During the 1981 major league baseball players’ strike, I traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to watch the New York Mets’ top farm club at the time, the Tidewater Tides. As I would confirm over the years in attendance at more minor league games at all levels, there are only a handful of genuine prospects on the field at any given time, even in Triple A. The overall skill level is such that routine relays, rundowns, and double-play balls get bungled, and baserunning is atrocious. Why, the ’81 Tides even had a first baseman named Ronald McDonald!
In the developmental product, a good 80 to 90 percent of the roster consists of filler: guys either chasing delusions or playing for the love of it, who are under professional contract only because every team needs 25 players. They’re cogs in the machine. They’re part of the cost of refining those one or two or three diamonds in the rough.
This principle – the meritocratic bell curve of God-given talent – applies to all sports. But as we are now learning with accelerated alarm, only in football does it have profound public health implications.
Football is more than a game – and in case you’re wondering, that is not a compliment in this context. Football is a kind of lifelong lifestyle, burdening its enthusiasts with the unintended dead weight of long-term mental disease. It is a game meting out not just wins and losses, but quite literally, life and death.
And that is why I say, with gathering conviction supported by crystallizing science, that any fellow parent who lets his son play public high school tackle football, at an age clearly before both his brain has developed and he has agency to decide for himself, should have his own head examined.
CONTINUED TODAY AT BEYOND CHRON, THE SAN FRANCISCO ONLINE NEWSPAPER: