We’ve entered the final few days before the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans and the media are beginning to dip into the second tier of story lines. They started off strong with long features on soon-to-retire christiancharisma™ spokesmodel Ray Lewis, including sensual, loving handjobs about how old-yet-football-playing he is as well as reflections on that time he killed that dude. They they got into the Harbowl or Harbaugh Bowl or whatever you want to call it, with the Onion providing probably the most insightful angle, courtesy of some recently unearthed Harbaugh family home video. Then Ed Reed said he wasn’t going to retire and Jaws said Colin Kaepernick can be the best quarterback and then John Clayton said Joe Flacco transcended the very question of eliteness. And now we’re at this: the Ravens’ Bernard Pollard has taken a look at the current trends in the NFL regarding player safety, and he is troubled:
Thirty years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence.
That’s quite a bleak assessment of the– oh what? He’s not done talking?
I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it. Guys are getting fined, and they’re talking about, ‘Let’s take away the strike zone’ and ‘Take the pads off’ or ‘Take the helmets off.’ It’s going to be a thing where fans aren’t going to want to watch it anymore.
There is a little important context to this quote. President Obama gave an interview to the New Republic the other day where he talked about, among other things, being hesitant about the idea of his son (were he to have had a son) playing football:
I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.
It appears that Pollard is responding in particular to Obama’s assessment of the fans’ role in the machinery of football, and finding fault. However, later in the ESPN article, Pollard gives up the real issue:
Pollard said he understands the movement to make the game safer for players, but coaches are looking for players who are “stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees.
Its a very strange world view, that of active football players. The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES just came out critically about the dangerous state of the sport of football, his being the latest and perhaps most important opinion to be thrown into the mix, and Pollard is still unable to see past his short term Pavlovian need for approval from tin tyrant football coaches. Pollard sets up his argument as one of concern over “the product” of football, claiming that the fans will not respond as Obama hopes they will and continue to patronize a changed sport that no longer or to a lesser extent turns its participants into an endless stream of wayward 45 year old husks. But he pins the agency of the issue on football coaches– they drive the need for BONE CRUSHING HITS BRO!– while implicitly absolving them of any responsibility in the situation by failing to be critical of their actions. To Pollard, football coaches’ desires are unimpeachable, even when faced with a counter point from the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
So, anyway, this is where we’re at on the road to the Super Bowl. Kickoff is 6:00 PM EST on Sunday, February 3.