Now is the time when we remember that football is dangerous.
It's not just about those brains on ice, those players who have lost the ability to think or recognize their loved ones. It's not just about the arthritis that comes later or the broken bones that come sooner or the cardiac arrest that is one in a million.
There is a reason you suit up and wear a helmet and pads and the rest, a reason you protect everything you can, a reason they call it "tackle" because that's what you do.
I was a majorette in high school. We did splits in the mud. The biggest risk was the ice. The boys could get hurt. We just got cold. Our team mostly lost.
They kept a stretcher on the sidelines. It got a fair amount of use. We weren't very good. No one was going to college on a football scholarship. No one was going to the NFL. They were banging up their bodies for what?
What are we cheering about? Men attacking each other and dragging each other down? Is this cause for celebration?
Hooray, you've dragged him to the ground, but he's still holding on to the ball? Or he isn't, and we don't cheer; the other side does. What a wonderful game.
Like everyone else in America, I can't stop myself from checking constantly on Damar Hamlin's health. He made the tackle and nearly died doing it.
It reminds me of the time I watched a boxer die on television. These things aren't supposed to happen when we're watching on live television. This isn't sporting at all.
Hamlin was on the field for 10 minutes before he was carried out on a stretcher. Ten minutes of what? Dare I call it dead time?
Hamlin started a toy drive two years ago that has exploded since his injury, with 220,000 people contributing, including the legendary quarterback Tom Brady. His doctors reportedly told him he would have a lot of toys to buy.
The NFL is having a hard time deciding what to do about the game. Rightly so. There is nothing good to be done about a game in which a player nearly died, except to be glad that he didn't. And to ask what can be done to ensure that it won't happen again.
So long as tens of millions of people are ready to watch, the NFL will play. Are we watching because of the violence, or in spite of it? Is the danger a byproduct of the game, or part of what makes it exciting?
The one piece of good news in the Hamlin story is the quality of medical care that the young man received on the field, which very clearly saved his life in an acute situation. The NFL should be credited for that.
Football is a dangerous game, but the NFL at least was prepared for that. Not every college or high school is, and they should be. Perhaps that is the lesson that needs to be learned.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.
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