Are NFL fans addicted or numb to the violence?
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What a sport this brutal game of football is, and what a bunch of barbaric fans we are.
I don't know about you but it never becomes easier for me to watch a monster of a man -- much less a Monster of the Midway -- carted off the field while members of the medical staff attend to some mangled body part.
Yet I keep watching the Bears and others teams week to week, game to game and play to play.
That must reveal something about me, right?
Henry Melton was the most recent local victim. Monday, the Bears defensive tackle was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"He's a great player," teammate Earl Bennett said. "We'll miss him."
Actually, that's entertainment.
American sports fans are either addicted to the carnage or numb to it. Either way, we have made football the country's most popular pastime.
A common belief used to be that we watched football for the violence and that auto racing fans attended races for the crashes.
I don't believe that anymore. I don't believe anybody wants to see anyone injured or even killed. We simply have come to accept the destruction.
Melton's misfortune is lamented for a couple of reasons: One, the fear that his career never will be the same; two, the fear that the Bears' defense won't be the same this season.
Which is more important depends on your priorities.
Regardless, men take up this game when they're healthy boys and only a few emerge on the other side in one piece.
Some come up lame in minicamps. Some do in organized team activities. Some do in training camp. If life were fair, the survivors would be safe by the time they get around to playing regular-season games.
But, no, they're in even more jeopardy because it's just football being football. The Melton play was just another football play. He engaged a blocker, was pushed down and felt his knee buckle.
If you think the Bears have problems with Melton gone and cornerback Charles Tillman suffering a tight groin, consider the Packers' plight.
Linebacker Clay Matthews had to leave Sunday's game with an tender hamstring. Jermichael Finley was knocked out after a blow to the head. At one point the Pack was down to a fifth-string running back.
Next man up, next man up, next man up …
For the Bears that means names already are being raised as possibilities to compensate for Melton's absence: Nate Collins, Zach Minter, even longshot Tommie Harris.
Meanwhile, ongoing debates within the game would be amusing if not so tragic.
Is it better to practice less to preserve bodies or more to condition them to the violence? Is it better to restrict blows to the head or blows to the knees?
Should retired players have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit against the NFL or held out for millions of billions?
Consider all that in the context of another event at Halas Hall shortly after the Melton meltdown was reported: The Bears announced they are contributing to "an enhanced player health and safety initiative" for Chicago Public School football players."
Good for the Bears. Nobody can make football safe, but at least they are trying to make it safer. That way enough bodies will remain to go around.
As long as injuries like the one to Henry Melton are inevitable, the hope for the future of the sport is that there always will be the temporarily healthy coming up to fill in.
Yes, next man up when the last man goes down.
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