At a Camp Verde football game two weeks ago, I witnessed a scene that I’ve witnessed far too many times before.
The home team was losing, and the Camp Verde players were getting pretty worked up about it.
The visiting team, the Kingman Academy Tigers, had driven deep into Cowboys territory and were threatening to score another touchdown in a game that had already seen them score several.
The Camp Verde players were shouting “hit somebody!” — a rallying cry heard usually when a team is frustrated and needing a big play to change the momentum of a game.
A Cowboys linebacker took it to heart, and when a Tigers’ running back came sprinting around his end toward the end zone, the young man met him at the goal line with a ferocious hit.
But as is usually the case when this happens, the player with the most momentum — the runner — won the battle.
The linebacker ended up face down on the field, motionless for several seconds, until the team’s coaches ran to help him.
No one likes witnessing a scene like that, and every time we do we hope we never witness it again.
But last Friday during Sedona Red Rock’s game against Williams, a Scorpions player took a big hit and lay face down, motionless for several seconds.
Both of these young men were fine. They “got their bell rung,” which in football vernacular means they most likely received concussions.
But as I watched them being removed from the field of play on stretchers, I tried to imagine how I would feel if they were my son. Would I ever want them to play such a violent game again?
Concussions have begun to be at the forefront of a lot of discussion surrounding football players, most recently in an excellent PBS Frontline documentary called “League of Denial.”
In it, the producers detailed the lengths to which the National Football League has gone to discredit the opinions of several researchers who warned them of the effects not only of concussions, but of the repeated blunt force head trauma that all football players experience.
To its credit, the NFL did pay a $765 million settlement to compensate more than 18,000 retired players who had received concussions to pay for medical exams, and also to underwrite research on the subject.
It also is a big financial supporter of USA Football’s “Heads Up Football” program that teaches youth football players proper techniques for tackling that are purported to reduce the incidence of concussions.
But I have to wonder: Is the human body even meant to take the kind of abuse that football players experience on a regular basis?
I recently interviewed a youth football coach who told me that the hardest part of the game for the kids to get used to is the hitting. “It’s shocking to them,” he said.
I’m the first to admit that I love football. It’s the ultimate game combining all the things that I love about sports — speed, strength, athleticism and strategy.
I live and die each Sunday this time of year with my beloved Denver Broncos, and I can think of few better ways to spend a Friday evening than at a local high school football game.
Football has gained enormous popularity over the last few decades, and I haven’t heard anyone proposing that the game be outlawed.
But maybe the current discussion surrounding the effects of concussions will lead to some effective solutions for preventing, or at least reducing, the incidence of head trauma in football.
Then, hopefully, we will never again have to witness a young man being carried off a field of play.
For the full story, please see the Friday, Oct. 23, issue of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.