Bock’s Score: Football Fans Don’t Care About CTE

Welcome to another rock-‘em, sock-‘em season of NFL football, played by large men, many dealing with anger management issues. Wimpy guys need not apply.

The casualty list is waiting for names, players carted off after collisions, sometimes nursing sprains and strains, sometimes bruised brains.

America loves football, the country’s No. 1 sport. It is a collision sport, built around the large men hitting one another violently. Hey, they’re hitting each other, not us. Why wouldn’t we love it? It’s just like we love auto racing, especially the crashes. Yahoo!! Whoopee!! Look at that!!

Further evidence for this love affair occurred at a New York Jets fan forum at the start of training camp. Invited to the affair were Jamal Adams, the team’s No. 1 draft choice, veteran running back Matt Forte and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Because a New England Journal of Medicine had just published a disturbing report that said in the study of 111 brains of diseased players, 110 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the subject of player safety took center stage. CTE is a devastating condition that leaves victims disoriented, battling depression, dementia and memory loss, and leads eventually to death.

Adams, a 21-year-old safety, offered his perspective.

“I’m all about making the game safer,’’ he said, “but as a defensive player, I’m not a big fan of it.’’

That was alarming enough but then, after explaining how invested he is in football, Adams added this thought.

“Literally, if I had the perfect place to die, I would die on the field,’’ he said. “And that’s not a lie.’’

Instead of gasping at that thought, many of the fans broke into loud applause at the idea of a player willing to sacrifice his life for their enjoyment. This is right out of the Christians and the lions in the Roman Coliseum a couple of hundred years ago.

Is this how far civilization has fallen?

The commissioner, whose job above all else is to protect the NFL shield, tried to soften Adams’ comments. “I think he was really making the point of how much he loves the game,’’ Goodall said. “It’s just something that means a great deal to him. I get the emotion of that.’’

Chalk up Adams’ remarks to a rookie mistake. A day later, he tried to explain. “My words were simply that I’m very passionate about what I do,’’ he said.

What he does is chase after other players, arrive in ill humor, and collide with them.

“I understand the CTE symptoms and what-not and how families are affected by it,’’ the rookie safety said. “But it’s simply about passion.’’

Tony Dorset also was passionate about football as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. Jim McMahon was, too, when he was quarterbacking the Chicago Bears. Adams ought to see the condition those All-Pros are in now, struggling with memory loss and life’s simplest functions, confused and wondering what the next day will bring.

There is no mention of CTE on Dorset’s Pro Football Hall of Fame bust or the one honoring McMahon in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Maybe there should be.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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