For the past decade, I’ve had a date during the fall on Friday nights. It’s been on the sidelines and in the press box, sitting in the stands and walking the field. I’ve talked with students and parents, coaches and announcers as we watched teenage boys hurtle their bodies at one another at full speed in football pads.
Thinking back, I can remember a play during a steamy night in Mississippi. The quarterback lined up about four yards behind the offensive line, the five boys enlisted to protect him. A running back was near him and when the ball was snapped, the quarterback showed the ball to the running back then took it away and rolled to his right.
The running back continued forward, as if he had the ball – a standard play-fake listed in coaches’ playbooks from the Florida Everglades to the rain clouds covering Mt. Hood in Portland. He continued forward and a defensive linebacker, unaware that the running back didn’t have the ball, met him at the line of scrimmage.
The collision that took place actually makes two sounds. The first is the sound happening on the field, something like a miniature car crash. The second one is much louder; it’s the reaction from the crowd. A guttural noise that varies, but usually involves the letter O.
It’s collisions like this one and the thousands that happen daily during any football season that I first thought about when hearing about the NFL’s $765 Million Concussion Settlement. The collision I heard years back in Madison County, Mississippi didn’t result in a concussion, but I couldn’t tell you that for sure.