The Game of Football


I found this in the Tar Heel Archives and running it today.

The game of football has been my favorite go to sport since I was a kid – and I wanted to play as long as I can remember.

But I sucked.

Part of it might have been that I wasn’t good but part of THAT is that I wasn’t willing to trade getting tackled for scoring touchdowns.  I like to think, in part, that I traded my mind for my body.

That said – I can’t let my son play the game; the trade off isn’t worth it.  And earlier this year a legend of the game agreed with me:

Football great Mike Ditka says that, if he had an 8-year-old son right now, he wouldn’t let him play football. He made the remarks in an episode of HBO’s Real Sports, which will air tonight.

The Chicago Tribune has the exchange:

Ditka: “If you had an 8-year-old kid now, would you tell him you want him to play football?”

Gumbel: “I wouldn’t. Would you?”

Ditka: “Nope. That’s sad. I wouldn’t. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”

The HBO piece will focus on drug use by the 1985 Chicago bears.

There have been numerous stories about the 1985 Chicago Bears, but none quite like this.

The upcoming edition of “Real Sports” (9 p.m. Tuesday, HBO) will feature a report by Bryant Gumbel that chronicles the players on that team using excessive painkillers and narcotics to overcome injuries and get back on the field. The report says that contributed to many of the former Bears players being severely debilitated nearly 30 years later.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka even said if he had a young son today, he wouldn’t allow him to play football. Gumbel calls the ’85 Bears football’s “ultimate cautionary tale.”

Last May, former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, defensive end Richard Dent and offensive tackle Keith Van Horne were among a group of retired players who accused the league in a lawsuit of supplying them with powerful painkillers and other drugs that kept them in the game but led to serious complications later in life. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages on behalf of more than 500 former players.

3 responses to “The Game of Football

  1. Sadly true. I’m currently reading “The Last Kings of the NFL” by Pat Kelly about the 1969 Vikings, and my 9 year old son (who was eight last year) enjoyed watching Vikings games with me. We’d play fake games together, and he was pretty good! But when he asked to join a team I told him no. I explained why, and he ultimately agreed. Now he’s into watching the Twins and learning baseball (improving dramatically – we spend an hour or two a day on it). As he has fantasies about becoming a pro someday, I’m focusing on getting him ready to join a team next year. But it’s too bad I had to nix football.

    • Excuse me, the book is by Pat Duncan. I got the name wrong! I had planned to check it before submitting the post since I wasn’t sure.

    • But it’s too bad I had to nix football.


      Now to be fair – if a player is given the option of generation wealth but an early death and then he accepts this, I have no problem.

      I don’t *blame* football, I just ain’t gonna play.

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