Weekend Winner: The New Human Cockfighting

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DeSean Jackson has memory loss. Dunta Robinson sustained a head injury of his own. Zack Follett got carted off the field and was in bad enough shape that the fact that he could feel his extremities counted as great news.

Meanwhile, Chris Cooley played with a concussion, and Cleveland's Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi each sustained concussions after separate, seemingly helmet-to-helmet hits by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. And that's to say nothing of the spinal injury suffered on Saturday by Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who remains paralyzed from the neck down. In all, it was such a violent weekend of football that even Rodney Harrison wanted to cover his eyes. Rodney Harrison.


"This is crazy!'' Rodney Harrison said as we tried to process the sixth or seventh vicious NFL hit of the day in the NBC viewing room Sunday afternoon.

Then, almost under his breath, Harrison said quietly, "Thank God I retired.''

Peter King thinks it's "time to start ejecting and suspending players for flagrant hits," which is a reasonable idea that the NFL will likely adopt if only so folks like Peter King will say the league is Getting Serious About Concussions. The flagrant hits aren't the real problem, though; it's the cumulative effect of many lesser hits — of routine and perfectly legal plays, in other words. Football itself is the problem.


For the record, here is an admittedly incomplete list of concussions this year, via reader Derek:

PRESEASON: Ryan Grant, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Joseph Addai, Mark Clayton, Nick Sorensen, Aaron Curry, DJ Ware, Louis Murphy, Scott Sicko, Mike Furrey, Darnell Bing, Freddy Keiaho

WEEK 1: Kevin Kolb, Stewart Bradley, Matt Moore, Kevin Boss, Charly Martin

WEEK 2: Clifton Ryan, Jason Witten, Randall Gay, Craig Dahl, Zack Follett, Evan Moore

WEEK 3: Anthony Bryant, Cory Redding, Jason Trusnik

WEEK 4: Jordan Shipley, Willis McGahee, Jay Cutler, Asante Samuel, Riley Cooper, Sherrod Martin

WEEK 5: Aaron Rodgers, Darcy Johnson, Jacob Bell, Landon Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Rocky McIntosh

WEEK 6: Josh Cribbs, DeSean Jackson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Zack Follett, Chris Cooley

Now, a useful idiot like Gregg Easterbrook wants us to believe that head injuries like these are a sad byproduct of the sport that can be contained with just a little entrepreneurial know-how (witness his weekly infomercial for the Shock Doctor mouth guard) and some good old-fashioned moralizin'. Any suggestion that the sport itself causes these injuries — that they are in fact the logical outcome of an event in which 11 players try to obliterate the guy holding the ball — is met with a farrago of smarmy, lunatic bullshit. (This is particularly rich coming from Easterbrook, who will sermonize ad nauseum about Hollywood violence but doesn't seem the least bit troubled by the fundamental viciousness of football. Maybe that's because it's a bloody public spectacle he can't somehow pin on the Jews.) The issue is not the rules or the equipment or even the people playing the game or talking about the game; the issue is the game itself.


It's hard to come to terms with that — hard for fans, and especially hard for sanctimonious turds like Easterbrook — but at some point we'll have to drop the pretense that football can be rendered even acceptably safe (safer, yes; safe, no) and acknowledge that the sport we love differs only taxonomically from, say, cockfighting. We can go on loving football as a guilty pleasure or we can simply move on, but we can't keep pretending that weekends like the one just past can be prevented with a few new rules and a fancy mouth guard.