• 59°

Is it is, or is it ain’t!?!

I may be wading into troubled waters here, but I’m someone who believes: 1) global warming is real; 2) Slavery in America was no picnic, nor was it a choice; 3) and, sorry, Kyrie Irving, but the world is round, not flat, trust me!

I said all that to say at the ACC Operation Football coach’s meetings with the media in Charlotte earlier this week, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora became a national story of sorts when he said there is no link between football and concussions and that the fabric of our country is tied to the game of football, and both are going straight to you-know-where.

Maybe Fedora just wanted the attention; after all, the seven-year field boss is coming off a 3-9 season, one in which 37 different UNC players missed game time due to injury and more than 20 of those were season-ending. I do have to admire how Fedora went to work this spring and off-season restructuring the Carolina strength and conditioning program, and hope it helps avoid another injury plagued campaign.

Then came those media-day remarks.

“Our game is under attack,” Fedora said. “I fear that the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won’t recognize it 10 years from now. And if it does, our country will go down too.”

Say, whaaat!?!

I’m all for ‘Make America Great’ and everything, but when you start tying the decline of American culture to the ‘sacred’ game of football, my eyebrows start to arch.

Fedora coaches at a school where some of the foremost experts on the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, are located: UNC-Chapel Hill. The NFL itself has even acknowledged the link between repeated blows to the head and the resulting long-term effects of CTE.

“I’m not blaming anybody here,” Fedora said. “I’m just talking about overall. I think that right now there are people that listen to those things and get turned off by the game, and some of the things they’re getting turned off by have no truth to them at all.”

I agree with his assessment later in his conversation that young players shouldn’t be allowed to play tackle football until they’re older. And with all the studies we’re seeing these days I also think the game is safer now than it’s ever been in its history.

Fedora’s football inspiration probably comes from the many coaches he’s played under and played against, and from a general who once told him the reason the U.S. military was superior to any other military in the world was because America is the only football-playing nation in the world.

I guess that’s why so many football coaches – and America’s best military minds – equate football with war.

War is hell, coach; last time I checked, football was still a game.

I think Fedora needs to realize that football needs to change to attract youth participation in the sport in the midst of this huge drop in interest in the game we’ve seen recently.

I think there really is a path forward that respects player safety without compromising the unique nature of football. But like all cures and solutions, we need to start looking for it instead of ranting about the alternatives.

Sort of like Columbus proving that the world wasn’t flat after all.

 

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.