That the game of football is violent is plain to see. Still and all, it is a game. No matter the rhetoric around ‘going to battle’, ‘fighting to the finish’, or even ‘sudden death overtime’, the game of football is still that. A game. It isn’t supposed to be life and death out there. Unfortunately, we all saw how fragile someone can become on the field of play. Damar Hamlin, in trying to tackle Bengals WR Tee Higgins, took what looked like a fairly run-of-the mill shot to the chest. He immediately popped up, but suddenly collapsed. His heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated twice on the field before being stabilized and taken to the hospital. Players on both sides prayed, cried, and were dumbfounded and horrified at the situation unfolding in front of them and an international TV audience. The latest news is that Hamlin is ‘showing signs of improvement’ today as he is still listed in critical condition and remains in ICU on a ventilator.
Violence and football of course go hand-in-hand as the game played at the turn of 19th century was nearly cancelled by the government for all the fatalities and maimings going on in college football. It was all ground and pound as most plays were runs up the middle with 22 guys swarming each other and getting their heads smashed in or bodies twisted into paralysis. Football in the early 1900s saw 10-20 deaths with hundreds of debilitating injuries a season. But Teddy Roosevelt saved the game. He brought about rules changes to allow forward passes and illegalize the scrum-like formations that got so many players hurt. These changes lowered injuries and deaths in a big way and the modern game got its start.
Nowadays, the effects are more cumulative what with all the ‘safety’ equipment now worn by the players. Now it is CTE, early-onset dementia, the occasional paralysis, and a myriad of issues the league strives to ignore. Hamlin’s case appears to be a fluke type thing where he was hit at the exact wrong time in the exact wrong place to induce a heart attack. This doesn’t make the injury any less horrible, but it also serves to remind people that this game is inherently violent, and it is pretty hard to figure what to do other than play on. It is kinda difficult to think about this upcoming game, but this injury, like so many others, will fade. The hope is that Hamlin fully recovers and is able to live a normal life.
Not sure how or when they will make up the Bengals/Bills game as it has huge ramifications for the #1 seeding in the AFC, but I’d think they’ll add a week to the schedule after week 18 as Buffalo and Cincy will play their regularly scheduled games this weekend. I’d think they’ll add a week 19 to allow Buffalo and Cincinnati to complete their game, while the rest of the league gets a bye week heading into the playoffs.