The NFL season is officially underway. Though it doesn’t feel real for me until my beloved Bears kickoff tomorrow, my sons are everything football lately. They want to play more Madden on their Wii, they play with the old pigskin on the front lawn, yelling random numbers (“Seventeen! Five hundred and two! Eight!”) and colors (Red! Gold! Chartreuse! Taupe!”) prior to each snap and they long to tackle their friends more than usual, trying to plant their good buddies’ faces into the grass.
All this is casual. There are no practices, uniforms or annoying overbearing parents with which I must mingle on the sidelines. They play for fun and they will occasionally watch a game with me mostly from the corner of their eyes while building with Lego.
But it will not always be this way. They are growing up fast and soon the decision will have to be made regarding whether or not they will strap on full pads and attempt to knock another child’s spleen out through his navel.
Several years ago, I would have said the decision was completely up to them. Even as I said that, I would have really meant that the decision was completely up to me, which in turn would have meant that the answer was, yes, they will attempt to telescope the spine or shatter the clavicle of one of their peers by playing football.
I believed this at the time despite my wife’s insistence that her sons will not play such a violent sport. Of course a mother’s natural instinct is to protect her offspring. Just as a mother in the wild will create a wall of herself between child and predator, a human mother tries to prevent her precious sons from participating in activities that might cause them damage. It is then the father’s responsibility to rip said child away from the safety of his mother’s side and throw them into the fray so that they might…well…be a guy, I suppose.
This all seemed like such natural thinking until something happened to me. A few years back, I sustained a concussion while at work. The details are another story entirely to be told only in the proper setting, over beer and fried food.
While experiencing the effects of the concussion, I didn’t think anything about my sons and football. In fact, I thought about little else other than how bright the sun was, how loud the everything was and how dare you tell me I need to relax. Put simply, I was very crabby, mostly due to the constant headaches and nausea resulting from my brain having rattled around within my skull, and acted like a complete jerk most of the time, which I promise is not how I normally act.
Once I was out of the tunnel, back to being my cheery, amiable self, I began to realize that concussions are serious business. The fact that they are so prevalent in football made me question whether allowing my sons to play it was worth it. My wife’s logic began to look like less of an effort to turn my sons into sissies and more like logical parenting.
I have yet to decide. I write this today only because I realize the time when a decision must be made is drawing nearer each day. My sons’ playing of football was once a forgone conclusion. Then doubt crept in and made me think it could be up to them, and this time I meant it. Now I even have doubts from time to time if it will be up to them or if I will just say no.
I am sure I will flip-flop on the choice several times before I need to make the ultimate call. At least now I am a little more open to the opposite way of thinking. It’s just a shame that it took my own personal injury to bring that around.
While I hope this opens the door for other parents out there to consider their options and not feel overprotective, I must be honest that the only lasting effect of my concussion seems to be that I jerk in my sleep, according to my wife. Other than that, the trees in the tropical rainforest are in leaf throughout the entire calendar year.
Smaller plants from the ground use whip-like appendages in an attempt to ascend skyward toward the canopy. Their green leaves unfold as they climb closer to the sunlight that await them on the other side.
For BBC Worldwide, I am David Attenborough. Thank you for joining us. Good night.