Well how about this…numbers don’t lie.
Rashard Mendenhall…this is deep. Great read.
The most popular sport in America is the most dangerous sport in America. At least that’s the current narrative. Here’s a link to an article in Make It Better Magazine with information on the subject of safety in football. Oh, and I just happened to be quoted in the article (as Eddie Conley). Enjoy!
Football is now by far the most popular sport in our country. As Howie Long said, “Baseball is America’s past time but football is America’s passion”. In my mind this has never been more true than it is today. The NFL ratings are topping the all time viewing marks on a weekly basis. There’s an NFL Network, an NFL Mobile App, and each Super Bowl is the most watched show of all time. College football ratings and attendance are at an all time high, college bowls are paying out incredible amounts and college coaches can retire after one contract. Even high school recruiting is a business and signing day is covered like the NFL Draft. So it stands to reason that the football consuming public would follow daily football stories like soap operas. And these stories, football stories, are beginning to define our culture.
Take for example the most recent stories. Richard Sherman’s rant after the NFC Championship Game that garnered so much attention and now the story that Co SEC Defensive Player of the Year and certain NFL draft pick Michael Sam, is gay. These stories matter to us, but why? Because the responses to these stories represent how America feels about on going controversial issues, like bigoted perceptions of black men/athletes and gay rights. Bingo, just like that these issues become national topics of discussions and the delivery system; football.
Let’s dig a little deeper. The NFL concussion issue. This issue of the long term brain damage that occurs based of repeated concussions is a big enough deal that the NFL actually settled a law suit with former players (currently being reviewed by appellate court) for several hundred milliions. But for the rest of the country at issue is youth football and whether or not we are putting our kids at future risk by allowing them to play football. With hundreds of thousands of kids participating in youth and high school football, this is a huge parenting concern. And the new show on cable called Friday Night Tykes shines a spotlight on how parents push their kids in sport. Parenting is always a concern for our country and for these two particular parenting issues, the delivery system; football.
There are many issues that football has highlighted for us in the recent past including, gun ownership, marijuana use, mental health issues, drunk driving, and the need for labor unions…to name a few. All major topics of discussion for our country right now brought to you in football context, every week during the NFL season and beyond. Each of these topics makes America think about, discuss and then choose a side based on these things affect us. Our responses are real actionable responses because a lot of the issues are real issues we face daily. A reality show in the truest sense. And it really hits home.
With all of this talk lately about football being too dangerous, and those who play being entitled, spoiled athletes who’ve been coddled simply because they can throw a football, I thought I’d talk about one of the positives of the sport. The fact is most kids who play football don’t make it any further than high school. The game itself is under more scrutiny than ever because of the potential for head injuries, yet football continues to be America’s favorite sport. Why? Well at the college and pro level, it’s pretty obvious that the aggressive, fast paced nature of the sport has something to do with it. But what makes younger kids play? What makes parents allow their kids to play such a potentially dangerous and heavily scrutinized sport? I think there’s a pretty obvious reason that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s because the sport helps to build character. Now listen, l think all can help build character, particularly team sports. In my opinion though, there are a few things that make football different. Here are my top 5 reasons that football helps builds character:
1. The Time Of Year The Game Is Played
For kids, football is played at about the most difficult time imaginable. The beginning of the school year. As kids try to transition to at minimum a new grade and sometimes a new school, they are also tasked with the pressure of two or three a day practices usually in extreme heat along with the stress of academics at the beginning of the school year. Let me be clear, football is A LOT tougher to play in extreme heat than in cold weather, particularly practices. Simply getting through camp for two weeks before the first game is something most kids couldn’t manage comfortably.
2. The Competition
Football teams have more players per team than any other team sport as well as having the shortest season. This usually means intense competition for playing time. When kids are in direct, physical competition on a daily basis, it can lead to some pretty uncomfortable moments like ending up on your back in the middle of the field after being run over by one of your friends. And…it also hurts. Just getting off the ground is always a challenge. Then, when the positions are filled and you’re one of the starters, you have to play well in games and in practice to keep your spot. When you aren’t a starter, you have to continue to practice hard without the promise of ever playing. You’re competing in a very physical manner, against a lot of guys, with a limited amount of games. Stress.
3. The Structure
Individually, you knock down your teammate in practice. Then you get knocked down by your teammate in practice. Rinse, repeat. In one on one drills and in scrimmages. No fighting, no anger…for the most part, just focus.
As a team, think about it. 22 kids attacking each other aggressively for about 8 seconds at a time. After each play, a whistle blows, the kids stop and go back to the huddle. They calm down quickly, get specific instructions and go back for the next 8 seconds of aggression. Repeat about 100-120 times per game. Think about it.
4. The Discipline
You ever try to get 85 kids to be good students, to come to practice everyday, to get along with each other and to perform football related tasks, in sync, that admittedly I don’t completely understand. Ok then.
5. The Tangible Intangibles
A couple of scenarios.
- The quarterback throws a pass to his star receiver to win the game. The 2 get mobbed and walk off like heroes. The real heroes may be the offensive line, who made sure that play was executed by providing perfect pass protection. The offensive line receives very little attention for this but are always willing to do it. That requires something.
- That certain kid who hasn’t played a meaningful down in a game, but never misses a practice and always finishes in front in conditioning drills. He does his best in practice everyday to prepare his team for the upcoming game even though he knows he’ll likely not play. He never quits the team although most kids would under those circumstances. There is one kid like that on every team, every year.
These are my top 5. I can’t promise you that these character builders will get your kids to the NFL, but I can promise that they will prepare them for a better life.