Ed Cunningham has been a college football analyst for Mickey for the better part of two decades. He just resigned his job because he’s grown uneasy with the risk of brain trauma associated with the sport.
Football has seen high-profile N.F.L. players retire early, even pre-emptively, out of concern about their long-term health, with particular worry for the brain. But Cunningham may be the first leading broadcaster to step away from football for a related reason — because it felt wrong to be such a close witness to the carnage, profiting from a sport that he knows is killing some of its participants.
“In its current state, there are some real dangers — broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”
… He made it plain that he was not becoming an antifootball evangelist. The sport’s long-term success hinges on moving more urgently toward safety, especially at the youth and college levels, he said. He has pointed suggestions on ways to make the game safer.
But he grew weary of watching players be removed from the field on carts with little ceremony. (“We come back from the break and that guy with the broken leg is gone, and it’s just third-and-8,” he said.) He increasingly heard about former players, including former teammates and peers, experiencing the long-term effects of their injuries, especially brain trauma.
“I know a lot of people who say: ‘I just can’t cheer for the big hits anymore. I used to go nuts, and now I’m like, I hope he gets up,’ ” Cunningham said. His eyes welled with tears. “It’s changing for all of us. I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain.”
Makes you pause and think, if nothing else.
23 responses to ““I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.””
It seems like Cunningham could be an advocate for safety in his role as a broadcaster. Call out a player or a coach for dangerous play. Use the bully pulpit to bring needed change to the sport. It will be a sad day when football is no longer played because there are things that could be done that people don’t have the courage to do.
Do you have an opinion on the targeting rule? Good idea or not?
I hate the ejection part of the rule but understand it. The sport let the dirty, high hits get out of control on YouTube and SportsCenter. The 15-yard penalty is enough except in the rare cases (think Reggie Brown and Junior Rosegreen in 2004).
Sad to see it, but I completely agree with him. Football is unsafe as it stands now, and I’m not talking about limbs. You only have one brain, and damaging it voluntarily is really hard to fathom.
The game can change to make it safer, but I’m not sure I trust those in charge to change it in a manner that still makes it enjoyable.
ee – you’re correct. Cunningham can certainly use his position to advocate for changes, but you know Mickey wouldn’t allow that.
Then make a stand… turn it off.
Football guilt… the newest rage and platform to show just how much you care.
Football becoming analogous to cigarette smoking. If it’s so bad then just make it illegal.
But let’s have a few more class action suits cause some folks still need to get paid.
You can’t have ritualized combat without some injuries.
Was actually wondering what who he was gonna be with when you mentioned Tubbs was going to be working with Mike (Britney) Patrick the other day. My recollection is that he has made comments during games about injuries, etc. that made it sound like he really does care about player safety and that this is not merely a “look at me” move…
The early studies being done are yielding results that are far, far more serious than anyone ever could have imagined. In our lifetime we will see one of two things. Either football returns to a more rugby style game with no helmets and minimal padding or football disappears all together. With so much money at stake I’m guessing we will see the former. Whether or not that style of play will remain popular with the fans remains to be seen. But we can’t keep going the way we are and a better helmet isn’t the solution. We have to seriously dial back the intensity of the collisions.
I think we have to move to a more rugby style game. I just hope it still is enjoyable to watch
He wouldn’t have done well at the games in Rome in antiquity.
We’ve come a long way from Junior Rosegreen not even drawing a flag for that hit on Reggie.
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The effects are cumulative. For football to continue sensors need to be in the helmets that record the extent of a blow to the head with the ability to accumulate the total impact. Once a number is reached the player is out of the game. The studies I’ve read say that the linemen are getting pounded on the head on almost every play. I think we will be looking at 7 on 7 with no lineman at all. They are the most at risk.
Take the facemasks off the helmets and that problem will be solved.
The risk of concussion in soccer is greater than football. Every sport has risk of injury. If the new standard is total safety, we need to make all sports illegal.
The science is moving on from just concussions. They are now saying it’s the cumulative effect of all the hits rather than just x number of concussions. The standard isn’t “total safety.” There’s no such thing. But there’s definitely safer sporting activities than playing car crashes.
They’ve been calling them repetitive trauma injuries for a while.
I haven’t heard of a bunch of old soccer players in chronic debilitating pain, forgetting why they got in their car at age 50, or quitting in their prime for safety concerns.
There are degrees of safety, and this is one of the reasons I’ve become less interested in football.
Boy, this is a downer right on the eve of kickoff. The sport is going to have to change because of physics. The force of impact keeps going up despite the rules because players are getting bigger and faster. I read an article about Jordan Reed’s issues yesterday that made this point. Eventually, I think we’ll have to get rid of some of the armor and go back to a rugby style game. I just hope it’s still fun to watch.
I’ll acknowledge that football is dangerous. But good grief…think of the laws enacted to protect us from ourselves…You must wear a seatbelt in a car, if you’re shorter than “x” inches, you must have a car seat. You must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. You must be immunized to attend schools. You must (OSHA) do a zillion things to be safe in the workplace. All rules and laws that serve a good purpose
Then the money grubbing bastards of the Georgia Legislature go and legalizes fireworks. They had the damn things outlawed, and for some ungodly reason ($$$) reversed a protective law and said, “Go ahead and blind yourself, blow some fingers off, burn the woods down, permanently damage your hearing. You can always have skin grafts…etc”.
Talk to people that work in emergency rooms at hospitals…a LOT of people are maimed (lots of children), sometimes for life, by fireworks. Plus everyone is kept awake all night and their dogs have nervous breakdowns.
Fix what you can. Make football safer. But the hypocrisy is sickening.
(The reason, I’d bet they’d give is at least twofold..we (Ga.) was losing money to border states (so I guess we legalize anything that becomes legal in those states), and “People are going to do it regardless”, which is true for a few, but a lie for most. (apply the latter reason to legalizing weed and see how far you get) The real reason is same old reason.
Does Little Nicky have to have a booster seat?
How about we cut back on laws to protect us from ourselves and at the same time restrict the ability of lawyers to sue for injuries sustained by an individual’s stupidity or decision to take a risk or use a product in a way it was not intended? Govt does not need to be the all seeing, all powerful nanny watching over us to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves. Individuals should make the decisions on what activities they wish to undertake, not govt.. As long as my actions don’t harm others or damage others’ property, govt should leave me alone to injure or kill myself as I see fit.
If we are going to allow govt to try and totally protect us from every danger, we might as well forget about all types of motorized racing, rodeos, rock climbing, parachuting, hang gliding, snow skiing, bicycle racing and the list goes on and on. I’m perfectly fine with legalizing pot, not because “everyone does it anyway” but because it’s a silly law outlawing a product that is no more, and probably much less, harmful to society than alcohol or tobacco (I’m not for outlawing alcohol or tobacco in case you were wondering and I’ve never smoked pot).
It’s really interesting to watch high school football. The crowds are the same size, but the squads on the sidelines have shrunk dramatically. I was listening to the Asheville High coach on the radio (1200 students, a school that has produced a few high level P5 recruits), and he indicated that he scrubbed hitting during pre-season workouts for the simple reason that he had 28 varsity players and another 10 or so that would shuttle back and forth between JV and varsity. That’s about the size of a high school football team in western North Carolina these days. By comparison, my kid’s high school, which is about 800 student, will probably see 50+ bodies at basketball tryouts. OK, that’s NC. Well, you see the same thing with soccer.
The sport is really drying up at the high school level in terms of participation. But with summer 7 on 7s, that participation has swollen to 6 months out of the year for anyone who touches the ball.
Everything is changing with this sport, and it’s moving really fast.
I appreciate his opinion being sincere, and his right to get out of the business, but it is his decision, just leave. Everyone has access to information and can make their own decision whether to boycott/not watch as they please. His story and opinion is not any better than any of us who have played, or watched the sport.
As Ugly said above, all sports have an element of risk, some more than others. Whether you ski into a tree, crash a race car into a wall, take too many punches on boxing, or suffer injury in football you will never eliminate serious injury or death. Certainly take prudent steps to minimize the risk but anything that is unnecessarily cruel will die off on it’s own, it doesn’t need activists, or government, intervention to impose their will on others who want to either play, or support the game. Just go off and watch birds, or hike/camp…..but be careful, there are no guarantees in nature either.
I may sound like a cynic and I probably don’t have the popular opinion but aren’t NFL players grown men making the decision to get paid to play football? They now know the repercussions of playing and if the choose to entertain us, why protect them from theirselves? Just my 2 cents.