Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bulking Up to Make the Team (part 2)

During the regular National Football League season, I follow the home team (for me, that’s the 49ers). And like millions of others, next week I will watch the Super Bowl.

If I sound like I might be a rabid football fan, I’m really not. Years ago, I’d get excited about games, but as I’ve grown older (and I hope wiser), placing too much importance on their outcome seems a little silly. For me, one game on a weekend is entertainment. More than that and I start to feel like an inanimate blob on a couch.

Recently on Bryant Gumbel's TV sports program, they covered the pitiful physical state of several former NFL players, men who 10 or 20 years ago were big name performers. The game left them terribly disabled. I got a sick feeling just watching these formerly great athletes struggle to move out of a chair and hobble across a room. They were not isolated cases. It is all too common, according to the report.

A disturbing trend now is to grow bigger and bigger high school linemen (recent report). These are 300 pound teenagers, purposely bulked-up in the hope of making it into a major college football program and maybe the NFL. Of course the reality is that most of them will not make it. But because of carrying so much weight they will experience the early onset of diseases usually associated with old age.

One huge teen lineman in an interview was asked if he ever thought about the consequences of carrying so much weight. “I’ll just have to deal with it if something bad happens,” he answered with naïve bravado. More likely, what he really believes is that there is little chance that he will suffer early cardiovascular disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Those things happen to the “other guy.” That is the nature of youth and to be expected. But you sure have to wonder about the blinders that their parents wear.

(Scroll down for part 1 of "Bulking Up to Make the Team.)

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