Three weeks ago, I desperately wanted a break from all the stories about whether kids should play football. Now, I desperately want a break from all the stories about the back-to-the-future toxic relationship between the NFL and the NFLPA.
And, of course, the respite comes via another story about whether kids should play football.
But this one goes the other way. It’s not about why kids shouldn’t play football. It’s about why kids should play football.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu had this to say on the subject, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Absolutely. You face so many different adversities. You deal with so much emotionally, but what makes this sport unique is that you can deal with a lot physically. You face guys that are bigger, stronger and faster than you. You can be physically dominated, but you still have to get up and fight. That’s a type of thing you can’t learn anywhere else, especially not in any other sport.”
Teammate Larry Foote agrees. “Yes, because they’re just starting to scratch the surface of making the game safer — and they are trying,” Foote said, perhaps not recognizing the irony in his remarks regarding safety, given that his teammates consistently complain about efforts to make the game safer. “My son isn’t going to be skateboarding or any X-Games type of activities. The way I feel about that stuff is the way some people feel about football, that it isn’t safe. But I know how football challenges you every day, how you learn discipline and control. Once you start learning those things you can apply them to anything, including studying and especially life.”
Of course, the same could be said of skateboarding or X-Games activities, or plenty of other sports or endeavors that entail physical exertion and, in turn, physical risk.
Polamalu acknowledges that everyone may assess those risks differently. “I don’t know if parents should feel comfortable [letting kids play football], to be honest,” Polamalu said. “It’s not the responsibility of the game to make anybody feel comfortable.”
The question is how much risk — and in turn discomfort — will be tolerated by a parent, or by the child once the child is old enough to make his or her own decision. It’s unclear where the line is. But for most parents it still resides somewhere between playing football and re-enacting scenes from the Jackass movies.