Some people will read the title of this post and immediately discount it. Let’s be clear, I do not hate football. On the contrary, I enjoy watching it very much. During football season, my week consists of watching two or three games. If and when I have a son, that will most likely change, but we will address that later. First let me say that football has given me so much; it has allowed me to grow as a man. There are invaluable lessons that only the game of football can teach you. Football matures you in ways no other sport can. It teaches you commitment, work ethic and most of all team work.
I have quite a few friends who are current and former NFL players and we would always joke that even the laziest football player at the collegiate level works harder than anyone in any other sport. There is no sport that demands the work that football demands on and off the field. Football involves countless hours of training and watching film, not to mention practice which is one of the most grueling aspects of the sport. The game is the easy part. It is easy to get yourself excited to go play in front of seventy-thousand people. It takes a rare kind of discipline, a certain level of unselfishness and an undying commitment to improve. These are all qualities that anyone in life, whether in business or in a relationship, would look for in a person they want to associate with.
With all those great qualities that come from learning the game of football, it also can bring out a side most of America isn’t prepared to deal with. Football is a game of attrition. Football is a game that exposes and preys on the weak. Kids are trained from grade school to smell and seek out the wounded and swarm to it. That is the nature of the game. As football players, we tend to be more aggressive in every aspect of life. Surprise! That is what we were taught as children and as you go up in levels and kids start to be separated by talent and ability, it’s usually those football players who have an innate nastiness about them that succeed.
Anyone can play football in high school or join your local semi-pro team. But to make it on the elite college level and above, you have to have a “by any means necessary” mentality. Most people are mistaken and think that size is what makes people football players. I hear people say all the time “he is a big kid, he should play football”. There are plenty of big, yet soft people walking around on earth that want no part of what football entails. That is the biggest myth in the world.
The major difference between a defensive back and a linebacker is mentality. It has nothing to do with size and everything to do with mentality. Survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, blood in the water mentality. Most men don’t have it. They don’t have the stomach for it. It is not something that can be taught or learned; you either have it or you don’t.
I could live with my son having that mentality, because I had it. It can be used for good when harnessed and applied properly. The reason he will never play football is simply because the game is too dangerous. Knowing what everyone now knows about CTE and brain damage, I could not allow my child to play football. I feel like it would be like me encouraging him to smoke cigarettes. I know they are bad but everyone that smokes them doesn’t get lung cancer. If I knew back then what I know now about the effects of playing football, I would have never laced up a pair of cleats.
Again, I appreciate what it did for me. It allowed me to get an education at a top 25 university and most importantly, break the cycle of poverty in my family. My best friends in life are some of my former college team mates. If it wasn’t for football, I wouldn’t have them. I was able to experience the NFL, which is something most people can only dream of. I am appreciative of the experience. That is where the appreciation ends.
Bo Jackson and Kurt Warner have echoed a similar sentiment. They will not allow their sons to play football either. Most of my NFL buddies will not subject their sons to the game. Anytime I tell people my future son won’t play football, people are so taken aback by it. I always get the “how are you going to stop him?” question. First, I will stop watching football completely the day he wants to start watching TV with me. I will also not display any of my football paraphernalia that I acquired from my playing days. It will be in the attic in a box. As long as he is living under my roof, eating food I buy, wearing clothes I provide, he will not be a football player. When he moves out of the house, if he finds football after that, then God bless him. Again, I am not opposed to other people playing football, just not any of my children.
If you are trying to break the cycle of poverty as I did, and uplift the quality of life for you and your family, then by all means, play football and have fun! People always talk about protecting their children and keeping them safe. That is all I am trying to do. The definition of ignorance is a lack of knowledge or information. When I was growing up, we could plead ignorance. No one knew about CTE or the effects concussions had on football players. Guess what? Now we do. So now that we have the knowledge and information necessary to assess the damage football causes in players, what do you call someone who ignores that information? Naive? Stupid? Rebellious? Delusional? Passionate?
This post was written to spark discussion and debate. Please comment and let me know your thoughts on the subject.