NFL (Not For my Little one)

As a general rule of thumb, I don’t like telling Pickle that he is not allowed to do things. Usually I like to explain the pros and cons and help him come to a conclusion that I support. There are a few exceptions, mostly things that are dangerous. That is why there is no way that I will ever sign a permission slip for him to play football (American football for some of you). In fact, things have gotten so bad that I barely watch the NFL much any more. (I grew up near Green Bay, WI—the green and gold runs through my veins. Hell, I stuck it out in the late ’80 and early ’90s) I have caught only a couple of games this year, and only because Sweetie and my dad are both big fans.

Football has become too brutal. Practice is asking way too much of children. Boys are falling dead on the fields, in high school!  And then their classmates are being worked harder to honor a fallen comrade. Efforts have been made to protect concussion sufferers, but the victim is the one punished. In the culture of football, no one wants to be seen as weak.

Meanwhile I do not think that the NFL does enough to discourage the way the game is being played. They made rule changes to prevent head injuries, but the fines mean almost nothing compared to the players’ pay. Last month Pittsburgh Steeler’s linebacker, Terence Garvin, was fined for an illegal hit on another player in the chin with his helmet.

Let’s examine this case just a little more closely.

  1. The original fine was $25,000. (See previous link.)
  2. The fine will likely be deemed too steep, because his income is a mere $23,823 a week, the fine will be reduced to $5,955.75. This fine is only 25% of his weekly income.
  3. In 2011 the estimated per capita income in Pittsburgh was $24,527, which works out to $471.67 per week.
  4. A 25% fine for your typical resident would be $117.92. That’s actually less than the parking ticket you can get outside the stadium.
  5. Last I checked, breaking someone’s chin was worse than a parking violation.

The NFL is currently trying to work out a settlement with retired players regarding concussions and head trauma. One of the conditions of this settlement, however, is that the NFL does not have to admit to any guilt.  It should be noted that a judge turned down the $765 million agreement, saying, “I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their [families] … will be paid.”

I can see her concern. First of all, players are not talking about minor ailments. They are being diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Several former players, or their families, are coming forward. (Here & here are just a few examples.)

Is this entirely the NFL’s fault? Probably not, considering articles like this . At least this ill-advised Facebook group has been quiet since 2010.

As a fan of the game, I would like to see changes. It is awful to see the players that I once cheered for fall into such painful and dark places. As a football fan, I want to jump and scream from the couch for 3.5 hours on a Sunday with Sweetie and Pickle and enjoy the game again.

As a mother, I am glad that Pickle turns 18 after football season his senior year in high school.

Edited Jan 15 2014 1422 to clarify the fine on point #2.

Photo by Stuart Seeger, used under Creative Commons License.


I'm thirty-something and lucky enough have a job doing SCIENCE! I live in Madison, WI with five chickens, three dogs, two partners and one munchkin. Someday I would love to live on a big compound with my whole poly-family and goats.

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  1. “I wasn’t out there trying to be vicious or anything like that, I’m just trying to do what I can to make a play and help my team out. When you’re in a game, you’re trying to make a play, that’s all I’m thinking about.” Terence Garvin, from the linked article.
    This kind of canned statement is ubiquitous in these situations. The player acts as if they are the sole arbiter of what constitutes “making a play”. I was watching said game and I think a little more detail is in order. That “hit” was made whilst BLOCKING Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber, who was rendered out for the season. He completely blindsided the poor guy at full speed.

    I have come to the conclusion that, at least at the pro and college level, the referees have had too much of their judgement taken away from them. Instead of legislating in detail where exactly on the human body you are allowed to strike and going over replay with a fine tooth comb to see if the helmet hits “here” or “there”, return discretion to the referee to decide what “unnecessary roughness” and “unsportsmanlike conduct” means. Give them good guidelines and a directive to be responsible for player safety and let them adjudicate the game. And treat such penalties harsher on the field. I really think it should be easier to get thrown out of a football game. Give the ref yellow and red cards like the games ancestor soccer. 2 plays like the Terence Garvin’s and you are out of the game. Two expulsions and you’re suspended.

    I’ve posted similar recommendations at ESPN. You can guess how well they were received.

    1. I thought that hit sounded particularly nasty, and Mr. Garvin does not make himself very likable in that quote.

      I do like your idea of an in-game penalties as well. I know that you can be thrown out of most other major league sports. After reading a lot of comments while doing research for this article, I have a feeling you are not very well liked on some of those forums.

  2. I’m not. I also don’t believe in magic homer pills, so I’m in the minority on a lot of baseball forums as well. I’m one of the very few people rooting for Alex Rodriguez to sue the pants off of MLB.

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