John Harbaugh wrote a piece for the Baltimore Ravens website about why football matters, particularly at the youth and High School level. I think it's well stated and something I very much agree with. The Michigan head football coach, Jim Harbaugh, also agrees with it, and recently posted it to his twitter account. But I thought it was important enough to bring here.
That, in my opinion, tells an important part of the story, but not the whole story. It tells a fundamental aspect of the player and coach perspective of football, particularly for younger players. But football means a lot of important things to a lot of people, even for those whose playing days are done or never began.
One of the things that I have done throughout the past few years is ask people "why is football important to you?" I have my story which has its time and place to tell, about how even the portion when I wasn't playing, profoundly changed and shaped my life. It provided solace when times were hard, it provided structure when structure was absent, it provided an escape when there were few other places I could go. Each fall Saturday I had a bastion that wasn't only a retreat, but a place where I could grow stronger in my character and in the person I became. Football taught me to face adversity and deal with it; each play as a player at every position you either win or you lose and you have to deal with that and the consequences it has on you and on those you care about; each play as a coach gives you the opportunity to internalize that with each of your players and use it as a teaching tool for life; each play as a fan results in joy or sorrow, is won or lost, his costs that feel completely real, but don't need to carry the magnitude that many of the other things in life do. Football prepares you for life like no other sport can.
In my time asking "why is football important to you", I've had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people from a lot of walks of life. I've talked to pro football players, from the "stars" to the guys that have hung around the league in special teams roles for a half-dozen years. I've talked to the walk-ons and the under-recruited. I've talked to daughters who bonded with their fathers and entire families through tailgating and going to Spartan Stadium (or whichever stadium) ever Fall Saturday when the home team was in town. And I've talked to dozens of coaches and fathers that prove that football is very important in our society. Think of Chris Spielman, a husband that lost his wife to cancer, and ask him what football means to him, and I promise he'll bring up family and support and an avenue to change lives. How many lives do you think Tom Osborne has impacted because of football. Ask fans of Wisconsin who jump around, if jumping around is merely dancing or if it means something more.
That is why football matters. That is why football is important. "The concussion issue is real and we have to face it," as John Harbaugh said. But we shouldn't turn and run from it. Football is too important to do that. It means too much to too many.