“Hit ’em again! Hit ’em again! Harder! Harder!”
Just don’t hit ’em in their helmets — or with yours.
And don’t fumble logic by overreacting to football’s dangers.
OK, so the last few years have brought a new consciousness about what happens when hard hits leave football players unconscious.
Let’s hope no such injuries occur as 28 high school teams knock heads today and Friday, starting at 5 p.m., in the Sertoma Classic at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Let’s hope, too, that reason rallies to sack the goofy “fantasy football” craze.
However, there’s no denying this rising football reality:
The sport inflicts lots of concussions with lots of long-term consequences.
You won’t again hear any announcer say, “He’s all right and will be back in the game soon. He only got his bell rung.”
Only? Get your “bell rung” (knocked silly or even out) and see how “all right” you feel. Get it rung often, and see if the scrambling of an elusive quarterback isn’t matched by the scrambling of your brain.
That hazard has grown over the past few decades as players have gotten bigger and faster.
As Newton (Sir Isaac, not Carolina Panther Cam) taught us, mass times acceleration equals force. Thus, bigger mass times faster acceleration equals greater force. To counter that trend, new rules crack down harder on head hits.
So players aim down. Ex-Gamecock D.J. Swearinger, rookie safety for the Houston Texans, did that Saturday night, putting Miami tight end Dustin Keller out for the season with knee injuries.
Swearinger was suspended for South Carolina’s game against Missouri last season after hitting an Alabama-Birmingham receiver in the facemask with his helmet.
Swearinger learned his lesson. He said after the Texans’ 24-17 victory over the Dolphins, “In this league you’ve got to go low. If you go high, you’re going to get a fine.”
And if you go too far in fright over football’s brutality, you might fall for New Yorker magazine writer Malcolm Gladwell’s pitch that it’s tantamount to dogfighting.
Gladwell on CNN last month: “We take young boys, essentially, and we have them repeatedly, over the course of the season, smash each other in the head, with known neurological consequences. And why do they do that? Out of an allegiance to their owners and their coaches and a feeling they’re participating in some grand American spectacle.”
Time out! Football is a “grand American spectacle” — played by free-willed people, not obedient canines. It’s a rough-and-tumble game for what is, at our traditional best, a rough-and-tumble country.
And if you think playing football is risky, try watching three (or more) games Saturday, three more Sunday, then another one Monday night in a house where your wife finds the sport quite annoying.
We’re No. 6 and No. 8
It’s very important to fairly minimize football’s perils.
But it’s also important to fairly recognize its rewards:
Football teaches perseverance, teamwork, discipline and the need to make good enough grades to stay eligible. It builds school and community spirit. It entertains the masses.
It even stirs fond memories, in my case, of long-obsolete St. Andrews High School. Our fight song, to a familiar tune, started (seriously), “Oh when the Rocks go marching in.”
Sure, the notion that a player talented enough for college football must also be a “student-athlete” is absurd.
Then again, if Gamecock and Tiger fans didn’t have bragging rights on the line, lots of us would have to find something else to talk about from August’s preseason practices through February’s National Signing Day.
Extra point: While South Carolina ranks poorly in education, health, safe bridges, etc., we’re the only state with two teams in The Associated Press’ preseason top eight.
So good luck to the hard-hitting (and hard-hit) players in the Sertoma Classic today and Friday.
And bad luck to do-gooders who try take away our football.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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