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TIGER KICKOFF: Copeland's Cranium: The final chapter

Friday, January 3, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — I have this idea that football will die, and then there will be this football renaissance. I’ve always said the purest form of football is just a bunch of dirty, mean dudes just getting together in a vacant lot and beating the hell out of each other with crappy equipment. I think that’s how the re-genesis would happen after football is gone.

My biggest issue with the whole concussion/mental health thing in football? The actual statistics. If you compare the population of football players to the general population, our depression and suicide rates are so much lower. I think it’s lots of causation versus correlation going on there.

The reason we love this game is because of the risk. You’re sacrificing your body for a grander common goal. It is metaphorical for going to war. It’s not going to war, but it’s a metaphor for it. Our minds and bodies and hormones respond accordingly.

They’re telling the president, “Oh, I’d never let my kids play football.” They’re making us sound like we’re all a bunch of idiots.

I knew this job was dangerous when I took it. That’s why I like doing it because it’s dangerous. That’s how you get that rush, man. You’re putting yourself on the line for the guy next to you. But then I’ve got some guy I’ve never met wearing a suit or some tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows saying, “These guys don’t know what they’re doing. It’s too dangerous for them.” So they’re trying to pass all this legislation and make all these big fusses over our health. I take offense and issue to that because I am in charge of my health. That’s my call. I get to decide what I’m going to do, and you don’t get to tell me.

Ben Franklin said, people who sacrifice their liberty for the sake of safety will get both and deserve neither. That’s how it feels to me, which might be overdramatic, but it truly feels that way. I don’t like someone coming in who doesn’t understand our game telling us what to do. To me, that’s oppressive.

In the last two years, two people have died in the X Games. Not from a subsequent suicide from depression. No, they died doing their sport. People saw it on TV. People watched them die. Are you hearing any talks of legislation to get the X Games out? No, you don’t hear a peep. You know why? 'Cause there’s not a lot of money in the X Games. They’re not getting football-type ratings.

Now football, that’s where the money is. People would love to make a name for themselves to watch that burn. You want to take a shot at Goliath. If you can’t make it better, you want to watch it burn. There’s a lot of those people coming out of the woodwork, and they’re trying to kill our game.

Most people don’t understand this lifestyle. It’s special. It’s something you can’t explain. Even people you didn’t play football with can still understand everything that you go through. It’s a universal brotherhood. If you meet someone else who played football at the same level, you understand each other at an almost intimate level.

If my 10-year-old asked me to play football, I would’ve been waiting 10 long years to hear him say it because I’d be trying so hard not to push him into it.

I wouldn’t be disappointed if my son didn’t want to play football, but my heart would be broken. I wouldn’t tell him, and I wouldn’t show him, but my heart would be broken. I know the danger, and I would make sure my son knows the danger, but that would just make him more serious about (a) using good fundamentals and (b) how great this game is.

Most of the things I’ve learned about being a man came from football. Just showing up to work every day. Boys do what they want to do, but men do what they got to do. People have this image of football players as highly gifted monsters that just show up on Saturdays, beat the crap out of each other and then go out and party all week. I feel like there’s probably a general consensus that that’s what football is about.

It’s a unit of people who care about each other. Their goals are more important than your individual needs. Football taught me that, and I think it’s going to translate well into life past this.


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