Before there were rules in boxing, a sport that some still view as barbaric, fights often ended one of two ways: 1) submission; 2) death.
There were no scorecards or draws during the Ancient Olympics. If a fight dragged on, there would be a tiebreaker, in which each man stood to receive his opponent’s punch in the face until one was knocked out. “A visitor’s guide to the Ancient Olympics” quotes this description from Homer: “Then, as Euryalos peered for an opening, god-like Epeios moved in for the punch and struck him on the cheekbone — he did not stay on his feet long: his bright body collapsed under him where he stood … His dear companions surrounded him, and carried him through the assembly with legs dragging, spitting out thick blood, and lolling his head to one side.’”
Sound like fun? You must be in the cheap seats.
Sports has evolved. So has man.
To football fans who believe their precious game has been made “sissified” by rules intended to decrease injuries, particularly head trauma, you’re viewing the world through a Neanderthal’s glasses, probably while holding a Budweiser.
More attention is being paid to player safety because athletes are bigger, stronger and faster now. Collisions are greater and the potential severity of injuries is more pronounced. Equipment, while more protective in some respects, also is lighter and therefore enables players to easily morph into assault weapons.
The NFL has committed to paying $765 million to any former players suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from head injuries during their career. That’s a lot of money for something the league still hasn’t publicly claimed responsibility for. The settlement stunned many who believe the league got off cheap. What does that tell you?
The NFL generates over $9 billion in revenue annually. So $765 million might not seem like much. Simple math suggests, with some 4,500 former players failing concussion-related lawsuits, that’s only $170,000 per litigant. The NFL minimum salary: $405,000. The upside of the settlement is it gets money to those in the greatest need medically who can’t afford to wait for their cases to reach a courtroom.
In both the NFL and college, we’re hearing official terms like “defenseless player” and “targeting” and “leading with the crown of the helmet.” The rules aren’t meant to soften the game or make it less exciting. It’s so those playing the game now will still be able to watch it in 10, 20, 30 years.
Those who can’t see that, need new glasses.