Depravity has no boundaries in the life of a child... A poor child and parent do not think about whether a concussion will lead to brain damage 30 years later. These children know only the mean streets, where drugs, guns and death are a part of daily life. The NFL and other sports are one of the few avenues out of the cycle of depravation.
The taste of honey is sweet but short lived; Roger Goodell is quoted as saying, “if a player makes an opening day roster, his career is very close to six years.” That number is probably closer to 4 years, but even at 6, it means there is not a lot of time to make money as a NFL player. The average middle class working stiff may take 20 years to make $1 million dollars, in that time, he understands the importance of those pay checks.
A kid who has never worked a real job, but is a gifted enough athlete to be treated “special” by our sports crazed society, does not learn to respect the fruits of labor. At 23 years of age he lands on several million dollars and no one can tell the youngster not to spend the money. Youth does not have age as a barrier and does not consider the fountain of youth, one day running dry. The kid has glamour, beautiful companionship, fast cars and the Ponderosa as a home.
In the NFL land of milk and honey, it’s the player’s body he must put on the line in order to keep the elixir flowing. By the time his mind catches up, the body is damaged beyond repair. His ability to sustain the lifestyle is gone, but the bills accumulated along the way are far from settled. The companionship obtained from living in the spotlight moves on for another taste of glitter and the world comes tumbling down.
The motto is called “Fast and Furious” and like James Dean or Jimmy Hendrix, ends with a death wish. Americans relish this cowboy mentality but when the gravy train shuts off, there is only a broken man in body, spirit and wallet. Only those not gifted enough to play the game can see the nonsense of the trappings.
The NFL must look at our game from both the side of the player and the side of the management. The game cannot survive without the changeover of talent every 6 years. The talent starts in youth leagues, high school and college all to culminate in a tiny window of 6 years. The lawyers and the media will chip away at the billion dollar monopoly looking to hack off a piece, but the game will only survive with the continuous influx of youth and this is what must be preserved.
The ownership and management of the NFL must understand its longevity depends on children and parents willing to risk injury for glory and wealth. This puts the onus on the league to make the proper response to lawsuits and reviews of injuries like concussions. The league cannot make a statement like, “the players know the risks,” because this would be an exoneration of their own responsibility to the sport.
The owners must look at how their response will be received by the parent of a child not yet of age to put on shoulder pads. Those children are the future stars who will keep the game from being smoothed, by the greed spawned from its own success. Taking care of the players who gave up their bodily youth to fill the coffers will show the future players, they will not become the next group pushed aside the moment their knees can no longer stand the pain and pounding.
For its own good and the future of the game, the NFL must acknowledge the risks and put in place a system where the players health and even homestead and be provided for the rest of their lives. If this plan is not agreed on due to greed on the part of owners and current players, it will only lead the to the spigot of youth, which is the game's future, slowing to drip and eventually the game will die.