Andrew Luck reignites debate: Football or no football

Alan Greenwood

Wittingly or not, Andrew Luck revved the rhetorical engines of the ageless debate over football’s risks weighed against football’s rewards.

That the game is loved and loathed with soaring intensity is obvious. All team sports promote camaraderie and a sense of self-sacrifice for the greater good, but football takes those ideals to the highest level.

Football also presents the greatest risk for injury, ranging from minor to devastating. No NFL documentary is complete without a baritone narrator reverently paying homage to the price that is willingly paid for the ultimate gridiron triumph.

For professionals, there is no debate as to whether they should be allowed to follow their dream. They had ample opportunity to give it up after youth leagues, junior high, high school and college careers. They established themselves as worthy and are paid well for their efforts. When men like Luck and Rob Gronkowski step aside, they have made a decision that the gain is no longer worth the pain.

Very rarely does someone leave the NFL publicly wishing that they had never strapped on a helmet in the first place.

For children, the game’s bounty cannot be objectively measured. But there are clear benefits, which is why they want to play and why parents check their worries at the gate and encourage them. Those who want to see football wither and die will, of course, never acknowledge this.

No parent should ever force a son or daughter to give up a game they love any more than they should force a son or daughter to play a game they hate. Efforts are being made to make the game safer. While such rule changes are sometimes dismissed as emasculating or too weak to matter, they are ongoing.

That means the lords of the game, from the kids leagues to the pros, actually recognize that there is a middle ground to be found.

Successfully finding that sweet spot is, ultimately, football’s ticket to long-term survival.

TIME TRAVEL: Aug. 29, 1959 – “New Hampshire athletes figure prominently in football plans at the University of Vermont this year, where three Granite Staters have been invited back for UVM’s 11-day preseason training camp with Boston University.

“Heading the delegation is halfback Gerry Herlihy of Nashua, who has been tagged as a leading candidate for a starting halfback position. Herlihy, a speedy back who earned All-Scholastic honors under Buzz Harvey at Nashua High, was out last season with an injury but is expected to see plenty of action this fall. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Herlihy.”

AND FINALLY: This morning’s Back in the Day Observation – there really was a time when

Major League Baseball umpires did not all come equipped with rabbit ears.

No only are they incapable of ignoring growls from frustrated players, they actually get closer to hear every insult.

Astros pitcher Justin Verlander barked at umpire Pat Hoberg on what Verlander thought was a called third strike on Rays batter Tommy Pham, who doubled on the next pitch.

Verlander had a few more choice words as Hoberg roamed between the plate and the mound. Facing center field, Verlander said something that capped the moment for Hoberg, who then gave him the thumb.

Believe it or not, there were times when umpires gave players a brief time to vent, ejecting him only if the player’s actions showed up the umpire.

Apparently too many umps are now born with thinner skins.

Contact Alan Greenwood at 594-1248, agreenwood@nashuatelegraph.com, or @Telegraph_AlanG.com.