Last year I quit watching football. Cold turkey. Players bashing their brains out for the temporary amusement of the spectators just seemed wrong.
Of course my personal decision does nothing to stem the carnage. The data show serious permanent brain injury in athletes at all levels, from the NFL down to high-school teams and even younger. I grew up a long time ago in an era that was generally much less safe for kids than it is today. There were no seat belts in cars, no helmets for bike riders, no playground equipment made of soft plastic with rounded edges. Somehow we survived, but, to this day, I’m glad I never played tackle football. It’s hard to reconcile society’s increasing fixation on child safety with its enthusiasm for a sport that does so much lasting damage to the players’ brains.
Which brings me to the local brouhaha over lights at Parker-Gray Stadium. There are many important issues: Will the lights violate a promise made to the neighborhood residents? Would the funds be better spent on improving academics, especially since test scores in Alexandria continue to lag nearby jurisdictions?
But to me the overriding concern is the brain damage inflicted on the athletes. There are no technological fixes. The violence of the game itself is inseparable from what makes it exciting to play and to watch.
In pursuit of student safety, ACPS should seriously consider the extreme, but justified, step of phasing out the football program at T. C. Williams. Let’s remember the Titans the way we remember our combat veterans. Honor their achievements, but, going forward, do everything we can to keep their successors out of harm’s way.