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Sprints Weighs in on the Helmet-to-Helmet Rule and Football Concussions // 10.19.10

It would be the greatest favor to the family of Von Gammon if your influence could prevent his death being used for an argument detrimental to the athletic cause and its advancement at the University. His love for his college and his interest in all manly sports, without which he deemed the highest type of manhood impossible, is well known by his classmates and friends, and it would be inexpressibly sad to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that my boy's death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life.

Rosalind Burns Gammon had perhaps more reason than anyone else in human history to want football to be banned. Her son, Von Gammon, was literally killed during a University of Georgia football game shortly before his 18th birthday in 1897. The reason, one that has become all too familiar to those of use who currently watch football, was what doctors termed a "severe concussion." (People who want us to fix the concussion problem by going back to having smaller or no helmets should particularly take note of the case.) The Georgia Legislature had earlier passed a bill banning football by a combined 122-7 margin, prompting Mrs. Gammon's ultimately successful plea to the then-governor that he veto the bill.

In a moment when the rest of the world was outraged over the apparently surprising fact that a violent game could cause injury, a mother found clarity and wrote an eloquent plea: "Grant me the right to request that my boy's death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life."

Yes, football is a hard-hitting game that often leaves people with injuries, including concussions. And yes, the sport has a responsibility to make sure that concussed players not come back too early and that they get the medical treatment they need both during and after their careers.

And if the NFL's new policy on helmet-to-helmet hits manages to reduce the number of concussions in the game, that will be a positive. It should be something considered for college football. Anything we can reasonably do to protect the players whose collisions we enjoy every Saturday and Sunday, we should.

But we have to understand that people are going to get hurt playing football. It's probably not something we will ever fully make peace with; after all, we like to think in a way that we know and care about these players. And the joy of the game is going to be reduced any time we don't suspend disbelief and instead realize that we are watching men play a game that could alter their lives and injure their brains. None of us will ever look at a concussed player quite the same again, not after the stories of withering minds and players driven to suicide in part because of the hits they suffered. It is not possible to be a compassionate human being, to consider the costs of playing football, and to be nonchalant about the consequences of those we cheer on every week.

Football players, though, are hardly the only ones who take those risks and hardly the only ones who do it for entertainment. People die in flight shows, and Dale Earnhardt died during a NASCAR race. There is nothing unique in what we are learning about football, just that we are learning that it happens in football as it happens in other sports and forms of entertainment.

So ban the flagrant hits on unprotected players, take any step you want to protect the players as long as it doesn't endanger the integrity and the spirit of the game. But don't think that you're ever going to be able to remove all the risk. Because you can't, no matter what rules you change or how many suspensions you hand out.

Not that knowing that should diminish our appreciation of the game of football. It should only deepen our respect for the men who have made it the most cherished object of their lives.

Meanwhile in Fayetteville
They're waiting to see what happens with Ryan Mallett after he suffered a concussion in Saturday's game against Auburn.

'U have a concussion chris. Ur acting ridiculous'
I don't know if Chris Rainey's "out-of-charcter" behavior on the night he sent his death-threat text message was caused by a brain injury. But it's worth asking questions.

Send a Get Well Message to Eric LeGrand
Because you should.


Hubris is probably the least of their concerns
I will grant that no one is out of the race for the SEC East. That includes Kentucky. But this subhead is perhaps a bit too bullish on the Wildcats' chances.

Phillips: UK can't look past Georgia

Joker Phillips is saying that his players look very much like they will avoid a letdown in the game against Georgia after their big win against South Carolina. (Have those words ever been typed in that order before?) Which is quite similar to what Steve Spurrier was saying last week after his team's big win against Alabama.

You could pick a better game for him to miss
But Marcus Lattimore will miss the Vanderbilt game Saturday. Remember, Vanderbilt has won two of the last three against South Carolina.

His replacement?
Likely Kenny Miles, of whom Spurrier said Saturday after the Gamecocks didn't use him in the Kentucky game: "I don’t think he would’ve been a factor, but we probably should have (played him) …" So good luck with that.

Secondary problems for South Carolina?
We'll have a bit more on this later, but it's odd to be talking about the South Carolina pass defense being a problem. Travis Haney does a great job here of breaking down what happened on the game-winning pass by Kentucky.


Dan Mullen says fortune cookie predicted Florida win
Apparently, even the Chinese know that Steve Addazio is an awful offensive coordinator.

Florida fans should just love this one
Dan Mullen on Mississippi State's win in the Swamp:

"It shouldn't have been as close as it was," Mullen said. "We made mistakes early and we made mistakes late. We shouldn't have had to make that stop on the final drive."

So the Mississippi State head coach is disappointed his team's win against Florida. Wow, this has been a weird season in the SEC.


Another kind of brain injury
Nick Bell of Mississippi State had surgery to remove a skin cancer on his brain. Thoughts and prayers that his life will return to normal and that Bell will return to the football field.

Nick Saban is apparently not to worried about these 'injuries'
I'm assuming he's not a big fan of any changes to the rules.

But a guy lays on the ground and eight trainers go out there and everybody thinks he's hurt and he gets up and runs off the field. When I played, my coach, you wouldn't want to meet him on the sideline. So if you stayed down, you'd better really be hurt.

Pam Ward agrees.

He is a more optimistic man than I
Houston Nutt on whether his return to Arkansas this weekend could become an issue again. "You know, I don’t know. I think it’s probably died down a little bit." Sure.

Florida still the favorite in the SEC
Oh, I'm sorry. That's basketball.

We can hope
This is an interesting "preannouncement announcement," don't you think?