Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are Our Sports Getting Too Soft?

Occasionally, this blog will touch on subjects that not only touch on hockey, but all sports in general. Today just happens to be one of those days. For those of you that may have missed this story yesterday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was running his mouth again regarding the violent hits in football.

He was actually quoted as saying “People have criticized us as changing the game. I don’t believe that. I think we have taken techniques out of the game and improved the game and made it safer – and the game’s more popular than ever.”

But has he gone too far?

Not just in football, but for sports in general where is the line? In all sports, we are entering the “era of the concussion” and have taken more precaution than ever the past few years to combat head injuries to our star athletes. Sidney Crosby had to sit out what might have been a record setting season with a concussion, Nathan Horton was knocked out of the Stanley Cup finals due to a hit by Aaron Rome, Matthew Lombardi missed last season for the Preds with his concussion, and that’s just to name three of the many incidents around the NHL.

In fact, a study was released in April that stated that the days lost per concussion in the NHL is increasing. The NHL players have now started examining the helmets they’re wearing to see if improvements can be made.

I bring this up because as I was recently watching Sportscenter, I noticed a segment was sponsored by the movie “Reel Steel.” Yes, you can laugh I’m sure this movie is a shoe-in for an Oscar. But it still made me think nevertheless. The premise of this movie is quite simple. A boxer, played by Wolverine, I mean Hugh Jackman, loses his shot at the title because “Robot Boxing” has taken over as the main sport. This begs the question: Could you ever see a time when the machines take over? Is time running out for sports as we now know them?

Honestly, I don’t want you to think that I am that crazy to think that this sort of thing will happen in the immediate future, but are we so caught up in protecting athletes that we will cross the line into new sports all together? How long before NBA players (if they ever play) will take a page out of Shaq’s book and be playing games dressed as the “Big Pile of Metal?”

As someone whose collegiate athletic career was cut short due to injury, I’m sympathetic to injuries in sports but I am definitely torn on this issue. How can we improve the safety of athletes without destroying the integrity of the games they play? I am all for making the game safer, but I don’t want to see two hand touch football or no-hitting hockey. One aspect that Goodell mentioned in his article that might be overlooked is that he’s considering getting rid of the three-point stance for linemen in football?! WTF?! As a former lineman myself, I am offended that he would ask the fattest guys on the field to be lazy and not get down in a stance.

Is there middle ground here? Can there be a way to keep sports as we know them while keeping the athletes, and more importantly to owners and teams, their investments safe? Are commissioners concerned about the game as much as their concerned about keeping their stars playing to reap the benefits? What are your thoughts?

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