By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: football

The crisis that threatens to marginalize football

Former NFL player Nate Jackson’s commentary in today’s New York Times underscores the crisis that football faces over concussions and their lasting effects. The league’s crackdown on unnecessary roughness will accomplish almost nothing, Jackson argues. And needless to say, it is worthless with respect to college, high-school and youth football.

It may seem unimaginable today, but I honestly believe we may be at the beginning stages of a national shift that could relegate football to the margins, like boxing. With permanent after-effects, including dementia, a not-uncommon outcome, who would want their sons to risk such a fate if they fully understood the danger?

I’m not a football fan, but I don’t dislike it. I’ll watch a few games a year, depending on how the Patriots are doing. So don’t take this as an anti-football screed. I just think it’s become clear that the sport is too dangerous.

A couple of days ago, on MSNBC, I watched Gregg Easterbrook show Chuck Todd a super-high-tech new helmet that’s supposed to offer greater protection. But will that really help? Won’t players hit even harder?

Given all that, I wonder how the game might change if the NFL were to take a radical step like returning to 1940s-style gear — that is, leather helmets and minimal padding. As Jackson points out, it’s the helmets that allow players to turn their heads into a weapon. Combined with a common-sense weight limit of, say, 250 pounds, it might just make football safe enough to play.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

NU football and sports journalism

football_20091123Football has never been a big deal at Northeastern. Still, it’s a surprise to see the program canceled just a couple of years after it survived a major review. (Huntington News coverage; Boston Globe story and Dan Shaughnessy column; Boston Herald story.)

From my parochial perspective, I feel bad that aspiring sportswriters in our School of Journalism will no longer have a football team to cover. Yes, there will still be plenty of sports news. But football is a big part of what our student newspaper, the Huntington News, does every fall.

I’m not just an employee of Northeastern; I’m also an alumnus. During the 1970s, when I was a student, I probably went to three or four football games, either as a member of the band or to tag along with the future Mrs. Media Nation, a photographer for the News.

As Northeastern has become more of a residential university, sports in general have become more important on campus. Football, though, could never compete — certainly not with the hockey program.

Ironically, I went to graduate school at Boston University, which canceled its own football program more than a decade ago. (Honest — it’s not my fault.)

I guess the lesson is that football is so expensive that if you can’t do it big, like Boston College, you shouldn’t do it at all.

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