We can all breath a sigh of relief that Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett is out of imminent medical danger and he may even walk again. We all hope Everett can recover to lead a somewhat normal life. What happened to him is everyone's worst fear: that someone doing what they love suffers a career-ending (or in this case, a life-threatening) injury.
Society may love the finished product of sausages and football, but most would prefer not to know how these great American staples are made.
Injuries are an inherent part of pushing the limits of human performance, as professional athletes do every day. What happened to Everett last Sunday is everybody's worst fear. Football players may not fully grasp the true risks of playing (perhaps it's better they do not), but it is something that everyone needs to look at.
In capitalism, we compensate for risk. The saying goes: “No risk, no reward.” Think of the converse: In exchange for great risk, athletes deserve to be highly compensated. While many have questioned the NFL for not doing enough to help its retired players, NFL players are compensated for playing a violate sport. (They also receive medical coverage for 5 years after they retire.) Certainly more can and should be done to assist retired players, but at least this issue is being addressed.
At the same time, we should not forget where our NFL beasts come from. They are bred in the high-tech, win-at-whatever-price-boosters-are-willing-to-pay world of college football. In terms of concussive impact, college football is no longer a quantum leap from the NFL. It was once rare to have a 300-pound offensive lineman in the NFL; now I doubt there are many sub-300 pounders playing for a BCS conference school. Lawrence Taylor broke the mold for linebackers when he entered the NFL in 1981; today he is the mold--6'4 and 240 pounds of sheer terror.
A couple weeks ago Tim Layden wrote about the "The Big Hit" in Sports Illustrated. The article's subtitle succinctly frames the issue: "Players live for it, fans love it, media celebrate it -- and all bemoan its devastating consequences. The brutal collision of bodies is football's lifeblood, and the NFL's biggest concern." Layden follows up with another article this week, "The hits keep coming." Both articles are worth reading.