Recently, Detroit Lions' Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney was speaking at a major football clinic luncheon in Detroit, and he delivered a very scathing criticism of the sport which helped make him famous.
"The game is becoming more deadly today." Barney said on Friday. "It's a great game. I think it's the greatest game if you like gladiators. It's the greatest game for yesteryear's gladiators. But I can see in the next 10 to maybe 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether."
Whether Barney is right or not, the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy in Southfield was no place to deliver such a critical message. The goal of camps like that is to promote the game of football, including ways to make it safer for newer generations, and allow younger players to connect with coaches, other players and those who teach the game. Thankfully, Barney had time to realize the big mistake he made and save some face in a later statement.
"I don't want to discourage young men from their love of the game," he said. "I just want the game to be safe. . .I wish all those involved in our great sport a long, healthy and SAFE career."
That sounds more like the dignified Barney we've gotten to know. Instead of taking such a defeatist, negative approach, Barney and those who happen to agree with him (namely Kevin Vickerson and Bernard Pollard) should dedicate their time and effort into ideas to make the game safer for younger generations. Technology has no limits. If doctors can create an artificial heart, certainly, football can become a much safer game.
By connecting the dots generation to generation, from say Barney to Vickerson and Pollard, football might gain some additional insights into how to survive the next 10 to 20 years. It's time for the older generations of players to take charge and make the game better instead of becoming embittered for their past injuries. Finding ways to improve their own health as well as the sport which gave them fame should be the new goal.
Barney, as he seems to have realized, should keep his radical opinions on the matter to himself. As always, danger is a personal choice. So long as people choose to play the game of football, unfortunate injuries will occur. All anyone should do, as Barney said, is hope for their safety.
More can be done, however, to promote advances in safety to ensure football's survival. Instead of negativity, that should be Barney's focus.
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