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NFL no longer a childhood dream

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The National Football League is the most popular sport in America. Forget about baseball being America’s favorite pastime. As for the NBA, NHL and MLS…Come on, get real. Just watch the Super Bowl. Where else can a 30-second commercial cost an average of $3.5 million?

“In another 20 or 30 years, I don’t even think football will be in existence anymore,” Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said.

If the NFL, one of the most financially profitable businesses in the world, is thriving with billions of dollars in its pockets, why would Pollard make such a statement?

Players still have to make a living, regardless of the countless 15-yard penalties for helmet-to-helmet contact or injury-related lawsuits. Advertisers and TV networks will still pay big money for broadcasting rights. ESPN reached a contract with the league last year to keep MNF for $1.8 billion a year until 2021.

However, if something is going to kill pro football, I’ll put my money on the lawsuits. Currently more than 80 concussion-related lawsuits are against the league. Eight-zero! That’s not the best part, more than 2,240 former players make up these lawsuits against the NFL. Yes, 2,240!

The issue regarding player safety has been around for some time now, casting a shadow on the league’s image. However, on May 2, football lost one of San Diego’s most treasured icons in Junior Seau. The suicide of the 43-year-old former pro-bowler took people by surprise, and had them asking, “Why?”

Seau played 12 years with the Chargers (90-02), two years with the Miami Dolphins (03-05), and three years with the New England Patriots (06-09). (Photo courtesy of AP)

Why else would former Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat, an undrafted free agent who had a chance to try out for the Cleveland Browns, let his dream of playing in the NFL go?

“Concussion symptoms, didn’t want to risk it.. ” he said. “Thanks to the Browns for the opportunity. Health trumps football any day.”

Can you imagine the toll it takes to receive one blow to the head after another every week for half a year? I can’t begin to envision how many concussions officials have failed to see and report during games.

Violent hits have taken a toll on athletes, especially QBs, pressuring the NFL to take better care of its players. Nonetheless, wouldn’t that take away the fun in watching football? Fans love intense, passionate and vicious hits; they’re one of the biggest reasons why the league thrives.

What direction should league officials take? Ex-players are suing for damages, present players have health concerns and are pondering whether the money is worth it down the line, while other players don’t care. Clearly the line is drawn with some players regarding their stance.

Only one certain thing in the world can help prevent future concussions from happening in at the pro-, college-, high school- level… parents! Parents are more powerful than the NFL or the millions of dollars it can offer. They can offer guidance, care, advice, and most importantly, love.

Just ask former QB Kurt Warner.

Warner has 208 career touchdowns and 128 career interceptions. (Photo courtesy of AP)

Warner has 208 career touchdowns and 128 career interceptions. (Photo courtesy of AP)
The former Arizona Cardinals player was put under fire after expressing in an interview that he would try to stop his kids from playing football to guard them from severe injuries.

Some former players, along with analysts, criticized Warner for bashing, attacking and putting down the company that allowed him play pro ball, earning millions along the way.

However, other parents, like New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, have sided with Warner, showing signs of concern after Seau’s death.

“I don’t want my son to play football,” Scott told the Daily News. “I play football so he won’t have to. With what is going on, I don’t know if it’s really worth it.”

On the other hand, Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White shows us another side, expressing his annoyance regarding the latest political shenanigans.

“It’s crazy how football players are killing our game; you signed up to play a violent game and made a lot of money now you talk bad about #how,” White said via Tweeter. “I love playing football. If I can’t walk when I’m 50 it was well worth it.”

New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora shared similar sentiments.

“It’s an awesome game and has done a lot for me, but I know when I’m 45 there is a strong chance I’ll be in a wheelchair,” Umenyiora said.

Umenyiora later added that if he could avoid the same fate for his son, he would do so. But if his son wanted to play, he wouldn’t stop him.

However, nothing compares to the shocking retirement of guard Jacob Bell, who said goodbye to the NFL after playing eight seasons with the Titans and Rams.

Whether Bell was tired of playing football or alarmed by Seau’s death, Bell quit in what seems to be one of the most alarming times in the history of the NFL.

Are more players going to start retiring because they think it’s not worth it? Especially when they only earn minimum wage, sure Bell isn’t a superstar, but is his retirement only the beginning of a domino effect in the league?

What happens now? What is the league going to do to make sure its image doesn’t get tarnished more than it already is? What does the NFL have to do to stop current players from retiring, convince future draft prospects to not forego their dream of playing, and prove to parents that it’s safe for their kids to play professionally?

These are all questions the NFL has to answer in the near future. For now, we play the waiting game.



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