Thursday, October 21, 2010

Using Their Heads

Autumn is a time of year seemingly made perfect for the average American sports fan. College and pro football heats up, Major League Baseball heads to the playoffs, and basketball and hockey start up as well. With all of those different sports going on, there's bound to be some crybabys, whiners, and outright cheaters (And we're not even talking about the fans this time). Of course, there's also bound to be some bruises and injuries. Overall, the games are enjoyable events.

That is, until someone ends up paralyzed for life because another player didn't follow the rules.

In case you missed it last weekend, Eric LeGrand, a football player from Rutgers committed a helmet-on-helmet tackle against a player from Army. It was the last football tackle he'll ever make, as he's now paralyzed from the neck down. In the NFL this same weekend, several different players displayed conduct that wasn't just unsportsmanlike - it was downright dangerous - as they committed similar hits on the field. Like the college player from Rutgers, they also broke the rules of the game.

This time around, they're only being fined. Yet much of this week, those penalized NFL players have been whining to the media, claiming that the NFL's application of rules that already existed will take all the fun out of the game. Some childish players have even threatened to retire early, as though their presence is key to the game's continued existence.

The NFL and its players union over the last few years have been instrumental in drawing attention to the long-term effects of concussions and other common sports injuries. When it comes to concussions, the NFL has become hyper vigilant, after repeated studies have shown multiple concussions cause early onset Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, as well as loss of memory and early onset dementia.

Finally, after the three concussive tackles this weekend, and the college player who became paralyzed, the NFL decided to finally get serious about enforcing existing rules.

We say it's about damn time.

As Gregg Easterbrook pointed out at ESPN.com. the league has told officials to be strict about enforcing the celebration penalty, and they don't kid around about that. Why should enforcing rules of conduct that save the function - and maybe even the lives - of players in all sports be any different?

The rules exist for all of us. And no one - no fan, no corporate media contract, no player, no coach - is above the rules, or the game.

Their lives - or their ability to walk - depends on it.

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