Woody: Unnecessary Roughness A Rough Call
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
The National Football League finds itself having to deal with a prickly issue that has historically haunted NASCAR:
How rough is too rough in an inherently-violent sport?
In the wake of several brutal hits that left players dazed and/or unconscious, the pro football league last week announced a crackdown on “unnecessary roughness.’’ It acknowledged that football is by nature a game involving hard contact, but said it wants to avoid player injuries.
The devil, of course, is in the details. Several defensive players are already complaining that the league is taking away their ability to do their job – make jarring tackles that separate the ball from the ball-carrier.
The NFL’s hypocrisy’s has not gone unnoticed. Remember those videos titled “The NFL’s Greatest Hits?” During pre-game TV hype, crunching hits are played and re-played. In the first weekend after the roughness crackdown was announced, its announcers continued to promote one game as a “brawl” and oohed and aaahed on each molar-rattling tackle.
The NFL wants it both ways: hyping jolting hits while wringing its hands over bumps and bruises.
NASCAR likewise sends a mixed message. It occasionally issues a “rough racing” warning or penalty – then declares, “Boys, have at it.”
NASCAR realizes its fans demand rugged racing with lots of contact (i.e., banging, spins and crashes), yet at the same time it obviously doesn’t want a driver to be injured.
NASCAR has done a good job in recent years by making its cars and retaining walls much safer. Drivers are able to walk away from horrific-looking crashes that in the past would have landed them in a hospital.
Still critics of auto racing claim it is too violent and dangerous, and that no matter how sturdy the cars are, the sport can never be safe. There have been attempts in the past to ban racing because of these concerns.
The only solution would be to slow the cars down to such a low speed that it would be virtually impossible for an injury to result from any sort of collision – the equivalent of doing away with tackling in football.
That would never work because speed – its manufacture and its mastery – are an integral part of racing.
The NFL knows that it could protect players from injury by switching to flag football. It also knows that nobody would watch it.
The NFL hopes to tip-toe a line: keep the game physical, but not TOO physical. Allow giants to collide at full speed, but not get anyone hurt. NASCAR wants the same thing.
NASCAR has done a suburb job in recent years with its safety innovations. But when cars rumble onto asphalt monsters like Talladega, site of this week’s race, lots of fingers will be crossed, lots of breaths will be held.
Men strapped into machines, running in white-knuckle packs and tickling concrete walls at 200 mph, will never be risk-free.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment