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College Football Mayhem – Flagrant Helmet-to-Helmet Shots Need to Stop Before Someone Gets Killed
I watch college football because it’s tough, tough, exciting, and fun. The parity in college football today means that no team is safe from being upset on any game day. I don’t watch college football because it’s beyond vicious.
After watching Washington quarterback Jake Locker shoot helmet-to-helmet against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday (11-10-07), my emotions ran the gamut from worry to anger to outrage to action.
No penalty was even imposed for the flagrant shooting. Not only should a penalty for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct have been called, but the offending player should have been sent off immediately.
This type of illegal hit is not tolerated in professional soccer because the player is defenseless when hit. Why it is even tolerated and celebrated in college football is beyond me.
I don’t care if the hit was deemed unintentional or intentional. No matter. That flagrant blow could have cost Jake Locker his career, could have paralyzed him for life, or even killed him if he broke his neck.
This kind of barbaric tackling isn’t so much football as controlled and intentional mayhem. It wasn’t too long ago that some coaches gave out rewards for these types of shots, especially when the star player of the opposing team was carried off the field on a stretcher.
Oregon State players have developed a reputation for extreme play. In this particular game, won by the Beavers 29-23, the umpires seemed to have lost control of the game as more taunting, shoving and shoving resulted in 3 more Beavers and 1 Husky being ejected from the game.
I take no comfort in the fact that the Beaver player who landed the wild shot apparently apologized and prayed for Locker later. It might have allowed the player in question to rid himself of any guilt over the hit, but any amount of prayer wouldn’t have helped one bit if Locker had been paralyzed or killed as a result of the hit.
These blatant helmet-to-helmet strikes have to stop. Period. Please don’t waste your precious time trying to convince me that these bumps are unintentional. Nine out of 10 players don’t even try to tackle players anymore. They throw their bodies at them in hopes of knocking them down.
Tackling may be taught in spring training, but it’s rarely practiced on the field anymore. Why do you think we are getting scores like 74-62 and 73-68 (these are real scores from real games)? The defenders are using their bodies as missiles to shoot people down.
Instead of secretly rewarding players for helmet-to-helmet shots, coaches should bench players who use the tactic to take players down. Even if the rules committees don’t allow the tactic, the coaches have to implement and enforce the rule to end it. Some managers only seem to care if it’s their player who gets a vicious helmet-to-helmet attack.
There have been enough tragic career-ending injuries in football at every level when fair play was played without escalating the sport into chaos with flagrant and deliberate helmet-to-helmet hits.
Please don’t give me this inadvertent helmet-to-helmet crap. A player can aim the head at the running back’s abdomen or legs just as easily as the head if that’s how he wants to tackle someone.
When was the last time you saw a running back pass scrimmage out in the open at your 30-yard line and then run headfirst down 70 yards toward the end zone? When was the last time he saw a receiver catch the ball at his 30-yard line and run headfirst down 70 yards for a touchdown?
When you land a helmet-to-helmet strike, you have to instantly calculate the coordinates, lower your head to the projectile position, and launch yourself towards your target. There are no accidental hull-to-hull hits.
Later that night, I saw on a football recap show that Hawaii’s standout quarterback Colt Brennen was on the receiving end of a vicious helmet-on-helmet game. I’m sure the intention was to maim Brennen so he couldn’t stand up. Like Locker, Brennen could have been instantly paralyzed or even killed from the action.
How stupid does it seem that a college sport is potentially killing off its players? The NCAA needs to get its feet off the counter, stop counting how much money its empire makes, and address this issue with authority. The NCAA has no problem being a big bother over little things, how about tackling the bigger problem of player safety?
If the NCAA were ever to open their books as a non-profit corporation and come clean about how much money they’re making for themselves, their faces would be redder than the red sea among the Nebraska fans at a Cornhusker football game.
It almost goes without saying that I was disappointed that Washington lost its road game to Oregon State, missed its chance at a bowl game, and now faces its fourth straight losing season.
The unnecessary and blatant helmet-to-helmet hit on Jake Locker only added to Washington’s fight to change its program.
Instead of asking for the head of coach Ty Willingham and the heads of his Washington coaching staff, how about saving Locker’s head and the heads of all the other players who have suffered needlessly from a blatant and inordinate helmet-to-helmet smash?
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
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