I watched the entire Super Bowl and not once did anyone mention the fact that these incredible athletes were risking severe brain damage.
Not a word from the commentators. Not a mention in an ad.
Even when one player was hit hard enough that he was not allowed to return to the game, nobody talked about CTE. The commentators didn’t even take that moment to mention that the NFL had four unaffiliated neurologists on the sidelines to evaluate players for concussions.
Two Patriots players were in the concussion protocol until three days before the game. Miraculously, they suddenly recovered just in time. Nobody questioned it.
The commentators were more than willing to replay any given second and question play calls, ref decisions and even the effect of the weather. But question whether an athlete is too injured to continue? No, never that.
Just three weeks before the big game, scientists published a new study showing that it’s the hits, not the concussions, that can cause permanent brain injury.
Look. I love football. As I watched the game, I found myself rooting for the Eagles to stop the Patriot runners – even though that usually meant throwing one or two 300-pound people at the runner and slamming him into the ground. I watched several players hit the ground so hard they catapulted end-over-end down the field.
I don’t think the game would be the same if a player just had to touch a runner to stop him. There would be no more fancy footwork, no more amazing brute strength, no more of the fantastic recoveries that allow a runner to be nearly tackled, break loose, and keep on going.
We’d have to give up sacks, one of the most thrilling accomplishments for the defense.
And I have this awful vision of receivers leaping up to catch a ball, and then having a defensive player tap their thigh as they come back down. No chance to run; you’re out.
It would be baseball without the bats.
I say this because I understand how bad it would be to change the rules to protect these athletes’ brains. I would much prefer bigger, better, magical helmets that hold every player’s brain in perfect safety.
But we’ve got to do something. If we don’t, the game will simply come to an end as more parents stop their children from playing a game that is all but guaranteed to give them a severe brain injury.
I watched the Super Bowl because I thought the NFL was ready to start talking about that. Instead, I saw a game in which everyone pretended that there was no problem at all.