If Our President Can Worry About Football, You Can Too

Did you see what the Leader of the Free World, our president, Barack Obama, said about football?

With so many retired professional players taking legal action against the National Football League, Obama said that if he had sons he wouldn’t be all that sorry if they decided not to play football.

I’ve seen more football games on all levels perhaps than anyone else you know.

Here are my thoughts on who should and who should not play football.

If you like to hit – and be hit – then football is the game for you. No one – no one – who doesn’t like to hit or be hit has any business playing football on any level from flag to the NFL.

I have seen parents drop off little boys for practice. They would run to their coach and teammates. As soon as their parent had driven off, they would rush to the sidelines and sit down. They simply wanted no part of tackle football.

Luckily they had an understanding coach, the late Mac Weining, who was as big as a bear, but gentle as a lamb. Kids loved playing both football and baseball for him.

Luckily my son loved playing for him.

When he got to high school he and his closest friends all played freshman football. The next year most of them dropped out of football for two years because they didn’t respect their coach.

By his senior year, my son and most of his friends returned to football because Bobby Redman was hired as the new coach. The players loved him and my wife credits Redman for making a man out of our son.

I grew up in a small school system in Eastern Kentucky. One high school and one elementary school. We were members of the Central Kentucky Conference that stretched from Mount Sterling to Shelbyville and from Somerset and Danville to Millersburg Military Institute and Carlisle.

Most were small schools, often with squads of just 17 or 18 and most summers some schools were on the verge of dropping football.

One year when I was in the fifth grade, word came from our high school that bodies were needed and that interested boys should report to the high school coach.

Charlie Broaddus and I decided to give it a try, but the high school coach took one look at us and – kindly, without making fun of us – thanked us and said that we should come back in a couple of years.

Broaddus turned out to be Dr. Broaddus and was vice president of research for Proctor and Gamble when he died.

Charlie and I had watched his brother, Edward John, also a physician, quarterback our high school team against Versailles High on the coldest day I can ever remember. Players on both teams simply couldn’t hang onto the ball.

At halftime, Versailles’ biggest supporter, Governor A.B. Happy Chandler, sent someone to run a few blocks and buy gloves for the Yellow Jackets, who won the game because they had warm hands.

When we became friends and Happy was Commissioner of Baseball, I told him that I didn’t like him because he had bought gloves for the Versailles players.

One of Happy’s friends said, “Earl, Happy may have sent someone for gloves, but I can assure you that HE never paid for them!”

I was at UK when Bear Bryant coached the Wildcats. His practices could be vicious and long into the night. I had classes with several football players and was friends with some other football players. One morning as I was walking to class I met fullback Dick Mitchell, who had played against my high school team for both Hazard and Somerset.

Dick’s eye had been knocked out of its socket, but he kept practicing.

I want to make it perfectly clear to you that I never played  football. There wasn’t  much of a demand for a slow, slender kid who weighed 130 pounds. But I loved sports so much that I started writing for both of our little town’s two weeklies, and that’s how I got hooked on this profession.

I have been blessed with access for all sports from the playground to the Olympic Games to the World Series and everything in between.

The first NFL game I saw I was on the sidelines when Joe Namath and the New York Jets came to Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium to play the Bengals. I couldn’t believe how loud the popping of shoulder pads was. That’s one thing that TV, with all of its artificial lines that we see but really aren’t there, has not been able to match – the sounds of 300-plus pound behemoths pounding each other.

Getting back to what brought this on, my bottom line once more is: If your loved one doesn’t like hitting someone or to be hit, don’t push him.

And if your son fails to make the weight limit, don’t ever think about letting him gag himself to lose weight. Oh yes, I’ve seen coaches do that to kids.