Every Summer, I would look for a job that could make me the most money in the least amount of time. One job offered a whopping $5K for a couple months of work. It would be a bonanza. The catch was that the job was in Alaska going out on dangerous fishing boats. Sure, you might come home with $5K, but you also may come home with fewer fingers, too. Even if I was willing to take the risk, my parents would have never let me go. Responsible parents tend to keep their kids from doing things that could maim them for life.
When the NFL levied the massive fines on violent hits this weekend, they were doing it with an eye toward parents. Many are arguing that the league is doing it for the safety of the players. Bullshit. This is the same league that is going to add two more regular season games. The NFL does not care about the current crop of players who one day may not remember their own name, or be able to do rudimentary tasks to live a normal life. It will have squeezed every dollar out of their bodies. What the NFL is worried about are the crop of players that is slated to join the league in 10-20 years. Parents of those players are reading the articles about the effects of the NFL on players. They are hearing that concussions have unpredictable effects, and that players like Chris Henry don’t even need a concussion to suffer severe brain damage that can lead to depression and serious behavioral issues.
I am a parent of two young boys, 9 and 6. My oldest is a decent 3-sport athlete who is among the bigger kids in his class. In case you hadn’t noticed, I like football just a bit. That seems like a good recipe for a new football player, right? Truth is, football feels like an Alaska fishing boat job without any guaranteed payout. I could send this child that I love beyond all else onto a football field, but to what end? He has very little chance to make a living at it, and could very well suffer injury that could impact the rest of his life. Concussions aren’t reserved for NFL players, in case you missed the memo.
How many other parents are making the same decision I am? What happens when more and more data starts to come out showing just how hard it is to keep football players from suffering head injuries that will have permanent effects? Of course many parents will gladly still send their kids onto the football field. Anytime there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, people will chase after it. But there are other sports where you can make more money with fewer ill effects. It is not inconceivable for enough information to surface about football player safety that it becomes a stigma to be “that parent” that allows their child to play football. A trend like that could choke off the supply of future stars. A trend like that could threaten a multi-billion dollar business.
These fines may seem asinine, hypocritical and impossible to consistently enforce, mainly because they are. They also are not going to stop. Without them, the parents of the next Peyton Manning may decide to make him the next Roger Clemons.