Bright and promising 24-year-old 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced his retirement yesterday, after just one season in the NFL. He wants to preserve his neurological and cognitive functioning, and figures a decade of smashing his head into things isn't the best way to do it. Seems reasonable! Might I suggest, then, that he stay away from football blogging as well?
You might look at Chris Borland and see, oh for example, a young dude making the hard and admirable choice to prioritize his long-term well-being over a lucrative career that, in almost all realistic scenarios, likely would eject him into unemployment by 35 with some degree of brain damage. Not so for Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, a Windows Phone app that plays the opening monologue of Patton whenever a football player commits a misdemeanor. Mike Florio sees the encroaching tide of pussification. You shall not pass! he tweets.
I'd just like to point out that an argument that says, in essence, "Who cares if this guy quits football? There's no meaningful difference between his ability and the ability of the next guy in line," is kind of a weird one to make when your primary job is covering the NFL draft with a solemnity usually reserved for nuclear disarmament negotiations.
"Eh, whatever, millions of people would take Borland's job! If most of them happen to be used car salesmen with the athletic ability of a microwave oven, so what? It's still a buyer's market!"
This is a really terrible, stupid argument taking shape, here. The size of NFL salaries has nothing whatsoever to do with the risks players take, and everything to do with the fact that they're highly skilled workers whose product is in world-historic demand. To the extent that the gaudy paycheck Borland is walking away from is worth mentioning at all, it's only to demonstrate how seriously he takes his long-term physical, mental, and emotional health.
In any case, it's not like Borland said he's leaving the NFL to take up a career lighting matches in bituminous coal mines. This has nothing to do with anything. Still, Florio's not going to let things as minor as incoherence and stupidity stop him, dammit!
You'll recall this line of "reasoning" from back when Florio told the most experienced football player who ever lived to shut the fuck up about the risks of football. Once again: the types of concussive and sub-concussive blows that lead to long-term brain damage are a risk of the other pursuits Florio cites. In football, those blows are the job description. If riding a motorcycle without a helmet causes you to damage your brain, that's because you fucked it up, or at least because something went wrong; if playing football causes you to damage your brain, that's because you did it right. Even policework and firefighting aren't good analogues. A police officer or firefighter might put himself in harm's way, but getting shot or burned isn't part of the job; it's a thing that might happen if the job goes wrong. Ramming yourself into other people at speeds comparable to those seen in car accidents is football. Even Mike Florio is not enough of an imbecile to miss this distinction.
Which is beside the point, because no one, anywhere, is saying, "People should stop playing football, and start riding motorcycles without helmets."
"The NFL is just fine, because these other sports (plus soccer) continue to eke out a disreputable existence on the margin of sports culture, and they output dead-eyed human shells who commit suicide at age 40, too!"
The mention of soccer is a particularly sly bit of misdirection. Yes, soccer has been shown to have a worrisome concussion rate. Another thing that has been shown—as Mike Florio knows full well—is that repeated sub-concussive blows to the head (i.e. the ones that are an unavoidable feature of the sport of tackle football, and not of soccer) are more than sufficient to wreck the long-term health even of someone who never records a single officially diagnosed concussion.
Who's got time for mincing frivolities like fact, though? There's water to tote!
In summation: The NFL is just fine because your mailman probably wishes he could play for the Patriots; some Americans work on crab boats in the Bering Sea; and boxing isn't all-the-way illegal yet. This is a pretty compelling case! I still feel like it needs maybe one more boost before we can render a verdict. Whaddaya got, Mike?
Yep. That seals it. Mike Florio definitely needs to take a nap.