Column: Thoughts about football when a granddaughter wanted to play


VIRGINIA BEACH — We’re nearly through the football season, which reminds me that this time last year my granddaughter, then 12, announced that she was interested in trying out for football.

Everybody seemed to be excited except for me. For most of my granddaughter’s childhood, she has been swaddled in Band-Aids every time that she had a bruising thought. She got ribbons just for showing up at various sporting and musical events. But I knew that football coaches never tell kids they’re special just because they have blue eyes or like ice cream.

I’m hardly against football, but I find myself pulling for the guy on the bottom of the pile. As they are carrying him off the field, they seem to be more interested in if he will be able to play by the weekend and not about how bad his injuries might be. I’ve been told that I am not supposed to think about that but about how much money players make.

And I’m not saying that middle and high school football has no value. There’s something to be said for the spirit of toughness in the sport. It’s often derailed for a gladiatorial culture, and that was how I viewed the situation with my grandchild.

To join another person’s world requires you to leave your own for a little while. I found that both adventurous and scary, but I thought in the end that I would be calmed by keeping an open mind.

I also knew that, in the name of understanding where my granddaughter was coming from, I’d have to learn about things that didn’t interest me and that I would be taking part in activities that I never thought that I would.

I knew that I would be the one driving my granddaughter to practice, games and the doctor – not the baby doctor who would tell her not to do something anymore but one of the sports medicine places that have popped up around my area.

My adventure started by reading the sports section of the paper. This wasn’t very encouraging. On the left side of the page gave the injury report for that Sunday. Wow.

And it didn’t help much when someone had written to “Ask the Doctors” a question: 

Should we let our son play football?

Injuries included knees, elbows, a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament, bruises, sprains, broken bones. The list went on and on, and, of course, there were concussions. 

Soon the paper would be full of reports of the darker side of the game about the players lives and something called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease. 

I am pleased that youth football is changing the way they are looking into the sport, but I’m even happier in my granddaughter’s decision in trying out for football. She decided not to try out for football at this time.

That means I can put the pillows and the buggy cords away that I was somehow going to wrap around her body – especially her head – until our next adventure.

Russell lives in Cardinal Estates.

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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