ScottIn high school, I had scholarship feelers to play Div. II college football. I could run a 4.5 forty and high jump 6'8". I thought I was on top of the world. Then I got sick with a horrible case of mononucleosis and almost died. My playing days were over. At the time I was devastated.

Now my oldest son wants to play football. I will not let him. Why? Because as devastating as it was to get sick and have to give up football (the best I ever ran a 40 after that was in the high 4's, and I couldn't jump anything like I used too), as an adult I've come to view it as a blessing in disguise.

To this day, my knees, ankles and back ache to the point of being almost debillitating at times. I get headaches and my memory doesn't work as well as it used to. As a corollary to this, I also suffered several concussions while playing sports. I was knocked silly numerous times and was knocked out cold more than a handful of times.

Then today I see this article on MSN about the danger of concussions and wonder if there isn't a connection.

Looking back, I wish I had never played football. Yes, basketball pounded my joints and I'm sure baseball and track did their fair share of damage, but I don't think they cumulatively added up to the pounding I experienced playing football. Yet I love to watch the game to this day and look forward to playing at our annual Thanksgiving morning touch football game every year with the guys from church (of course, I can hardly walk for the next two or three days afterward).

The human body eventually wears down and doesn't recover from the constant beatings that we get in life, unlike the markets which will shake off the bad things that happen and eventually move forward. At least I hope so.

Anton Allostrat agrees:

My football career closely parallels Scott’s except I ended as a college sophomore with a complete knee reconstruction. Protecting a loved one from near-certain long-term physical damage, which is the likely outcome when humans repetitively and intentionally collide, is the responsible and caring parental responsibility. The key is to give the prospective athlete other choices, minimal-contact sports that have a much lower injury rate. When addressing this issue with my son, no matter how clear my descriptions of the long term consequences on the human body, I’m sure he couldn’t completely comprehend what it is like to feel the effects of cumulative injuries in a middle-aged body.

Matt Johnson replies:

With all due respect, I feel like you're taking your issues and dumping them on your son. Not letting someone do something, or not do something, is like holding onto a losing position because "the economics haven't changed." Go with it, don't fight it, support your son in his adventures and he'll love you for it.

Craig Bowles adds:

I agree with Matt. I still look back thankfully at the bonds made and pushing beyond the simple limits in many of our heads. The most important thing is to learn technique early. My father always called it putting a shoulder on somebody. Hitting with the head is crazy and nothing like the feeling of a good solid shoulder lick. Maybe you should make sure the coaches know how to coach blocking and tackling. I wouldn't want my kid playing for a lot of coaches. That would just ruin a kids confidence. My fifth-grade coach was the best one and fortunately taught the solid basics.

Mark Candon reminisces:

Flag FI played soccer in college, but later tore up my knee in 1980 playing of all things, flag football.What the heck was I doing playing flag football? Perhaps having the most fun I ever had in any sport. Violence is a beautiful thing when you are doing the hitting. I’ve always liked contact, and football gives it to you in spades. There’s nothing like it. Why do you think all these people play football?

Yeah, it’s years later and I should probably be getting a new knee, but the rest of my body has been in better shape since 1980 because I’ve had to work out to keep the knee strong. I wish it had never happened, but I never for a moment regarded it as a terrible thing.

In sports, you have the chance to be the master of that world between the lines. In football, it comes in that long instant after the snap of the ball. A savage, athletic, and beautiful moment. I loved it. Believe me, I’ve had moments in other sports, but football’s the ultimate for adrenaline. You’re playing defense, it’s fourth and inches, and you’re amped. You can’t wait for the snap, because you’re going to drive that guy opposite you into forever.

Steve Leslie reflects:

I am reminded of a short little story.

In the jungle, A gazelle wakes up in the morning and begins running. For the gazelle knows that if it does not start running then it will be eaten by the lion. The lion wakes up and starts running. The lion knows that if it does not start running, it will not catch the gazelle. The moral of the story is that whether you are a lion or a gazelle, if you want to survive the day, you had better hit the ground running.

Thomas Edison once said most of success in life is showing up for work every day.

Vince Lombardi said "The good L_rd gave you a body that can withstand nearly anything, it is your mind you have to convince."

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of creating our own rules. Many times the odds are stacked heavily against us. But remember in the end, life is one long statistical game eventually the breaks even out. It is a journey and not a destination therefore we never arrive. It is like the horizon, you never reach it.

Take cheer for we all feel the pain of life. You are not in this alone. Some times this provides small solace. But then again solace is sometimes all we have.

Reid Wientge writes:

My doctor in high school, Dr. Campbell, recommended not playing football. He was quiet and convincing. I had been to a different doctor numerous times for pain and swollen hands — I played both defensive end and fullback and so could not wrap my hands. You see, my doctor had served in Vietnam prior to private practice. I am certain that he could not bear to see young men injure, scar and permanently damage their bodies.

Doug Johnston offers:

I played football in HS and at a Div I college program. I do believe that your HS experience is more exception than rule. HS football is fun and gives a boy/teenager many valuable life lessons in an environment of teamwork and fun. Football in HS is not brutal. Let him be a kid and enjoy his decision. If he were to be offered an opportunity to play in college — run away! College football is a big business and the payout of a scholarship is not nearly fair value for the "student-athlete."





Speak your mind

4 Comments so far

  1. Greg Vinately on September 29, 2008 12:55 pm

    Having been raised under similar circumstances of what sport was good or not for me according to my father…I would give Mr. Johnson’s comments strong consideration. In the not so distant future, you might find yourself left “behind” once your son is able to make his own decisions.

  2. steve leslie on September 29, 2008 2:41 pm

    I personally know Scott and his son far better than those who are weighing in here. So I think I am qualified to comment above and beyond others. My suggestion is raise your kids and he will raise his. Who are you to offer "advice" to someone else how to raise their family. What makes you so qualified and responsible. There are plenty of sports to compete in besides football just as competitive and with just as many lifelong lessons to learn from, and it is no definiton of a person anyway. Plenty of very successful people never competed in sports. So spare me the caring attitude. Would you comment the same way if his son wanted to compete in boxing or mixed martial arts or backyard fighting. How about street drag racing like Hulk Hogans son who nearly killed his best friend in a complete act of stupidity and recklessness. Now look objectively at football. I know players from professional football down to high school and even midgets. And make no mistake, as John Madden says it is a collision sport on every level. Ruthlessly violent at times. Stand on the sideline of a college football game or professional game as I have and you may develop a deeper appreciation. Linemen in college MUST wear knee braces while weighing in at over 320 lbs. There are roughly 1.5 Million boys who play high school football. There are 120 division 1A programs and 32 professional teams or roughly 1500 professional football athloetes. The average life span of an NFL running back is less than 2 years. So the likelihood of getting a college scholarship and going on to professional sports is akin to catching lighting in a bottle. Or you can look at professional football players who retired due to physical maladies or developed terrible diseases in the aftermath. Joe Namath, Mike Ditka, Dan Marino, Merrill Hoge, Troy Aikman, Gale Sayers, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster, Dick Butkus, Paraplegics and quadraplegics like Mike Utley, Mark Buoniconti son of Nick Buoniconti, Daryl Stingley, 10,000 former pro footballers qualify for disability payments. It is always easy to offer advise when the decision doesn't affect you. But should a boy get a career ending injury or god forbid a lifetime disability are you going to help raise him. Pay his medical bills, provide custodial care and emotional support. I thought so. Or if you want to teach a youth discipline in non sport related categories what is wrong with music, writing, art and other liberal arts. The list here is endless. Look at us. we are debating this subject while the world financial system hangs on a precipice and our economic system may just collapse over the next few days. What an absurd world we live in.

  3. Greg Vinately on September 29, 2008 3:47 pm

    Mr. Leslie,

    You need to calm down a bit. An opinion is just an opinion. Ultimately, it will be the decision of Mr. Brooks and his son and I'm sure that everyone here would ultimately respect their decision and hope for a happy and enjoyable life for both of them.

    Your facts about the sport of football are well taken, but individuals hold different opinions. There are individuals that wrestle, jump out of airplanes on parachutes, gamble, drink and do all sorts of things that may seem dangerous to your liking. However, the world is not filled with "Mr. Leslies" and different tastes and opinions do in fact exist.

  4. steve leslie on September 30, 2008 2:02 am

    Well now I feel so much better that you and others will respect Scott's decision what ever it might be and you will let him do so How very thoughtful. And I appreciate sharing with me the fact that opinions vary and not everyone sees things as I do. I understand that there are those also who have an "opinion" that the Holocaust never happened. Or have an "opinion" that the Bush Administration blew up the World Trade Center to start a war with Iraq and blew up the levees around the New Orleans 9th district to drown the black persons who lived there. Now that the NASDAQ dropped 10 percent today, The Dow lost nearly 800 points, Tuesday is Rosh Hashanah and the house is in recess until mid week, the international markets are crumbling as I write this, banks are failing right and left, payrolls will not be met by businesses this week, would you care to offer an "opinion" as to how Mr. and Mrs. 401k holder is going to react in October when they get their statement and realize that their retirement plan lost a gigantic amount of money last month and nobody cares.I would like to know how the media can cavalierly describe the complete devastation of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wachovia, WAMU, AIG and move onto the next wipeout as though it is some sort of sporting event or carnival sideshow. Bluntly speaking I care a lot more about this than whether someone elses kid plays sports or not.


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