Point of View: Football and Leaf Smoke

The fall has come and gone with no football games, and I can’t say I’ve sorely missed them

It would be about now that the football season would be winding up, assuming we had a football team. 

The fall has come and gone with no football games, and I can’t say I’ve sorely missed them. The girls swimming team was great, ditto boys cross-country, the boys soccer team was good, the girls volleyball team was good, the boys volleyball team was good, the girls cross-country team was good, the field hockey team was not quite as good as I thought it would be, ditto the girls tennis team, golf, as always, was good, though not great, as it has been in the past, and girls soccer, though vastly outscored, will inevitably come along some day if the hordes of young girls I saw kicking the ball around up at the high school at the end of summer stick with it. 

So, even absent football, whose four-down, linear format is obviously more sportswriter-friendly than games that flow, such as soccer or rugby, or even field hockey, despite its continuous baffling whistles, there was plenty to write about this fall when it came to local sports.

Football, while exciting when the plays work, has been shown not to be that good for developing — even developed — brains. At the pro level, we continue to watch — accessories before the fact, as it were, slouching in our recliners — yet at the high school level the emotional rewards to be derived from gridiron grit and explosive plays may no longer, given the preponderance of brain injury findings, outweigh the risks young players run — in the short and long runs, repeated nonconcussive hits having also been shown to exact a serious toll over time. 

A rose-colored glasses guy, I never thought you could get terribly hurt playing high school football here until seeing not long ago two of our players go down with concussions on the same play. 

Yes, concussions can happen in other sports too — in soccer, with its constant headers, in ice hockey, with its checking into the boards, in wrestling, with its throws to the mat, in basketball, with its sharp elbows under the boards, even in swimming if you swim headfirst into a wall, as I did once, though that was in another country and I was drunk.

Someone told an inquiring photographer this week that he missed the smell of leaves burning in the fall. I do too, though they say leaf smoke isn’t good for you. 

With me it’s kind of the same with football. It’s being borne into the past, if not ceaselessly. I miss when the games were played at Herrick Park, I miss when everybody came and leaf smoke was in the air. Rugby anyone?