Will such complaints matter much in the overall picture? Surely there were those who griped when it was decided that boxers should wear gloves rather than fight bare fisted. The decision to reduce the length of major matches from 15 to 12 rounds no doubt rankled boxing purists. When I stroll down memory lane on a tour of the all-time greatest heavyweight tussles, 15-rounders seem more pure. There’s something majestic about the epic struggle to emerge as the better man over the course of those final three character revealing rounds. Is it animalistic to see purity in violence? Yes, but Homo sapiens are merely a species of animal, and violence performed with practiced skill and conforming to a strict set of rules can truly be a sweet science in the opinion of many. Otherwise the concept of Pay-Per-View probably would not exist. There's a reason more people watch the Super Bowl than choose to go to a ballet that day.
As in boxing, many measures have been taken over the years to make football safer. These measures need to be at least one step ahead of increases in size, speed, strength, and overall athleticism. If today’s NFL players still took to the field in leather helmets only a few would likely survive to the end of a game. When helmets are used as a weapon rather than a protective device, bad things can and do happen.
What also happens is the unavoidable and accidental. Should mistakes be punished to equal degree as actions taken with bad intentions? If not, how can we tell one apart from the other in order to judge fairly? This is a question without clear cut answers, my favorite kind of query. The NFL will do its best to solve the riddle, pleasing some, alienating others at least for the short term. Some of the decisions rendered will be agreed with by most, others will be as questionable as the personnell strategies of Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan and Brad Childress. Hopefully football will manage to retain the qualities that arguably make it the greatest of sports while also becoming safer for the combatants. I could have called them players/participants/athletes but used the word combatants because as we well know, tackle football is not for the faint of heart/body/soul, and with any luck it never will be.
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