I am married to a native Brit. Even though he has been here for almost 30 years, the only sport he really enjoys and watches is football. When I say football, I am referring to the game where you actually kick the ball with your foot and which most Americans call soccer. In our household, that pugilistic game where you mostly throw the ball and try to incapacitate and/or injure your opponents is known as American football. I have never liked nor understood the game. There is too much starting and stopping and way too much gesticulating by the referees.
But, just recently, many, many former American football players are coming forward with the NFL's dirty little secrets; playing American football causes severe, serious, lasting injuries due to repeated head collisions which often result in concussions. We are talking excruciating pain, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, brain damage, depression and suicide. Instead of allowing a concussed player to rest his injured brain, he is sent right back "into combat" with the aid of powerful pain-killing narcotics to allow him to keep playing. There is a complete disregard for the players' overall physical well-being. Apparently, that is a sign of the toughness of the player according to the NFL.
Jim McMahon, quarterback of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl Championship team, has courageously come forward in recent months to talk about his ongoing health problems as a result of his football career. He sustained several concussions and was given illegal drugs and sent right back on the field. This poor man suffers with constant excruciating pain, has brain damage, dementia and is suicidal. He is part of two class action lawsuits with other former players against the NFL; for the use of illegal pain-killing drugs and for failing to acknowledge the risks of concussions.
Then, the Ray Rice story broke. Unless you live under a rock, you have seen, ad nauseum, the video of Ray Rice pummeling his then girlfriend, now wife, Janay, into unconsciousness in a hotel elevator. After she falls to the floor, hitting her head on the railing, he drags her limp body out of the elevator. My response to Ray Rice's behavior is that you can't expect a player to be taught to be aggressive on the field and then cry foul when he is equally aggressive in his personal life. I know the next statement I am about to make will not be very popular amongst a lot of people in this country, but I am going to make it, anyway. I think we should get rid of American football before there are many more Jim McMahons and Ray Rices.
In the words of columnist George F. Will, "Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
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