Scott Fujita played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years, and he still doesn’t know whether he’d let his hypothetical son play football.
Fujita is lucky — he’s the father of three daughters, none of whom have any interest in playing football (sorry, LFL fans) and thus gets to avoid this question entirely. But the former Super Bowl champion and current Fox Sports analyst is still asked how he feels about letting kids play football often, and he details his clearly tortured thought process in a New York Times op-ed today.
If there is a theme to the op-ed, it’s that Fujita is of two minds about everything related to football:
Now the most common question, by far, is, “Would you let your son play football?”
My response was usually a resounding, “No.”
Right around the time those questions started, I developed a deep love-hate relationship with the game. I loved playing on Sundays. I loved the paychecks. I loved the guys in the locker room. But I hated what football was doing to so many people around me, and I hated what it was most likely doing to me.
How can I bash a game that produced so many friendships, paid for part of my education and helped me become comfortable financially?
Imagine the hypocrisy. Here I am questioning whether children should be playing the game at all, and I’m basically selling the game to children watching at home. There’s certainly some internal conflict with that.
I’m a former player now, and concerned parents continue to ask me, “Scott, would you let your son play football?”
And how do I respond?
“I’m just glad I have three daughters and will never have that conversation.”
This piece mirrors the greater conversation going on at dinner tables across the country. We love football, but we know it’s bad for the people that play it. Those people make a lot of money, but they rarely get to spend that money in comfort and good health. Some of those players go on to analyze and promote the game, while others kill themselves in a fit of head-injury induced psychosis. It’s the most glorious game in America, and no one wants to be a part of it. We feel immense pain when we hear about the injuries and premature deaths that come from football injuries, and cheer when somebody lays a vicious hit on a wide receiver going across the middle. We want the game to be safer, but we implore our players to get bigger, faster, stronger.
Will we ever find a middle ground between these two opposing forces? Unless we’re willing to give up watching and playing a game we love, no. Fujita knows that, and his line that “Football isn’t for everybody” may be the closest we’ll ever get to reconciling our issues with an unconscionably violent game.
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