It’s likely surprising to the student body, alumni, faculty, administration and other fans of the CU Buffs that a University of Colorado regent hates football. There are nine elected CU regents from across the state, one from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts and two elected statewide. So the People’s Republic of Boulder in CD-2 is certainly entitled to be represented by a liberal. Linda Shoemaker fits that mold perfectly as former chair of the oh-so progressive Boulder Valley school board and board chair of the left-wing Bell Policy Center.
She says her “conscience can’t support [CU football] anymore.” Shoemaker explains that she doesn’t hate newly-hired head coach Mel Tucker but was nonetheless one of only two regents who voted against his contract last December. Presumably, she’d have opposed any new coach for the sake of self-indulgent symbolism.
Shoemaker admits she’s an “outlier” and doesn’t expect CU to kill its football program just yet, or that the Pac-12 and NCAA will go for the kinds of changes she would impose to make the game safer any time soon. She says, “I’m always tilting at windmills. Always wanting to change things. Whenever I see problems, I want to fix it.” Like most liberals, her perception of problems is ideologically selective and the “fixes” are typically utopian and impractical.
Perhaps Shoemaker might settle for CU banning tackling and blocking. But if the Pac-12 won’t go along, who would they play? Joining a two-hand-touch or flag-football league might not interest the fans.
Shoemaker says, “If somehow football could be separated from the academic enterprise, I would feel better.” I have no idea what that means and she probably doesn’t either. The CU football program generates many millions of dollars that greatly exceed its cost. That includes local and Pac-12 broadcast revenues; stadium ticket, refreshment and merchandise sales; and substantial direct and indirect contributions from alumni and others. By “indirect” I mean the countless alumni whose general donations to the school are motivated in large part by their rooting interest and love of the Buffs football team. If Shoemaker had her wish and football were eliminated at CU, the backlash from these folks and resulting drop in donations would be dramatic. Ironically, the football revenue surplus also subsidizes the non-revenue sports at CU, including those women’s sports with low student participation and little outside interest dictated by unreasonable Title IX anti-discrimination policies.
Shoemaker’s concern about football safety is commendable, if not her hatred of the game. Repeated traumatic head blows can cause serious brain conditions like CTE. The NFL and NCAA have established rigorous protocols for dealing with concussion symptoms, requiring that players be removed from the game and then monitored for weeks afterward. Equipment is being improved to better protect players and rules have been stiffened to penalize and discourage head contact.
In spite of precautions, football will always be a somewhat dangerous sport, as are many other sports and recreational activities like boxing, mixed martial arts, hockey, rugby, Xtreme sports, skiing, mountain climbing and auto racing; not to mention the professions of police officers, firefighters and soldiers. I realize liberal nannyists are obsessively risk-averse and determined to regulate what more adventurous folks do. But adults with free will should be allowed to weigh the tradeoffs and decide for themselves ─ even if sometimes unwisely.
College football players understand the risks ─ which are by no means certainties. The upside is the thrill of competition, reveling in a game they love, capitalizing on their extraordinary talents, being a BMOC (big-man-on-campus), dating adoring fans and cheerleaders, and, just maybe, earning millions of dollars as a pro. Oh, and going to college on a football scholarship if they weren’t able to go otherwise. For all this, it’s not irrational to risk the low probability of a brain disorder or even a shorter life.
Football haters absurdly compare players to gladiators in ancient Rome. That’s nonsense. Gladiators were conscripted slaves forced to engage in armed combat with the near certainty of death. Nor is football the equivalent of illegal cock fighting where the roosters don’t have a choice. NASCAR fans may be thrilled by fiery crashes but that’s no cause for outlawing a sport that has much more to it than that.
None of us is getting out of this life alive or without the prospect of contracting a terminal disease on our way out. So, you might as well enjoy your freedom to play football or do other risky things in the meantime.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.