By Brittney Horner
Competitive athletes have been confronted with an impossible task of playing it hard and playing it safe, and professionals and spectators need to realize what makes football so entertaining is the threat of injury.
If you try to rule out danger, you are going to rule out the fun.
At the Baylor vs. Oklahoma game, senior cornerback K.J. Morton leveled an Oklahoma player, knocking him up into the air and onto the ground.
A gasp from the crowd demonstrated the ferocity of the hit. Morton was flagged for targeting and penalized with an ejection, which was later overturned because the hit was not helmet-to-helmet.
I have sympathy for all the athletes out there caught in the oscillating moods of football fans and professionals. Some are yelling, “Play your hardest! Do not be afraid! Be tough!” Others seem to be saying, “Be careful. Don’t hurt people. Play nice.”
There is a double standard put on players. If you play too hard, you are a heartless jerk, and if you play too soft, you’re a useless pansy.
Compare sports to any other profession or pastime. Driving, fire-fighting and performing on a stage with pyrotechnics are all examples of dangers people face in order to enjoy life. I am not encouraging intentional harm, but I do think we should evaluate what we actually expect out on the field. There have been attempts to make football safer, but if we are trying to do away with the potential for injury, then we are destroying the entire essence of the game.
I think it is worth comparing professional football with intramural flag football because even in flag football, which attempts to eliminate danger, players still get hurt.
According to the Baylor Intramural Sports website, “The Intramural Sports program is committed to encouraging good sportsmanship and fair play… and helping to maintain a safe environment for the activities we provide.”
Yet in sports, you cannot guarantee absolute safety, and if you put too many limitations on athletes, you eliminate adrenaline and competitiveness, and you create hesitation and fear.
The Woodlands junior Caleb Ludrick said he sustained a painful injury during a flag football game. A quarterback was winding up for a throw when his hand slammed back into Caleb’s mouth, knocking back his two bottom front teeth. Now, Caleb has braces to fix his teeth.
“There was nothing that could have been done to prevent my injury,” he said. “It was just a freak accident. There are already a ton of safety precautions in place.”
Despite the attempt to make the game safer by eliminating tackling, flag football players risk injury, and there is nothing that can be done to avoid accidents.
Many professional athletes are paid millions of dollars to entertain us, and one of the reasons their pay is so high is because their risk is high. Even one injury can end an athlete’s entire career.
Some people are concerned about young people getting serious injuries. In a Huffington Post article, Larry Strauss, a high school teacher, coach and writer, discusses the dangers of football and how it is our job to protect young people.
“The National Football League may never sincerely act in the long-term interests of its players, all of whom are consenting adults,” he said. “But high schools … have a moral obligation to put student safety above all other considerations.”
For Strauss, the risk of brain damage should make us second-guess the game.
“If playing football has a high risk of long-term permanent brain damage, how can any education institutions — high school or, for that matter, college — allow its students, whose minds have been entrusted to us, to subject themselves to such damage in the name of those institutions?” he said.
My thinking is, so many players run risks of major injuries, and by banning sports, we are sending the message that we should sit on the sidelines of life. There is no way you can have a happy life without risking something: a risk of losing, a risk of failure or a risk of a broken heart.
So, if you do not agree that it is moral to support athletes being aggressive on the field, then simply do not pay for tickets. But if you want to see football, the rough, aggressive, passionate sport that it is, then acknowledge accidents are unavoidable and when players give it their all on the field, someone is bound to get hurt.
Not every tackle ends in physical injury. For example, in this past weekend’s game, the only thing Baylor injured was Texas Tech’s pride.