It was quite a jolt to hear about Beanie Wells and his head trauma. It got me thinking again about football and it's future. I seem to remember this was an issue at Ohio State. I remember him leaving the Fiesta Bowl v. Texas with a concussion and Mel Kiper saying that several NFL scouts had a 'hard time locating the injury during the game'. Beanie didn't have a long NFL career, nor did he excessively carry the football at Ohio State. Yet these symptoms showed up which seems. I wonder how frequent it is that players who played through college or through college + 4 years of pro football suffer long term damage?
The interesting thing about this whole CTE issue.. that at the end of the day .. a major part of it is all about $$$$ or at least the genesis of this. People forget.. the NFLPA did this when they shut the ex players out of any revenue or medical expenses the ex players were rightfully pissed.. (I believe if they played before like 1987 or something.. At that point all it took was one ambulance chasing creative lawyer to tell the ex players... if they can't get money this way.. why not try a new way.. one that the NFL and the NFLPA can't shut them out of. If I remember correctly it was former giant WR Phil McConkey who was particularly riled up about the NFLPA shutting them out... IMHO this was very stupid and greedy of the NFLPA to do.. as:
1. I think they DO have a responsibility to take care of the former players
2. The former players (Pre 1987) is a finite group that is shrinking every day..
3. It would have been tremendous good will and relatively not super expensive to cover all medical expenses for a few players who played in the 40's or 50's..
Now this has obviously taken on a life of it's own.. and other political groups and attorneys are taking advantage of this cash cow.
My proof that this is largely about $$$$ lies in what my solution would be. If I were the NFL.. I would have a big press conference and say "Yes.. long term playing football can lead to brain issues.. it is a medical fact now".. and then I would mandate a maximum career length (MCL) of 4-5 years (or maybe 4-5 200 snap seasons) to prevent excessive exposure to long term brain damage... This would put the NFLPA in a very uncomfortable position.. because of this were really about safety.. they would be right there too.. but my strong guess... is that the NFLPA would give both middle fingers to this idea.. and go after the NFL for preventing players from earning a living past this arbitrary 5 year maximum playing limit... The NFLPA and player agents would have attorneys lined up around the block to say how safe football really is.... a complete 180 from their stance now..
I think this idea would be great on many levels:
1. Make the game safer
2. Make a college education more tangibly valuable for high school and college athletes
3. More players would stay in school a longer time
4. The NFL model would more mirror the college model where the turnover would be regular at 4-5 years...
5. Would control costs more and hopefully this would be reflected in lower ticket prices etc...
side note.. I played football as I kid.. and have hundred's of friends that played from pee wee through HS... like most of you probably.. I don't know of one kid that has issues because they played football through hs.. maybe this is going to surface in 30 years or so... but I just think the human body wasn't designed to play center in the NFL as long as Mike Webster did..
Additional side note.. God blessed me with two daughters... we travel the country and the globe from golf tournament to golf tournament.. so personally we didn't have to have the football debate in our house.. my wife is a pediatrician and I'm sure it would have been quite a battle...
I love football.. my girls love watching the Buckeyes and I feel there are so many positives about the game, I can't even imagine a world without. I know there are some really interesting developments in helmets as well as THIS neck brace from Bauer which seems to be a very effective and inexpensive way of curtailing brain movement with from heavy impact in football and other like sports like hockey. Currently this is stuck in FDA purgatory... it basically adds a teaspoon of blood to the brain to reduce the "slosh" effect.
would love to hear the thoughts on my take...