I don't know if Bernard Pollard learned to speak his mind growing up in the Fort, or if that was trait he acquired later. But God bless the man for it.
As Super Bowl week began, he became a center of attention for fearlessly laying out the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't dilemma of the modern NFL.
“The league is trying to move in the right direction, but, at the same time, (coaches) want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out,” he said, predicting that the NFL as presently constituted won't exist 30 years from now. “And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.”
Abso-posi-lutely. And maybe it takes a guy who's notorious for big hits to point that out.
The dilemma the NFL faces is exactly what Pollard says it is: Coaches (and fans, too, which means owners, too) do want bigger, faster, stronger every year. That means bigger and more damaging hits. And that means more former NFL players dying young and brain damaged as the price for providing us a little Sunday afternoon entertainment.
But at what point does that price become too much?
That's a question more than just players and league officials are asking; even the President of the United States, a self-professed football fan, wonders if he'd have let his son play football had he had a son. And if Barack Obama is wondering that, you know thousands of parents who do have sons are wondering that.
See, they understand, too, that the fans want bigger, faster, stronger, and they also understand what that means: More dangerous, more violent, more potentially life-threatening. And so they debate letting their sons get involved. And if enough of them decide it's not worth the risk, the game will, yes, dry up and blow away, as Pollard suggests.
The only solution is to give the fans what they don't want, and tell them to live with it. Because the alternative is to be co-conspirators in their own extinction.
We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks ...
Yes, they do. And, yes, it does.