Keeping football safe for future

With the local high school football season over, we can reflect on the successes or not too successful teams we have rooted for. We can sadly recall the unfortunate death of a popular boy who died while playing the sport he loved.

We can mourn his death but not to an extent that would eliminate football as a sport that entails risk. It could be said that when the school board made the decision to cancel the rest of the football games for the 2013 season, one must wonder about the future of football in Westfield and elsewhere. I know this statement sounds premature but the school boards should be ready when threats to a popular sport become evident.

Something they should have considered is, according to Gregg Easterwood who writes a football column for ESPN, is that a teen who drives a car for an hour has about one in a million chances of dying compared to one in 6 million for a teen who spends an hour practicing football.

Also enlightening was an article, “Football and the American Character,” written by John Miller in the “Imprimis,” a newsletter published by Hillsdale College. He points out that the future of football is uncertain but the past may offer important lessons. After all, football’s problems today are nothing compared to what they were about a century ago.

In 1905, 18 people died playing the sport. Teddy Roosevelt brought together coaches from Harvard, Yale plus other colleges and charged them with the responsibility of cleaning up the violence in football. He showed that a skillful leader can solve vexing problems.

As a rule, of course, we don’t want politicians interfering with our sports. That would only make the situation worse. I implore our school boards to challenge high schools coaches to do as Teddy Roosevelt did in order to make football safer but not to the point where the outcome would be a risk free sport or regulate it out of existence.

Teddy Roosevelt loved football and athletics in general. Because of him, we enjoy football as it is played today. Those who played football in the 1940s or before will remember the leather helmets that were issued to us. We did not use them as battling rams, to the extent, they use the helmets issued today.

Miller ended his article stating that Americans are a self -governing people, we can make our own judgments about whether we drive or play football. And when we make these choices, we can make them in recognition of the fact that although sports can be dangerous, they’re also good for us. They make us distinctively American. And they make us better Americans.

Jack Benson is a Fredonia resident.