A whole lot of people watched the Seattle Seahawks make what many consider the most bone-headed play-call in the history of a football game. According to Nielsen, the company that tracks TV viewership, this year’s Superbowl was the most watched TV program in history. Not the most watched football game, the most watched anything, since forever. They put the total number of viewers at 114.4 million, two million more than last year’s Superbowl. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
That means 114.4 million people got to watch concussion-inducing fun and games while they sat around their TV’s enjoying Superbowl snacks. While the NFL has put the issue of the danger of the sport and particularly concussions, on the forefront, with rules changes and other safety measures intended to reduce the number of permanent injuries to players, the nature of this game we love so much is that there is only so much you can do when you have 200+ pound men running at each other full speed with the intent to knock the other to the ground as hard as they can.
The NFL maintains that concussions are down this year, falling by 25% thanks to the attention the problem has gotten. According to the Associated Press, in data they received from the NFL directly, there were 111 concussions in games during the 2014 regular season. That number is down from 148 the year before. Yet while concussions are down, the number of other injuries have gone up. According to the numbers there were 265 players placed on injured reserve this season, a 17.4 percent jump from the 226 the year before. The problem with those numbers though, and I have no doubt this is also true with concussions, is that many players and coaches very likely do not report the degree and level to which they are injured in many cases. The desire to keep playing, to win, even the macho nature of the sport, surely overrides the desire to sit down when feeling pain or injury in a lot of cases. So I don’t trust the numbers. Only in the most obvious cases are injuries dealt with. This Superbowl is a good example of that.
One of the biggest plays of the game, at least at the time, was the interception of Patriot quarterback Tom Brady early in the game by Seahawk cornerback Jeremy Lane. It was a great play and kept the Seahawks in the game. But in the play Lane suffered a gruesome injury. When he was tackled by a Patriot, he sort of flipped in the air, landed awkwardly, and his arm bent back to an ugly degree and snapped. There was no hiding this one in front of that audience. Lane was out of the game.
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But later in the game, 114.4 million people watched a concussion happen right before their eyes, and saw a player, team and league, ignore it and move on. Julian Edelman, the Patriot’s best receiver, and the star of the Superbowl, was clocked hard on one pass play in the fourth quarter of the game. Edelman caught the pass anyway, but it was clear to most that he was woozy and wobbly after the collision.
One player on the team even said this to the local paper in Seattle after the game regarding that hit:
"I thought he was going to go to sleep the way he was running," fellow Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell told The Seattle Times.
Apparently lots of people were wondering about Edelman when they saw how he walked, even when he came to the sidelines. But according to one article, Edelman was looked at by sideline doctors and somehow, cleared and went right back in the game.
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Edelman was the Patriot’s best receiver at the time and this was the Superbowl. He surely wasn’t going to take himself out of the game. And the people who were supposed to be looking out for his best interests, were also seemingly more concerned with fielding the best players and winning the game. No matter the cost to Edelman in the long run.
The game went on. I have no doubt the NFL does care about reducing concussions and other injuries in the game. But as this Superbowl and the Edelman incident proved, when it comes down to entertaining the audience, making an interesting game, and winning, concussions and dealing with all but the most obvious injuries, are secondary concerns. As Al Davis of the Raiders was famous for saying, the NFL teams have one real motto, “Just win.” Players can pay the price for that later.
Photo Credit: OV, WikiCommons