Watching Buck Pierce get hit by Brandon Isaac on Saturday was difficult to watch. I do not know Buck Pierce, having only met him once very briefly years ago, but from what I've heard, he's a really good guy and a great competitor. But when does the physical punishment outweigh the benefits of playing?
For almost all former players, when you retire from the game, you are not satisfied. Whether it be lost opportunities of winning a championship, injuries, money or just competition for a position, leaving football is difficult. The older you get it becomes a little addictive because of the intensity of the emotions involved. I am grateful that I left football at age 34 and my body was worn out. My mind was willing but my body would not respond.
When you're younger and both your mind and body are willing and can respond, the idea of not being able to play is very difficult to handle. In time, Buck Pierce will feel just fine again; his mind will be clear and the energy in his body will feel exhilarated and therefore he will feel confident. Decisions are often made not so much on the anticipation of the future and what is good may come as much as how you feel in the present moment. Buck Pierce will want to play again but should he?
I would never give an opinion on another's decsion with something as important as this as it is not my business and I respect their decision over those involved too much. I think that is why when I see football injuries, it does not bother me too much because of the freedom of choice of those involved. Players know exactly what they are involved with and its benifits and consequences. So, if Buck Pierce comes back to play, I respect that decision.
It may surprise you but the toughest part of injuries, especially dramatic ones, is not on the player but on the people around the player: fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and kids, close friends. At the risk of sounding sensitive, yes it's the people that love you. Imagine how difficult it must have been for the father of Buck Pierce to see his son hit the way he was hit, to see his son struggle to regain what you and I have right now.
When I retired from football, the person that was most happy was my father. He saw the disintegration of my body year after year, from walking normal to a limp I sometimes can't hide and the time I spent just trying to get healthy so I can do it all over again; the diet, the training, the full time job to maintain health in the extreme. Now, I have no regrets and would do it over again, but if by magic I could, I would feel obligated to ask my father for permission, knowing now what he went through watching me play.
At the time, I had no rational comprehension that he even was worried. I looked at everything only through my eyes, not his. I do believe that if you can play football, play as long as you can because when it is over, it is way over and you can't come back. And knowing what I know now, that there is a time to go that is not crystal clear.
I have been involved in football my whole life, as far back as I can remember. In my youth, I had no awareness of consequences. Now I do. When I see a player get hit the way Buck Pierce got hit, I realize the body can't take many more. The players that play the game now are considerably more powerful and explosive compared to my time. But the bones, brains, tissue and overall internal structure of the human body is the same. The consequence is more impacts of viciousness in nature than ever before.
I can see a day when hitting in football practices will be eliminated. Only training camp and games. And I can see a day when three severe hits to the head will force retirement or the year off. Am I being pessimistic? No, I'm being realistic. Life is about choices and the right choices determine your contentment of the past, the relevance in the present and the quality of the future.
They are never easy, but those decisions made in the present dictate the future.