM   #1
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Default A blog I wrote on the concussion crisis through the eyes of a Steeler fan

Hey guys - this is the second edition of my Steeler blog (I'm an aspiring sportswriter). I posted the first one on here and it drew some very nice reaction from members of this board, so I would really appreciate it if you guys would read and react. Thanks Steeler Nation.

I haven't seen much discussion about the safety issue in the game on this board, so I would be very interested to get some discussion going here. Below is the link to the blog itself, as well as text of the article.


There are 165 days remaining until the first NFL Sunday of the 2013 season.

I calculated this number in less than a minute through means of simple subtraction from 250, which is the magic number I set shortly after four oíclock on December 30th of last year, when the Steelersí 2012 season ended with a meaningless 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. This is something of an off-season tradition for me: a slow, meandering countdown towards the fall, intermittently brightened by the oases of free agency in March, the release of the schedule and the NFL draft in April, and finally, mercifully, the arrival of training camp and the preseason in August.

As I type this now, I am wearing Steelers socks. I am sitting in the living room of my apartment, which prominently features signed photos of Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis, a football autographed by Jack Lambert, and a mini-helmet bearing the signatures of all four members of the original Steel Curtain defensive line. I spent a portion of this morning watching highlights of the 2011 Steelers-Jets AFC championship game , simply out of yearning for this Sunday to be like that one.

In short, Iím an admitted fanatic. Outside the realm of things that truly matter in life Ė family, friends, work, health Ė the Pittsburgh Steelers are number one on my list of interests. During the spring and summer months, I am constantly looking forward to next season. Once it begins, I spend each week anticipating the next Sunday.

Iíve always envisioned one day instilling in my future son this love of Steeler football, looking forward to a time I could take him on his first pilgrimage to Heinz Field to wave his own Terrible Towel along with 65,000 others.

It is with great sadness and apprehension that I now fear this day may never come.

The topic came to the forefront again this week with the announcement of a rule change prohibiting offensive players (particularly running backs) from using the crown of their helmets as a weapon against would-be tacklers: safety in football. It has been dissected and discussed over the past several years as much as any other topic in football, and probably more so.

We are reminded of it every time an official throws a flag after a hard hit that would have previously been celebrated as a shining example of hard-nosed football. Itís omnipresent over any discussion of the future of the game that we love. Itís driven home each time a former player says he wouldnít allow his son to play the game. And you can bet itís keeping commissioner Roger Goodell awake at night.

When the league-wide crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits and the like began late last decade, I joined the majority of fans in denouncing the rule changes. Why not just put skirts on them? Their turning it into flag football. So on and so forth. Especially as a fan of a team renowned for itís physicality, it drove me crazy to see Ryan Clark being flagged for 15 yards on hits that once would have been glorified on Monday Night Countdownís now unthinkable Jacked Up segment.

I have since changed my thinking somewhat in this regard, as I have come to recognize that the game can be enjoyed without the excess of violence and brutality that was once a hallmark of the NFL (see any number of Greatest Hits DVDs put out by the league prior to the new movement). Like it or not, the vicious blows for which the likes of Lawrence Taylor and Ronnie Lott once drew cheers and adulation now engender only flags and 15 yards in the wrong direction. Those days are gone, and they are not coming back. I can accept that.

Steps are being taken to make the game safer, as well as they should be. Perhaps defenders never should have been permitted to launch themselves into receivers, missile-like, to begin with. Maybe it is in the best interests of the league to protect quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning from shots to the head and knees in the pocket, even as it makes it increasingly difficult for pass-rushers to apply pressure while avoiding penalties. And yes, for all the hand-wringing over the most recent rule change, young football players are taught from day one to never use the crown of the helmet as a battering ram.

Still, it remains inescapable that the sport of football is under fire on numerous counts. One is in the court of public opinion, where horror stories of CTE embodied by the plight of Junior Seau and others like him have generated a debate over whether any responsible parent would allow their child to play the game. Somewhere, a five-year-old blessed with the athletic ability to play NFL football in the future is being told by his mother that he will not be allowed to ever put on a helmet. I fear that this reluctance to allow children to play may dilute the future talent pool across the country.

Another point of contention is the lawsuit filed by thousands of former players against the league, contending negligence in regard to their personal safety and a failure on the part of the NFL to provide proper benefits and care post-retirement. Make no mistake, the rule changes enacted by the NFL are as much a response to the prospect of losing millions of dollars in these lawsuits as they are out of genuine concern for player safety.

Finally, the NFL risks alienation of its sizable die-hard fan base if the sport becomes unrecognizable to the game we were weaned on. The fact remains that football is inherently violent; Iíve long said that the only way to truly eliminate the risks of playing the game is to abolish the sport of football itself. And if it wasnít made abundantly clear above, that is the last thing I would ever wish for.

Where does all this leave us? Truthfully, Iím not sure. There is no easy solution because this is an increasingly complex problem, complicated further by the fact that the NFL is head-and-shoulders above any other American sport in terms of popularity. While it may seem difficult to imagine now, when the sport is such a titan in terms of television revenue, merchandising, ticket sales and everything else, it is not impossible to contemplate a future without football. Below is a link to a fascinating (and terrifying) article from Grantland.com painting a picture of what that would look like.


23 Sundays remain before America can again kick back for a full slate of NFL games with wings and beer in tow. The NFL Sunday experience, replete with the fantasy football, gambling and tailgating that so many cherish, is as much an American tradition as any that we have today. I am an unabashed lover of these things, and my Steelers most of all.

I just pray that there is not an expiration date on football already built in, a ticking clock hanging over the game that is creeping ever closer to 0:00.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: A blog I wrote on the concussion crisis through the eyes of a Steeler fan

Very well done. Thanks for posting! I'm starting to think other than following Ward's suggestion of getting rid of the pads to see who still wants to hit, tweeking the game by rules might be the only way to solve the issue of safety.

I know the NFL has been quite a hypocrite in some occasions (wanting the 18 game schedule, allowing offensive linemen to block high and low at the same time, for example). I'm starting to lean towards favoring the safety rules, even though I accept the game is going to change.

One's again, thanks for the post.
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