NYTimes- U.S.A. Football, the national governing body for amateur football, intends to introduce a drastically altered youth football game in response to declining participation and increasing public belief that the game is not safe for children to play.
Keynote speakers, including former N.F.L. coaches, players and team presidents, echoed Mr. Hallenbeck’s call to arms at the three-day event, saying the sport is under threat.
“There are a lot of geniuses out there that are diminishing football right now,” said Jon Gruden, a former coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now works as an analyst for ESPN. “There are a lot of geniuses that are trying to damage the game, and ruin the game. Do you feel it? There are a lot of geniuses that want to eliminate all sports, including recess.”
“Not on my watch, and clap your hands if you’re with me on that,” he added, to loud applause.
Let's just clear one thing up before we get into Jon Gruden's spirited defense of the game by which he's made his illustrious living. The geniuses that want to get rid of football and the "geniuses" that want to get rid of recess are not the same geniuses. I feel like that is a pretty important distinction to make. Chucky might disagree, but one of the previous uses of that all-so-complimentary term is just a bit more - shall we say - sarcastic than the other. I'll leave the deciphering to you, but one of those groups of geniuses bases their opinion on diligent scientific research and a much belated commitment to the long term health of kids while the other doesn't think that quickly slapping a band-aid on a skinned knee is a necessary part of childhood. So - in my estimation - they are working with two very different levels of intelligence.
That said, you can't help but love Jon Gruden energetically spouting off anything he can to make it sound like the war on youth football is one being armed solely by the types of parents that got dodgeball canned because their kid kept getting picked last for a reason. It's not remotely close to true considering the fact that dozens of athletes that made millions upon millions of dollars playing the sport said they would never let their son or daughter play it for fear of their safety. But still, you have to commend the keynote speaker in question for having such a nurturing relationship with football that he didn't hesitate to echo (literally and figuratively) the most disjointed of rhetoric in defense of it's flaws. When it's come to CTE and irreversible brain trauma, Jon Gruden is basically the biased mother sitting in the principle's office yelling "Not MY baby!". The same amount of emotion that Will Smith put into making 'Concussion' seem dramatic just got put to shame by the endless, unbridled enthusiasm that a commentator put forth in comparing kickball to a game in which pre-pubescent kids try to inflict harm on each other without having the slightest idea how to properly position their bodies in doing so.
Now, I'm obviously not anti-football in any way, shape, or form, but the fact that you can't fend off attacks on it without making ridiculous statements speaks volumes. If you listen closely I'm pretty sure it's saying that you don't even have to be a genius to see the inherent difference in dangers between football and wall ball. Although, given the scowl on his face, I wouldn't want to be the one to tell Jon Gruden to stop "drawing" comparisons....