Although I haven't finished reading John Underwood's series, I'm surprised and somewhat saddened that he has as yet placed no blame on the fans' shoulders. Those who control the game are going to mold it into whatever makes the most bucks. Fans pay to see and experience a vicarious pleasure in football's violence, or so the controlling interests seem to think. I admit I enjoy watching a pulling guard blast a cornerback off his feet, but watching quarterbacks being crippled is nothing short of sickening. The fastest way to get rules changed would be a lobbying effort by the fans themselves.
I hold little hope for any such movement, but thanks to John Underwood for bringing the injury statistics to our attention.
It's hard to determine who the chief villains are: the coaches who resist change, the rules committees who fear what change would do to the game, helmet manufacturers who produce the piece of equipment involved in so many of the game's serious injuries and deaths, or the lawyers.
Apparently some would say the lawyers. After all, they "smell blood." They are filing suits. One young paraplegic's lawyers got a fee of $1 million. Liability insurance for schools is skyrocketing. Instead of ambulance chasers there are now "jock chasers."
Give the lawyers a break. While others talk about the problems of sports injuries, only lawyers are accomplishing anything. So what if there was a million-dollar fee? It was most likely a contingency fee—i.e., if the case had been lost, the lawyer would have gotten no fee. Could the young man who recovered the other $2 million have afforded the fees if the case had not been won? Where is the sympathy for Attorney Ron Mix, who lost the four-month-long civil jury trial? If a cure for crippling injuries is found, does anyone care how much money the inventor earns for his work? Apparently, only if the inventor happens to be an attorney.
I commend SI for taking responsibility for airing the problems besieging football through the excellent series on brutality. Now, who else will accept responsibility and take action? Will the fans boycott football until it again becomes a sport in the true sense? Will coaches and players mend their ways? Will the governing bodies of the game revise the rules?
I am afraid that what is happening in football parallels what is happening in our society: too few are willing to take responsibility. If so, a great national sport will eventually self-destruct.
It is my firm opinion that this article is the finest thing you have done. It is rare for a magazine to take so responsible a position. It is to be expected that vested interests will assail you from many directions. However, your stature and documented facts will easily support your stand. Press on in your efforts to bring reason and safety to football.
FRANK A. REILLY
Thank you for your informative article on the Bill Walton dispute (Off on a Wronged Foot, Aug. 21). It helped to clear up at least a little of the controversy. It is great to know that there is still one basketball player willing to stick up for his beliefs. The abuse of drugs in professional sports is getting completely out of hand, and it must stop somewhere. Maybe Walton's campaign against the use of pain-killers in professional basketball will be in vain, but I'm sure he will give it his all.
Bill Walton has not been sound physically since he left high school. To blame one of a series of joint and foot injuries on an allegedly improper application of pain-modifying drugs seems to be unjustified. One must also consider the length of the NBA season and the frequency with which teams play. Unfortunately, these factors have combined to truncate a great athlete's career.