When my agent I.M. Slick stopped by for a rare visit, he brought up a subject that was unusually profound, at least by his standards.
Slick: So where do you fall on the spectrum of violence in sports?
Joe: I’m generally opposed to it.
Slick: Really? I find that most people enjoy the violent collisions in football and crashes in car races.
Joe: Provided no one gets hurt, of course.
Slick: Well, there’s the rub. People say they don’t like violence, but they still watch football games and car races, so maybe they are being dishonest. I wonder if we’re really much more civil than the barbarians were years ago? At least Christians aren’t being thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum now.
Joe: For once, you may have a point. Did you make a New Year’s resolution to actually make sense for a change?
Slick: Well, if your New Year’s resolution was to keep from insulting me, you failed. In any case, you’ll have to admit that football is quite dangerous. How many athletes have to be carted off before people say, “Enough is enough!”
Joe: Part of the problem may have been improper coaching. Instead of teaching athletes to keep their head up and tackle properly, too many athletes try to make a big hit. But I think coaches are generally doing a better job of teaching the proper tackling technique.
Slick: Agreed, although no matter how good the coaching is, football is a man’s game, and athletes will do what they can to inflict damage, sometimes within the rules and sometimes outside them.
Joe: Speaking of violent, did you see the game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh this season? That was painful. It was bad enough that one player was hit in the head, but watching the player stand over the injured player and taunt him was over the top.
Slick: As I recall, there were no ejections for that. What does a player have to do to get ejected?
Joe: The rules were enforced properly from what I understand, which makes me wonder if there needs to be a rules change. It sounds like the NFL will consider a college-style targeting rule for next season. It’s about time.
Slick: Yeah, how can anyone object to ejecting a player who hits a defenseless opponent above the shoulders?
Joe: Are you sure you’re feeling OK? You aren’t usually this sensitive? Did you ever play football?
Slick: What does that have to do with anything?
Joe: Well, I was wondering if maybe you were hit in the head one too many times.
Slick: Ouch. That hurts, especially coming from you.
Joe: I’m sorry. I was only joking. Maybe I’ve been around you too long and you’re rubbing off on me.
Slick: Even agents have feelings, you know.
Joe: They do? I mean, yes, they do!
Slick: The bottom line is, no matter how many measures the NFL takes, you can’t take the risk of serious injury out of the game.
Joe: Changing the rules sometimes helps, but that isn’t the only answer. For example, fans tend to complain that the new rules to protect the quarterback are turning football into a wimp sport.
Slick: The flip side is that the game loses a lot of its appeal when star quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz are out because of injuries.
Joe: And remember, officials can’t prevent any illegal hit; but they can enforce and penalize illegal hits that occur.
Slick: The more I think about it, under the right circumstances, a targeting rule might actually be of some use.
Joe: I’m never been more proud of you.
Slick: Thanks, I think.
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.