If you’ve followed football at all over the years, you’ll know there’s a debate raging over how to get a handle on the recent rash of traumatic head injuries. Well, former Congressman Allen West thinks he has a solution–reinstate mandatory prayer in public schools.
During the gathering, West talked about an incident from three years ago, when the Freedom from Religion Foundation tried to get his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to end sectarian prayers at Vol football games. West harrumphed that when he played football at Henry Grady High School in Atlanta, “before every game at Grady Stadium, (a) pastor would come and pray over that football game.”
In West’s day, as you may recall, we didn’t have such things as concussion protocols. Indeed, as he put it, “you were not a tough football player unless you did try to hit someone head-on.” Despite that, West said he never recalled seeing any “catastrophic injuries” or “anyone getting carted off the field paralyzed.” To his mind, prayer made the difference. “There is something about the power of prayer,” he said. Watch the whole thing–if you can stand it–here.
I find myself thinking about Ryan Hoffman, a former offensive lineman at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina. His life went on a downward spiral after he graduated due to severe cognitive problems that were almost certainly brought on by the hits he took in high school and college. Hoffman’s problems may have started as early as high school when he threw up after a particularly physical game. By his senior year, he had to put his things in plastic bags to keep them straight. He recently underwent a battery of tests in Chapel Hill to help get to the bottom of his cognitive problems. I wonder–would West be man enough to tell Hoffman and his family to their faces that he wouldn’t be in this predicament if they’d forced kids in his high school to pray? Or the family of any other football player at any level who is dealing with the effects of traumatic brain injuries?
If West thinks that mandatory prayer and Bible reading will make football safer in one stroke, he apparently forgot that in the early 1900s–when many schools did have mandatory prayer–a rash of deaths and gruesome injuries led several school districts to ban football. There was even talk of a nationwide ban. Under prodding from President Teddy Roosevelt, a series of rules changes greatly opened up the game, creating football more or less as we know it today. But as we know by now, such little things as facts never mattered to the likes of West.