NFL Evolution  


'War on Football' defends L.A. columnist's attack on pro football


Earlier this week, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Dwyre wrote about how he had lost faith in the NFL after the recent concussion issues the league faced.

Daniel Flynn, the author of the book "The War on Football: Saving America's Game," had a rebuttal to Dwyre's column on the viability of football. He defends football, noting that the game is much safer than it was decades ago.

A 2011 article in the American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience asks: "Why have the prevailing winds of popular culture shifted toward acceptance of a causal link between concussion and CTE without valid scientific evidence of such a link? Media sensationalism in the context of a small number of high-profile cases has undoubtedly played a role." A new article in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society opens by contrasting "widespread media coverage and speculation" with "very little in the way of peer-reviewed data" on sports head trauma.

These and other recent academic articles echo the consensus statement from last year's International Conference on Concussion in Sport, which declares that "a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been demonstrated between CTE and concussions and exposure to contact sports" -- a statement diametrically at odds with the animating premise of "League of Denial." The consensus statement conspicuously recognizes CTE "fears" hyped by "media pressure."

Journalists may not be reading the doctors, but the doctors are clearly reading the journalists. Just as football's critics exaggerate science to buttress their prejudices, they ignore science undermining their thesis. The Mayo Clinic, for instance, in a 2012 study found neurological disease rates for midcentury high school football players on par with their peers in the glee club, choir and band members. Science contradicts the alarmist notion that the sad outcomes for a few NFL competitors will be the outcomes for varsity lettermen.

Flynn said to take away football -- a sport, as he has written in his book, that builds character and team building -- only will invite children to use their growing testosterone and aggression in a negative manner.

Perhaps, as Dwyre writes, the NFL deserves to be devastated. But the 4 million kids playing America's game, devastated by the unintended consequences of the anti-football crusade, don't deserve to grow up without the gridiron. They deserve the mud, the exhilaration, the competition, the outdoors. We give them xBox instead.

There are plenty of reasons to encourage children to play football as they have done for more than a century. The best reason serves as its own encouragement: Football is fun. The killjoys seeking to take the prolate spheroid and go home surely aren't.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor



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