There are more than 1,200 former NFL players, in 50 separate cases, suing the league for fraud and negligence and all kinds of assorted charges, all stemming from the fact that they weren't warned about the post-career effects of repeated brain trauma. The NFL did nothing about concussions, they argue, and we're paying the price.
Between the unending parade of players now coming forward, and the media blitz of the past few years, it's easy to assume that the backlash against concussions is universal. That concussions are a price that everyone agrees doesn't have to be paid, and everything from here on out should be about eliminating them from football.
Here's Lions center Dominic Raiola, who for 11 years has done nothing but snap a ball and try to reset himself before taking 300 perpendicular pounds of nose tackle in the head and chest.
"Those things are going to come. It's common knowledge people are going to suffer. Memory loss is going to come. I am ready for it. It's worth it; totally worth it. This is the best job in the world and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Why is this so shocking to read? It's put plainly, to be sure, but this is the primal psychological underpinning of why football still exists. Today's football players know, to some extent, what they're getting into. The vast majority of yesterday's players—independent of the merits of their lawsuits—would have played even if they knew the risks. You go into the NFL, you're going to make money and maybe give up some length and quality of your life. It's a tradeoff, and Dominic Raiola's willing to make it (even if he might change his mind in 25 years). So are 1,700 other players around the league, every game day. This doesn't make them dumb or shortsighted or suicidal, or the NFL sadistic or exploitative or uncaring. It just means that safety and football isn't a zero-sum game, and you can't dictate rationality unless you've got something at stake.