BY CHRISTOPHER FREIND
Now that the Super Bowl is over, the really big game begins. And it’s going to be a head-knocker .
On one side we have the raiders. No, not Oakland, but the Trial Lawyers, who delightin raiding everything good and decent in America. They are representing former NFL players in their fight against the evil empire, a.k.a. the National Football League. At stake? Upwards of ten billion dollars, and possibly, the existence of the NFL itself.
And what is the nerve center of this federal lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia, that have the plaintiffs so mad they’re seeing double? What went so wrong that these former players, given a life of royalty by the NFL, now want to ring the League’s bell?
They suffered concussions playing football. No lie. That’s actually the basis of the lawsuit.
The sheer stupidity of such a suit makes you wonder if they really did get hit too many times, because no one of sound mind could dream up something like this.
It would seem, therefore, that their motive is rooted in something else. In the preferred legalistic nomenclature, they’re looking for a handout.
Maybe they’re bitter because they didn’t play in the era of massive contracts. Maybe it’s because they can’t function as “regular” guys after being worshipped for so long, which, for many, started in grade school. Others may feel lost, with football the only thing they know. But their commonality is thinking they are entitled to something.
The outcome of this lawsuit should be a no-brainer. But given the insanity in America’s civil legal system, a jackpot jury award is definitely possible. (NFL Properties and helmet maker Riddell are defendants, too.)
The players claim the NFL hid information linking football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries (such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease). In addition to monetary damages, they want the NFL to assume responsibility for the medical care involved for those players suffering from those health problems.
Let’s look at the case objectively:
1) This sense of entitlement is not just misguided but inappropriate. No one held a gun to players’ heads to sign lucrative contracts and become celebrities to play football. They’re big boys, and chose their profession --- with its risks --- of their own free will.
2) And yes, there are risks. Plenty of them. Football is not a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. It is an intensely physical, violent profession. That’s why God made pads and helmets, but any third grader can tell you that those things only help to minimize injuries, and can never totally prevent them. The NFL is not a flag-football league, but one with punishing hits. That’s the game. Players can take it or leave it. Not surprisingly, they take it. Always.
3) The pass-the-buck, take-no-personal-responsibility attitude so prevalent in America is once again on full display. Players knew the risks, reaped immense rewards, and now, after the fact, want to blame the NFL for their issues. And are we really supposed to believe that the NFL willfully engaged in a grand conspiracy to keep players in the dark about the effects of hard tackling? To swallow that, we must assume that the League had every doctor in the country on the take, preventing them from speaking to any player who had questions about concussions. And that it somehow inhibited medical professionals from conducting research into concussions and brain injuries.
4) Did the NFL, the medical community and our society know as much about concussions several decades ago? No. Is there a concerted effort now to better understand brain trauma, and to make all sports --- including NFL football --- safer? Absolutely. That’s not malfeasance. It’s progress.
5) Is the NFL culture one that glorifies big hits, highlights them on NFL films, and encourages playing through injuries? Yes, but so what? Fans love when players get leveled, and players love delivering big-time jolts, which often help their team. Gutting it out has always been a source of pride for players, who do it not to secure the next big contract but because they love the game. An admirable choice, but a choice nonetheless.
6) Where does it end? Should a firefighter who gets burned sue the fire department? Is a baker responsible because an obese donut-eater develops heart disease? And should office workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome have legal standing to sue their company?
Some jobs have higher risks, and playing NFL football is one of them. But given the lavish rewards, it’s an acceptable risk to players --- past and present. And regarding former players who state that, if they had today’s knowledge back then, they would have opted out --- give us a break. Not a chance in the world.
7) The NFL (and the Players Association) has spent more than a billion dollars on pensions, medical and disability benefits for retired players.
The NFL also operates numerous health programs for current and former players, and offers medical benefits to former players, such as joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program, according to the League. Equipment has improved, and safety has increased, including outlawing certain types of hits.
Is it sad that some former players have trouble walking, concentrating and living a “normal” life? Sure. Is it a tragedy when a few commit suicide? Absolutely. But it’s time that these players stop blaming others for their situations and look in the mirror. They made their choices, and for most, lived a fairy tale.
If they now choose to feel sorry for themselves, or regret their choices, fine. But it’s a personal foul to ruin the game not just for current and future players, but for the ones who allow the League --- and its former players ---to be so successful: the fans.
And you don’t need your head examined to see that.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com
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