OPINION: Grit and glory or tragedy and trauma?: The risk of playing football, the American way

The game of football has always been violent and risky, dating back to its earliest years. Removing the risk would be changing the foundation of the game.

During the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game on January 3, 2023, 24-year-old Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after a heavy hit aimed at Bengals receiver Tee Higgins.

Hamlin was on the ground for ten minutes following his collapse as medical professionals from either side of the field tended to him. It was later revealed by University of Cincinnatti doctors that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after the hit, and a heartbeat had to be restored at Paycor Stadium.

Fans from all over the country, regardless of their favorite team, rallied in support of Hamlin’s recovery, and in gratitude for the fast thinking and skill of the doctors on sight that saved Hamlin’s life. 

Hamlin’s injury reopened a conversation about injury and health protocols in the NFL. Reporters cited the response to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion as another reason for investigation.

This notion of safer and safer play, however, can never be truly achieved in the game of football. There will always be an inherent risk of injury every time a player steps onto the field. 

Football has become a pillar in American culture, standing alongside apple pie, Fourth of July, and country music. The game has evolved to protect its players, with developments in uniform safety and rule changes, but the concept of violent play has always remained the same.

The love of the game not only permeates throughout the country, but runs deep throughout the halls of East.

Senior varsity football player Logan Clarke says that he knows the risk of playing the game, but he stays because of his love of the game.

“I knew every time I put on my uniform I was preparing myself for potential injury,” he said. “Even after I got hurt, I still love the sport I dedicated so many years to.”

Even fans who have never played football themselves can see that changes to the game’s fundamentals can ruin what has been built over the past century.

Senior Savina Trujillo said she loves football because of the danger involved, and how when even things go wrong, there is still a reason to keep going.

“As a Buccaneers fan, my family and I are always a little bit worried for our favorite players, especially Tom Brady,” she said. “I think as football fans we understand how hard it is to pursue it professionally, and we can appreciate what they put themselves through for our entertainment.”

If we want football to continue its storied history and to bring fans together in support of a common goal, then we need to let it be. The intrigue of high school, collegiate, and professional football come with the sacks, tackles, and peril of the game. 

Without the risk involved, football would just be ten guys idly standing on a field while one throws a pigskin ball around, and where’s the fun in that?

Kelsey Gara is a staff editor for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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