Have the Bengals set the standard for toughness?
In recent years, the NFL (and certain Bengals players) have been put under a microscope, in terms of player safety and injury. Now, before I continue on, I want to go ahead and lay out a sort of disclaimer: I DO NOT condone the willful harming of any athlete for entertainment’s sake.
What was it Joe Namath said?
"“When you win, nothing hurts.”"
That being said, football is a dangerous sport. The parents who allow their children to play know it’s dangerous. Coaches know. Doctors know. Most importantly, the athletes that participate know the inherent dangers.
If one was not sure concerning exactly how dangerous football can be, a study of the equipment used by the Bengals would answer that question without the use of any words — helmets, pads, cleats, mouth guards.
Some of my views in this article may seem callous, but I don’t see it that way. I’m just pointing out the obvious, or basically reminding us of what we already know.
We’ve all seen the old black and white photos of players missing teeth, bleeding knuckles, broken and busted noses, but actively participating. They’re still in the game. I love the old NFL films from the 70’s when the camera focuses on the linemen’s hands all taped-up and bloodied, but still in position. To me, it’s a stark contrast from the players and games today.
If you compare a game from then to a modern game, there are marked differences in terms of what I can simply refer to as “toughness.” The Bengals are lucky to have a few throwback warriors. Vontaze Burfict, Karlos Dansby, and Geno Atkins come to mind. One can’t forget Andy Dalton‘s attempted tackle of Stephon Tuitt. That was sheer bravery. The NFL Network has it gloriously etched in time.
I’m not saying that athletes aren’t strong or talented, but I feel that maybe a certain degree of toughness has left modern American football. I have friends who say that “they” (whoever “they” are) are taking the football out of football. It’s not what is used to be.
In an age of multi-million dollar contracts, some athletes view themselves as a commodity instead of a football player. They are their own investment. They have become a brand bigger than the game.
Outside of rooting for the Bengals and drooling over the number of striped helmets on the field, have you “watched” a Pro Bowl recently? To be honest, I couldn’t watch it this year. It’s getting as a bad as an NBA All-Star Game. It’s turned into a family vacation, not an exhibition of the skills of the league’s best players. Now that the contest is moving to Orlando, that just reaffirms the vacation feel of the event. Hello, Disney World!
It isn’t just football that suffers from this change in athlete perspective. As I’ve already mentioned, the NBA has its share of athletes crying to the refs after every touch or flop in hopes of getting a foul called. Baseball can be just as bad, and in many times, worse. Pitch counts limit the number of throws a pitcher can take, there’s a definite rotation for starters, and players are benched for muscle soreness — let that sink in. Muscle. Soreness.
Again, I feel I must reiterate that I’m not for the willful harming of athletes, but they know the inherent dangers when they sign up. They know the trade-off. It works out for some, but not for others.
With the release of a new movie and newly-released investigative reports, the league is in the crosshairs of the same thought process that looks to ban dodge ball in elementary schools in fears that someone may get hurt — either physically or emotionally.
What is happening? What have we become when we are trying to take away all of the danger out of sports and life? Isn’t that what makes it exciting? Are we so worried about risks and lawsuits that we go too far?
It’s hypocritical to cheer for a great tackle (one that almost makes us hurt when we watch it), then decry the violence inherent in the sport. We replay the scene on our computers, televisions, smart phones. We forward them to our buddies, but then totally become an advocate against brutal hits the next minute.
I hate it when an athlete is injured — I wish pain, injury, and death on no one. I do, however, love a great sack.
It’s a fine line…