It takes some guts to write (and, for The Bee’s editorial page, to publish) a piece critical of football while the community is in the midst of Bulldog-slash-Derek-Carr fever. But that’s what retired Fresno lawyer Phil Fullerton did in Monday’s paper. His intriguing piece tackles the issue of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), brain damage that often results in dementia-like symptoms of reduced mental activity and slurred speech. The issue is currently getting a lot of media oxygen.
Even if it’s definitively proven that football causes longterm brain injuries, there’s no way the sport would be abolished, Fullerton writes. It makes too much money. But there will be an effect, he writes:
So what will happen if it is not outlawed? I think the answer is clear. Most parents like myself will no longer allow their children to play. I have surveyed my family and all my children and grandchildren concur. We are a typical middle-class family, and all our friends report the same powerful refusal to allow their young men to play this sport.
So what will happen? The sport will be “Romanized.” In the Roman Empire there were huge coliseums not only in Rome but in places like Arles, Trier and Tunisia. The public was constantly entertained by games, often fatal, staged by the least powerful of society: the slaves, prisoners and minorities. While crowds screamed, emperors would signal a thumbs up or down telling of life or death.
There will be a similar result in the United States. The most needful will play the game: those who have the bleakest outlook in life, need scholarships, are poor and are the least educated.
The issue isn’t settled. One Facebook commenter on Fullerton’s piece says there has been very little peer-reviewed scientific data that establishes a risk between football and brain injuries. But Fullerton’s point that parents are already forbidding their boys to play football suggests that there already is an impact.
Something tells me Mr. Fullerton isn’t getting invited to any Red Wave tailgates.