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Gazzolo: To play or not to play, not so easy a question anymore

Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 7:49 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Just a few short days ago I was introduced to a young man.

He was just hours old, yet I was already asked about his future.

Young Kaleb is my first grandchild and as congratulations flowed in, the first serious question about his sports life was whispered.

On the phone, a friend wanted to know if I wanted him to play football when he came of age.

Eighteen years ago when my son was born, the answer was an easy one. Of course I wanted him to play football, but that was almost two decades ago. A lot has changed.

This time, the answer didn’t come as quickly.

Sure, I would like him to learn the things the game can teach. I want him to know about teamwork, about winning the right way and accepting defeat the same.

I want him to experience the highs and the lows the game of football gives you. The lesson that nothing beats hard work and nothing feels better than knowing you left everything you had on the field.

Football is great that way.

But then there are other things that come to mind, things that make you wonder about stuff we didn’t worry about so much 18 years ago.

Sure, there was concern about safety back then, but really that was more about broken legs and separated shoulders, badges of honor we would call them. We talked about playing in pain if that made you tougher than the next guy, more of a man.

Now, we know much more.

As pro football’s biggest game comes to New Orleans, questions about the sport’s future are greater than ever.

The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but it is also changing. Concerns about player safety continues to grow, and while the general public may fight this the game’s leaders don’t.

That’s why it is fitting the 47th Super Bowl is in the same city that just a year before introduced us to the mess that became BountyGate.

Ironic, maybe, but clearly fitting.

Pro football is changing. What were considered big hits a few years ago have become penalties resulting in giant fines and big yardage. Many fans are angered by this.

Of course, they are not the ones who have to pick up the broken pieces of these players years after they are out of the spotlight. That is left to the wives, sons and daughters who become caretakers at a much-too-early age.

Football needs to change to protect those who play it.

Players are now bigger, stronger, faster and the hits greater than ever before, which means so is the danger. And as we learn more about the damage that is done to their bodies, and especially their brains, concern grows for those who spend their weekends working for our entertainment.

Yes, they are paid well. But, far too often they pay an even bigger price in the end.

In the past few years we have lost great players from the past in Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, both of whom took their own lives after years of torment that appear to have come from head injuries suffered during their playing days. As the evidence of such things continue to grow, those facts can no longer be ignored.

Whether football was the main factor to their demise, or even a small portion, the game takes its toll.

To its credit, the NFL is doing what it can to protect its players despite the cry of the public that seems to want more blood and even bigger hits.

Some of this might be self-serving from the league, which is being sued by a number of ex-players who believe the advice they were given about their health was geared more for the team’s benefit than theirs.

The pressure to play remains and the hits keep on coming.

That has led to a few current players to wonder when the first NFL on-field, hit-related death might occur. They fear it isn’t that far away.

With it, there are those who also believe that will signal the end of football as we know it, though it might take more than a single such incident like that to force real change.

And the pro game is just the tip of the iceberg. There are kids playing high school and college ball who are also getting bigger, stronger, faster and more dangerous.

It makes you wonder what is the right answer when it comes to the young Kalebs of the world. More and more parents are saying they will try to lead their kids away from football, especially those who played the game at the highest levels.

Former all-pro linebacker Harry Carson is the latest to express concerns. He gave his first grandson a set of golf clubs when he was born.

I don’t have the right answer. I do know this, it is a question to be taken seriously.

The good news is there are a few years before Kaleb’s parents must make their decision. Maybe by then we will have more evidence leading us one way or the other.

For now, I’ll just get Kaleb a baseball glove and hope he’s a lefty.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

Posted By: butchie On: 1/29/2013

Title: so why does media in lake charles give football so much attention

why does media in lake Charles give football so much attention and not give attention to other sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming etc

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