Today is an exciting day for me. As a huge football fan, I’ve been waiting for this day for months: the first Saturday of college football is here!
While today is the first game for my favorite team, the season actually started on Thursday. I had some obligations on Thursday night, but managed to watch part of a couple of games. Mississippi vs. Vanderbilt was especially exciting, as the Rebels won on a late go-ahead touchdown.
One thing about the game in particular caught my attention. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt’s star player, took a gruesome hit late in the fourth quarter. His head slammed into the turf as he was brought to the ground. After the play, he signaled to the coach that he needed to leave the game, but seemed to be too disoriented to get off the field in time. After the following play, he collapsed on the field and… well let’s just say he lost his lunch. It was an awful sight.
Trainers came to his aid and the game was stopped for several minutes. Matt Millen, one of ESPN’s commentators and a former NFL head coach, pointed out that vomiting after taking a big hit is a “telltale sign of a concussion.” He eventually made his way off the field, but surprisingly returned to the game only a few moments later. While tweets commending his courage subsequently propelled his name to a Twitter trending topic, I couldn’t help but cringe. “There’s no way they had time to run baseline tests for a concussion,” Millen remarked.
Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi famously remarked, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit.” Unfortunately, sometimes doing things “right” and winning are mutually exclusive. Later in the Vanderbilt game, Jordan Matthews made a great catch that helped Vanderbilt take the lead late in the game. Had it not been for a huge play for Mississippi afterward, leaving Matthews in the game would have been a winning decision. But it’s hard to say it was doing the “right” thing. Research and testing has shown that a repeated blow to the head following a concussion escalates the long-term damage significantly. Coach James Franklin’s decision to leave his star player in the game almost won the game for his team, but could have easily had long-term consequences for Matthews.
Sadly, the competition involved in sports has led to dire consequences on multiple occasions. Ironically, the same day as the Matthews injury, the NFL agreed to an almost $800 million dollar settlement with former players due to injuries sustained for concussions. The “man up and get out there” attitude dominated football for far too long. And it’s not just coaches who take things too far; fans have been known to do the same thing. Fights frequently break out between opposing fans, even leading to severe injury in some cases.
So as the football season returns, I hope all you football fans out the enjoy the competition. Wear your favorite team’s colors today (I’m sporting my orange and white – Go Vols!). Have a cookout with your friends. Cheer loud and be excited.
But also remember that winning isn’t everything. Treat others with respect, no matter which team they root for. When your favorite player is taken out of the game after an injury, applaud the coach for taking care of him rather than questioning his logic. Football is a wonderful game, but it’s just a game.