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Chris Richardson
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Chris Richardson

The lead writer for

Death Won't Kill NFL


Carson Palmer made some heads turn when he told SI's Peter King "somebody is going to die here in the NFL." Palmer was making his case when he was asked about the various rules in place to protect quarterbacks, and whether he thought they've gone too far. To Palmer, they do not. From his perspective, it's easy to understand his misgivings. Quarterbacks are sitting ducks back there and if a 250-pound defensive end who can run a 4.5 forty-yard dash gets a clean shot...

Well, if injury is expected, almost demanded in such a situation, the concept of a player dying shouldn't be foreign either. Names like Mike Utley and Kevin Everett are still present in our collective psyche. Inches separate their type of spinal breaks from something much more dire.

The question I have, is what happens if the unthinkable occurs? Would we fold the tents on the NFL and say, "Well, that's the line and the death of Player X crossed it," or would we continue on with the obsession? You know, the one that turns everyday Joes into wanna-be general managers and owners, all in the name of a fantasy league? Or the one that allows us to live vicariously through the actions of others?

Consider this: NFL fans essentially embrace the concept of a gruesome injury. Remember the number one story of last season? Yeah, it was Tom Brady's knee. The better part of six months was spent discussing an injury that might have robbed a person of their ability to walk. And we talked about it, laughed about it, and some cases, rooted for and rewarded the player, Bernard Scott, who temporarily hobbled the great Tom Brady. Now imagine if Bernard Scott's hit was head-high instead of around the ankles, and Brady's head snapping back in an awkward motion, leading to brain damage or worse.

Would we stop watching the NFL? Without question, that answer is no. Oh, I'm sure some fans of said player might be disgusted and would turn away, but by and large, blog posts would go up, ESPN and the rest of the mainstream media would issue thesis-style missives on the dangers of football, but as long as the fans were willing to come back and spend their money on the product being offered, the sport would continue on unabated. There would be a ton of memorials and pre-game rituals, as well as initials and numbers on jerseys. There might even be the introduction of a new rule designed to protect quarterbacks even more, but the game would go on. And we would still watch.

By Chris Richardson  |  September 9, 2009; 10:18 AM ET  | Category:  Concussions , Medical Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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