With Albert Breer on vacation, we’re bringing back our annual tradition of having guest writers fill his Monday column in the center quarter. This column comes from the Patriots Joe Cardona’s long snapper.
As the famous general Carl von Clausewitz said in the eighteenth century, “Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult.”
Football is no different, and at its best it basically simulates war. Offensively, one must simply advance through the resistance to gain new territory until you eventually reach the target. Defensively, your job is to slow down and push to attack.
The original game, created on American universities after the Civil War to give young people a forum to experience combat trials, was particularly brutal. Between 1904 and 2005, Chicago Tribune He attributed 37 deaths to sports. The sport was so deadly that many universities scrapped it altogether. President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a deep appreciation for the principles the game represented, felt the need to take executive action to protect the game by making it safer to play. So in 2006 he helped set the rules for removing team formations and introducing the forward pass. These changes heralded the game being played today.
When I was asked to contribute to MMQB, I assumed my contribution was expected to focus on football and the military. I’m entering my eighth year as a Patriot’s long snapper and I’m a lieutenant in the Navy. I walk between two jobs that are mentally and physically demanding, an experience I share with legends who came before me, such as Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings and Alejandro Villanueva.
All three of these were committed to both a football career and a gun career. In fact, I have struggled for my place between these two professions, mainly taking solace in the fact that there are many traits and characteristics that suit both professions: sports, teamwork, mental and physical toughness, and the desire to reach a common goal. Goal.
But football no longer emulates war or the values of our armed forces.
Football began when Ivy League players ran a leather ball down a slope. Platoon system replacements meant that the athletes played the entire game without interruption with an emphasis on physical dominance. This form of football was shaped by youngsters who eventually fought in places like Argonne and Belleau Wood in World War I and Normandy and Guadalcanal in World War II. The toughness and tactics of football simultaneously influenced, inspired and developed the combat leaders who defeated the Nazis, fascists and imperialists.
In the latter half of the 20th century, increased revenue through television contracts took football to another level. The high salaries of players allowed the sport to be a full-time job, and the relationship between those who played football and those who fought on the front lines of the United States began to fade.
In this day in time, individualism has transcended professional and amateur football, uniform rules are loosely enforced, and celebrations are embraced for the value you can derive from TikTok views or likes on Instagram. Revenues from the media surrounding football have grown exponentially, which has resulted in both players and teams looking for a way to monetize social media, fantasy sports, legal gambling or whatever technology will surely appear in the future. Analysts, fans, coaches, and players alike are talking about football, and particularly the NFL, being “soft.”
The cliched saying that football builds toughness has not been as universally believed as it once was. This depends on players’ positions, reduced commitments to one team and increased rewards. However, football’s move away from the battlefield comparisons can be said to be the best. Football is safer, and it provides young people, mostly men of color, a platform and resources to receive education and build wealth for generations that might not otherwise have been available to them.
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Football today is not war. It’s money.
That doesn’t mean there’s a total lack of selflessness, commitment, and toughness within the NFL. Instead, I think football is now in the stratosphere very differently from what is required of our active duty soldiers. But it is not without comparison.
More than 1.5 million veterans live below the federal poverty level, according to Veteran Patriots Support. Young female veterans, female veterans of color, and female veterans are most at risk. Ten percent of young veterans are poor. Veterans of color are twice as likely to live in poverty. In addition, an estimated 160,000 active service personnel were food insecure in 2020.
Military personnel who put their lives on the line see pennies on a dollar compared to key defense contracts in our $773 billion defense budget. It’s a lot like the NFL, where almost all players don’t see the value of the revenue generated at the expense of their physical and cognitive health as it goes to ownership, the league, or a handful of players that force a disproportionate allocation to the maximum salary.
While the strategy of the game on the field and that of the battlefield still shares many comparisons, football is not war. Although football was created to empower young men in America – so they remained ready for potential combat – that was no longer its goal. Commitment, dedication to the state and mission by military members are not factors in today’s football generation, despite its upbringing during a 20-year struggle. Young college players are often seen entering the transfer gate at the first sign of resistance, and players in the NFL ask for deals and refuse to play as a contract negotiation tactic. This does not happen in the United States Army. However, these young people have every right to: Football is not war.
Zooming out for perspective: The ever-changing international landscape of geopolitics—including a major conflict in Europe as Russia looks to expand its borders and the influence of a growing Chinese presence in many regions around the world as the military and economy grows—has put the prospect of great power conflict in the forefront of the minds of many. from the Americans. If ever there was such a conflict, as in previous wars, the NFL would take a back seat, and I have no doubt that many of my fellow soccer players will step up and use the lessons they have learned from the sport to lead soldiers into combat .
But that does not make football a war.
While some may long for the days when football simulated war – when it emphasized character, integrity and courage, and developed young men who displayed selflessness, commitment and toughness – this is not what football is today. Football is big business and has moved into a place of its own, being a major part of American culture and showcasing some of the most talented and physically dominant men in the world.
However, these professionals are not on the battlefield. Maintaining the fallacy that football simulates war distorts the game of the day and can reduce the commitment and dedication of members of our armed forces. Doing more football to emulate the US military could benefit the sport and the audience that consumes it. Imbuing young footballers with ideals of courage, commitment, honor and toughness will serve them more effectively in life than any track style, cover scheme, or viral touchdown dance.
Football is not a war, which is fine, but we must not lose sight of what America really wants the sport to be.
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