Bronx assemblyman Michael Benedetto has introduced legislation in New York state to prohibit children 10-and-younger from playing organized tackle football, the first such proposal in the nation. Unsurprisingly, he’s since encountered many, many detractors. And for good reason.
Of course, Bendetto’s heart is in the right place. “I want to protect the children,” he said Friday. “I want them to get an appreciation of the game but I also don’t want them to come out of this wonderful sport in a damaged condition.”
The intentions are pure enough. But officials of youth football leagues, including John Butler, executive director of Pop Warner football, see the bill as little more than an overreaction to injuries sustained by college and pro football players and not something based on trends in youth football.
Said Butler, “This is absolutely the first we have heard of any state doing something like this,” adding that children are more likely to suffer concussions falling off of skateboards or bikes than playing football.
Garvin Dublin, who helps run the New York City Youth Football League, added that he has been coaching youth football for 27 years and has seen only two serious injuries.
What do you think? Another example of the “wussification of America” (sorry, couldn’t think of a better way to put it)? Or a legitimate concern for the safety of the nation’s children?
As someone who grew up in football-crazed Texas, I can understand where Bendetto is coming from in principle, but his concerns are certainly off-base. Everyone I knew growing up (and I mean EVERYONE) played tackle football. Not organized tackle football with rules, equipment, and refs. I mean tackle football in the front yard where the sidewalk and driveways were out of bounds. Many of my friends and I lost a lot of elbow skin in those neighborhood battles. The worst injury I ever saw anyone ever encounter is a tie between a friend who ran into a mailbox and got a scar on his face and another friend who got pulled down by his rat-tail (Hey, I did say I grew up in Texas). Third place goes to another friend who almost got hit by a car running into the street to retrieve an errant pass.
Anyway, my point is that this was football played by kids without helmets, pads, or adult supervision. Add in those variables and it becomes that much more unlikely that a bunch of 90-pound children slowly running around and hitting each other won’t result in a serious injury. Michael Bendetto deserves some credit for trying to do the right thing, but this simply is just an attempt at preventing a problem that doesn’t exist.
Photo via Disney Photo/Scott A. Miller