NFL Halftime Report

Why I'd Let My Son Play Football
The stadium scene.
Nov. 13 2010 11:59 AM

NFL Halftime Report

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Nate Jackson.
The author in his days playing for the Denver Broncos

Tom, you bring up interesting questions about the effects of instant replay on players and on the flow of the game. Although it seems like a buzz kill to fans, the players are used to quite a lot of starting and stopping—TV timeouts, end of quarter, halftime, change of possession, booth reviews, injuries. Players don't mind booth reviews as much as the fans do, and most coaches like getting a few extra minutes to think of what they are going to call next. But having still more segments of the game when everyone's standing around doing nothing isn't exactly good for the sport either, and it does little to promote faith in the accuracy of on-field rulings. A little discretion would go a long way here.

And Stefan, I would indeed allow my children to play football. And you should, too! I see your daughter as more of a defensive back, though, assuming she avoided being saddled with the athletic genes of her father.

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Yes, football is a violent game. Every player puts himself at risk when he steps onto the field. There are crippling collisions almost every game. Grown men are knocked unconscious, carted off the field, and replaced by different grown men who assume the same risks. They ignore the pain, they ignore the risks, and they lay their bodies on the line for a beautiful game. And no matter what, the game goes on. The game always goes on. And that's why people love it.

Like football, life is a dangerous game. We all assume the risks of being alive every day. We drive cars, fly in airplanes, get drunk, fall in love. We go to great lengths to ensure our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, but deep down, we know that we are never truly safe. That's what makes life exciting. And that's what makes football exciting. The players are never safe. Anything can happen at any moment. The controlled chaos on the football field is astonishing to witness, and refreshing for a spectator who may fear the chaos in his own life, and may need to be reminded how to take the leap. Or I may be reaching here.

What I do know is that playing football has taught me many things. Perhaps the most important: knowing how to react when chaos is going on around me. It is an instinct that becomes refined with years and years of practice, and results in a clear mind during a shit storm. Football players react quickly and unapologetically when the urgency of a situation requires it. We have plenty of scholars, analysts, and thinkers telling us why we do what we do and how we might be able to avoid repeating what we've done in the past. We talk ourselves in circles so often that we end up dizzy and in the same exact spot.

The game of football will never be that way. And the more our society becomes tangled up in webs of words, the more people will look to football as an escape. Because football is about action. Fast, explosive, and deliberate action that does not mince words, give false implications, make promises, or tell lies. It is all there for everyone to see—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So if my son wants to play the same sport as his daddy, then I'm behind him. If football doesn't get him, something else will.

Well, boys, we should probably wrap it up before we give the dead horse a concussion, or something. Let's reconvene in a few months and do it all over again. Whaddya say?

Nate Jackson is the author of Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile. He played in the NFL for six seasons.

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