Chris Borland could have just walked away.
He could have just made his peace after one year of professional football and gone on to do great things in a private sector job or maybe get a higher education degree.
Borland is the former San Francisco 49er who left the game following his rookie season citing his long-term health. For that, I say “I understand completely and I wish you the best young Mr. Borland.”
But Borland has now decided that he can’t just walk away. He’s made the choice to take more parting shots at the game that paid for his University of Wisconsin education. With his re-emergence, Borland is now what I like to call “an agent of those wanting to destroy football.” There are already millions of them out there and Borland is far from the only former player among them.
In some cases, football has self-inflicted many of its own wounds. From the denial of head trauma to former players to the culture that pervades many high school and college campuses, football has not always helped itself.
But this goes deeper… Much deeper.
Participation in football from youth levels through high school is down in many parts of the country. The Rocket Football League my 10-year old son was part of last year has seen over 150 kids drop football over a two-year span.
Does this suggest that these kids suddenly dislike football? No, it mirrors perfectly the same thing we are consistently made aware of in our normal lives which is “fear.”
Every July the Fourth we are told to expect a possible terrorist attack… Fear! Every parent sees another player leave the game because of potential head injuries and long-term effects so they yank their child from the sport because… Fear!
Never mind the fact that football is changing positively. Players are being taught, as they always should have been, to see what they hit and to wrap with their arms rather than go for the big hit. Google “Hawk tackling” and you’ll see videos of tackling techniques aimed at teaching to keep the head safer when tackling. Even the amount of contact allowed during the week at all levels has been limited to prevent injury.
Still, that isn’t enough to help the game at the lower levels and it’s those kids who will become the pros of the future. Professional football by the way is doing just fine. Even with all of the changes to take the “violence and aggression” out of the game it remains the biggest draw in American sports by a wide margin.
Everyone of us changes as our life goes on; I can’t deny that and this is likely what has happened with Borland who called the game “destructive.” Still, where Borland and so many of his fellow “agents of change” screw up is that there are still millions of football fans like myself who can actually think and put together sentences.
Borland and his posse of football haters never seem to want to discuss the positives of the game nor do they want to talk about the catastrophic injury or concussion rates of soccer. Part of this reason is because soccer is a global game and the current fruit of the month among parents because they see it as “safer.”
Fear… Uniformed parents have less of it with soccer for many reasons but I could write a book on this and I’m not going there.
I honestly don’t know where Chris Borland suddenly had his epiphany but I really don’t care. I respected his decision to leave the game and I wished him well. But now Mr. Borland it’s time to do what former Steelers’ Head Coach Chuck Noll used to tell his players when their careers looked to be over.
“It’s time to get on with your life’s work.”
Please follow that sage advice Mr. Borland because I’m sick and tired of hearing you whine about football.