Tue Oct 19 03:57pm EDT
The NFL is upping the ante yet again on helmet-to-helmet hits and other vicious collisions, promising even more aggressive fines and suspensions in the wake of a particularly violent weekend. The NCAA has been concerned with the same problem lately, led by the Big Ten.
And if it's really serious about it, Joe Paterno has an idea from his own playing days at Brown, right after the war (Second World, that is, not Civil). If you want players to stop leading with their heads, Paterno told reporters during Tuesday's Big Ten conference call, lose the facemasks already:
"I've been saying for years, we should get rid of the facemask. ... It's a weapon, guys are fearless."
Predictably, the whippersnappers in the ranks – namely 35-year-old Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who opted for maximum coverage as an All-American linebacker in the mid-'90s – aren't so enthusiastic about the idea. But more than a few people who actually study head injuries aren't so dismissive: As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, the growing research on the long-term effects of repeated head shots, even when helmets are involved, have led some experts to conclude that the protection does more harm than good by making head-cracking too routine. Troy Aikman is down with that, and he knows from head injuries.
Of course, helmets were introduced largely to combat the "boy-killing, man-mutilating" violence that nearly got the game banned outright at the turn of the 20th Century. The facemask wasn't standard until the mid-'50s, well after the end of JoePa's career at Brown and into his tenure as a young assistant at Penn State. You can play football without a facemask.
While we're at it, Paterno would also like to know whatever happened to those canary dishes, the Andrews Sisters? Used to be a Joe could always get togged to the bricks for a jolly up in this town, even if he was a cement mixer. But these days, every night's in the cave with a platter and a glass of dog soup, patting his alderman like some wheat lunger.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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