Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is one of my favorite people in football because he always speaks his mind. Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is one of my favorite people in football because he always speaks his mind. One on of the media’s favorite football topics when there’s no real football to talk about, Arians and Mathieu have each spoken their mind — and their views sharply conflict.
Speaking to Peter King of TheMMQB.com at the Wednesday NFC coaches breakfast held in conjunction with the annual league meetings, Arians addressed the topic of kids playing football.
“It’s the greatest game in the world. I think it teaches more values than any other game that you play. Toughness, get up and fight when you have things that happen in your life that aren’t gonna be good. If you play football, you know how to handle them,” Arians said. “We have this fear of concussions that is real but not all of those I think statistics can prove anything. . . . There are more concussions in girl’s soccer than in football at that age. The No. 2 sport with concussions is women’s soccer, but no one says, ‘We’ve gotta stop playing soccer,’ all right? Same thing with knee injuries. There are more knee injuries at eight to 12 in soccer than football. You can find all the statistics you want if you want to crucify something. Our game is great. People that say ‘I won’t let my son play it’ are fools.”
Mathieu is one of those fools, apparently. He posted the following message on Twitter, deleted it, then retweeted Mike Freeman’s quote of the deleted tweet: “My children won’t [play football]. Too much on the body at such young ages. They can play in [high school]. If they want.”
In a separate, non-deleted tweet, Mathieu says this: “Football has taught me so many lessons. . . . I’ve learned to be coachable, accept losing, work with others, teaches you how to work.” Still, Mathieu’s position that his kids won’t play until high school puts him directly within the range of people that Arians regards as “fools.”
Both guys, and anyone else who chimes in on the topic, are entitled to their opinions. It remains unusual, as Arians points out, that football is the only contact sport that has become the focal point of parental consternation. As Jay Glazer of FOX Sports explained in a recent podcast with Bill Simmons, a mother recently brought her son to Glazer’s gym in L.A. and said that she wanted to get the boy involved in a sport like mixed martial arts because it’s “safer than football.”
The fact that anyone would believe that MMA is under any circumstances safer than football proves that there’s an ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of moms and dads throughout the country — and that football is losing. Badly.
Directing Trump-style tough talk toward those who choose not to let their kids play football may not be the best way to turn the tide (then again . . .). Still, comments from guys like Arians, coupled with the recent passionate defense of football from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, shows that football coaches may start taking a more football-coach approach to the debate.