A couple months ago I wrote a column where I mentioned whenever a news item had the state of Texas in the headline I’d always look at it immediately thinking I’d be close to wherever it actually was but in reality, this state is just too big for that to happen that often.
Well, the same sort of thing happened, just in reverse, about a similar topic as well; youth football.
Recently, a bill was proposed to Massachusetts lawmakers to ban tackle football in grades seven and below.
It might have just been because a majority of the accounts I follow on Twitter originate from Massachusetts but I saw this news clip over and over and over again throughout the day with different comments, some joking and others more serious.
But it was the Fox affiliate, channel 25, with the anchors I knew in the studio that I’ve seen so many times and where a friend of mine works currently, whaddup Dave.
A reporter checked in from a snow-covered (thank God I moved) football field in the town of Needham, not far outside of Boston, and eventually talked over some footage of games in towns that I knew of with uniforms I recognized and played against, talking about barring certain kids from playing tackle football.
Making it against the law to strap a helmet and shoulder pads on before junior high school.
House bill 2501 titled: “An act for no organized head impacts to schoolchildren” states; “No child in grade seven or under shall play, practice, or otherwise participate in organized tackle football.”
This was a house bill on Dennis Road growing up in the McNanna home but that limit was fifth grade.
My mother held both my brother and I away from the real football field until we got to Stacy Middle School and since I was the younger brother my wait was obviously longer than Mitch’s.
So I watched from the sidelines for what felt like eons and was reduced to playing football only either in my backyard or on my PlayStation before finally reaching the age where I could endure through the headache of breaking in a helmet for the first time.
I’ve always looked back and felt as though it was a solid enough time to let my brain develop some but, and of course everyone knows more now, my brain was still developing when I had my first real concussion in sixth grade after being pulled down from behind by only my shoulder pads which should have been flagged for a horse collar tackle but it’s cool I guess.
Being one of the smaller kids on the team, I was relegated to running-back duties since not many other positions made sense for me. So I was due for my fair share of licks and impacts and after my six-year career, I was diagnosed with three concussions although I have to admit playing through more.
But even my mom wasn’t sure if holding me out was the best idea and that those injuries might have been able to be prevented had I delved into the game earlier.
Personally, I thought that the small bumps and bruises that came about could be better tolerated the earlier you put the pads on but in terms of the head injuries, regardless of what grade I started playing at, my bell was going to and indeed was rung a number of times.
For the most part, I don’t experience many difficulties now due to those repeated traumas to the head although there is a bit of tinnitus (perceived ringing in the ears) hanging around and my memory isn’t the best but, c’mon, who really knows what they had for lunch two days ago?
But one of the proponents of the bill, Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro), noted that the lawmakers are simply trying to do their job and save kids from unnecessary trauma.
“I think it’s our job to get involved with social issues, that’s what we’re hired for,” he told the reporter. “I don’t think it’s that intrusive at all.”
The bill states it will be a $2,000 fine for each offense, climbing to $5,000 then $10,000 for repeated offenses.
Maybe it is the right move to save all those brains from crashing into their respective skulls but the values and lessons learned by looking through crisscrossed metal that acts as a facemask and hitting the person on the other side of the line are invaluable and making it illegal for kids to even have the choice to do that robs them of not only those mental lessons but the physical ones as well.
Not to mention the number of professional football players who got their start on the gridiron at age six or seven, eventually growing up to make the kind of money that changes their family’s lives.
Now, those kids have just five years to figure out the game of full-speed, contact football to possibly earn a spot on a college roster to show what they’ve got to make it to the league.
We’ll have to see how the rest of the decision-makers eventually rule this proposed bill but I can only hope this isn’t the beginning of a widespread crackdown on tackle football.