Treating the symptom, not the cause: 14 January 2011

I was just going to go easy and post a “Friday Flashback” today (and I will), until I stumbled across this link on ESPN’s “Uni Watch.”

Bulwark helmets

First, the good stuff: these are some real cool-looking helmets, which I’m all for, being a uni-phile myself. With the exception of the University of Oregon, I enjoy seeing new uniforms – up to a point. I’ll comment more on the NFL and it’s “new”  uniforms some other time. And I applaud somebody – anybody – who can design a safer helmet for football players, especially given the alarming increase in concussions (or maybe our awareness of the prevalence of concussions). And seeing as how it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any lessening of the violence of the sport anytime soon, a new helmet design certainly makes sense.

Except for one thing.

Designing a new helmet is treating the symptom – concussions – not the cause – improper tackling techniques. I know I sound old-fashioned, but today’s tackling, at any level of football, is appalling. I just sent through over a dozen bowl games, and I’m one of those fans who watches the ENTIRE play, not just the guy with the ball. I lost count of missed tackles, whiffs and “leading with your head” tackles I saw.  And the latter is the real culprit. Players don’t tackle anymore – they launch themselves at the ball carrier, receiver, quarterback, etc. I’m talking full-speed, leave-your-feet-and-drill-‘em-with-your-helmet launch.  Every time I see that, I cringe. And I hear my high school linebacker coach, Coach Hamilton, yelling “Don’t duck your head!” For good reason. The damage you can do to yourself when you use your head as a weapon is obvious, yet, today, there doesn’t seem to be any real emphasis on proper tackling. What we used to call “form tackling” in practice at New Hope High School in Lowndes County, Mississippi. We spent hours on it, in spring training, in two-a-days, and sometimes for punishment for a lackluster practice. But it worked, especially in the open field. Line the ball carrier up, break down, and attack his center of gravity, lead with the shoulder, head across his body (not aimed at his head), try to knock the ball out, WRAP UP his legs, take him down. For all you naysayers whining that it would take all the “violence” out of football, I say politely, “Shut up.” There’s plenty of room for violence, if you must have it to enjoy the game.  There’s also plenty of room to actually make tackles in the open field rather than grasp air when your Flying Human Projectile Technique fails miserably.

“Tackling” and “Inflicting Injury” are two different things. I hope more coaches and players rediscover that soon.

Friday Flashback: Since we’re now in the second round of playoffs, the Friday Flashback between now and Super Bowl Sunday will feature a classic moment (Janet Jackson notwithstanding) in previous Super Bowls, in no particular order.  This one is one of my favorites, Super Bowl XXXIV, Rams vs. Titans, with two viewing options: the original call (One Yard Short) — you can hear the finality of the moment in the commentator’s voice —  and a retrospective piece that’s pretty interesting (What a Relief).

Finally, I’m not saying Joe Theismann is dumb. I’m not even implying Joe Theismann is dumb. But after viewing this — especially Joe’s reaction — I have to wonder if he didn’t land on his head after The Hit. (Whatshisname)

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