By David Beaton
What is the current, and most important issue ongoing in sports today? Targeting. Targeting is the proverbial bullseye of college football, and since college football is the biggest sport in America, targeting calls are getting a lot of attention from angry sports fans. Fans are becoming more intense and aggressive while sports attempt to become more humane and safe.
Initially I was on the wagon of “come on, this call is BS, why don’t we just give them flags instead?” when the news first came out. Then I calmed down a bit, until I started to see what the refs are throwing flags for. For the first two weeks of the college season I sat back and watched multiple flags thrown for downright good hits, and wondered why these kids were being punished. I mean, they are just doing what they have been trained to do right?
Wrong. We have become accustomed to “the big hit” instead of just wrapping up and getting the player to the ground. Players are selling out for a big hit, and if they don’t get it, the play often ends in a touchdown. Last week I was on an international flight from Germany to Detroit, when next to me in first class sat a middle-aged man in a Badgers t-shirt. I couldn’t help but give him a hard time about the horrible call, followed by a heart breaking loss to Arizona State. We joked backed and forth for a bit and then I asked him what he did. Turns out he was Dr. Warren Dunn, the Head Physician for the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
Eventually the topic of health and player safety came up, including the topic of targeting. I asked him what his thoughts were on the new rule. Now let me be honest, I still feel the NFL needs to stay a hard hitting league, but after talking to Dr. Dunn, he opened my eyes a little bit on college sports safety. After he told me he had nothing but support for the rule, he rendered a simple explanation which went like this.
“David, think about not only player safety in this issue, but also from a parental, student, and potential future point of view. If you don’t enforce these new rules, the game continues to be played by young men who want nothing more than to make it to the NFL. This means these players will sell out their bodies with total disregard for their safety, or the players they are hitting. Then, one day, they get a concussion and things start to go downhill. The concussed player begins having trouble focusing, they can’t finish homework, their grades go down more and more, and before you know it, they have lost their scholarship due to one hard hit. If we as medical personnel, fans, and supporters don’t do something now, we are putting players’ futures in jeopardy.”
That got me on board… for the college aspect at least. I know there are a lot of referees out there making horrible calls, and for the most part they are being reviewed and overturned as need be, even though the flag still sticks which sucks. I am still a firm believer that NFL players know the dangers and want to be there, so suck it up and hit a mofo. I know that’s not the right way to look at it from a political point of view, but hey, you’re making the money, do your job. As far as college goes, once these refs actually start making the right calls, be a supporter of not only your favorite team, but also the guys going out there with the courage to risk it all to entertain you.