Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw made another one of his routine appearances on the ‘Jay Leno Show’ earlier this week and while his appearances usually come in the way of his folksy humor, the topic suddenly got serious.
Leno asked Bradshaw about the concussion issue and without really being prompted, Bradshaw said, “If I had a son today – I would say this to our (studio) audience and all our viewers – I would not let him play football.”
We’ve heard similar comments from former players like the Giants’ Harry Carson and from the father of Pats’ QB Tom Brady and we will continue to do so, but Bradshaw took it further when he discussed the future of the game.
“There will be a time in the next decade where we will not see football as it is, I believe. I know in the state of Texas it is the king. But I believe where soccer is going to elevate itself. I think basketball and baseball (will too). The contact sports are slowly going to phase away,” he said.
Sadly, Bradshaw is probably right or at least on the right track. While I disagree with not letting my son play football, I believe he is onto something when it comes to the decline of our most popular sport.
For the last 25 years, we’ve been beaten over the head with rise of soccer. The United States has always been seen as the last bastion of the ‘anti-soccer’ nations by the rest of the world and as technology and the geo-political spectrum increase it’s only natural for soccer to gain in popularity here.
The problem is that while everyone is pointing out the head injuries in football, they seem to wave a hand and dismiss the head injuries of soccer which are rising at alarming rates especially among girls. Don’t stop at head injuries either. More and more catastrophic knee and leg injuries are occurring in soccer as well but because it is not yet one of the major sports in our country professionally these injuries go ignored.
I ranted earlier this week about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wanting to see NFL stadiums become more like European soccer crowds with chants and vuvuzelas. Now a high-profile guy like Bradshaw makes a comment regarding this and the snowball is picking up more steam as it rolls down hill.
My personal opinion is that the National Football League is not going anywhere but Bradshaw is dead-on accurate when he says it will not look like it currently does. I think we all see this coming because it’s already happening with more and more attention to ‘illegal hits’ and ‘player safety.’
The NFL is just too damn big of an industry to disappear and while many of us joke about ‘flags being on players hips’ soon, I don’t honestly believe it is headed there, yet…
Earlier this week, Pop Warner football announced changes to make the game safer at their level when it comes to head injuries. I applaud the move and hope it reduces the chances kids get such injuries. What I also want to see however, is a return to the fundamentals of tackling. This in itself will help reduce head injuries when children are taught proper technique rather than emulating their Sunday afternoon heroes who go for big hits rather than the sure tackle.
As goofy and immature as Bradshaw has been during his 40-odd years in football and TV, his comments about the direction of the game should not be tossed aside. It’s easy to do because if you’re like me you don’t want to admit our favorite game is changing in what we see as ‘the wrong direction’ under the lawsuit-fearful Goodell. We must continue to fight comments about our sons not playing football by educating people and stressing the positive qualities of the game.
You and I don’t reach the audience that Bradshaw and other players can so we must band together to keep the game as safe and true to itself as possible. Change can be a good thing, but not to the point of total annihilation.
Thanks to Journal-Sentinel Online for quotes.