St. Mary's County Times September 07, 2017 - Page 12

12 Sports The County Times Thursday, September 7, 2017 SMAC Scoreboard The Gap Between Actions and Ideals Ed Cun- ningham was an offensive lineman on the 1991 Wash- ington Hus- kies football team that won the National Championship. He went on to play fi ve seasons in the NFL and, in recent years, covered college football for ESPN. Foot- ball was in his blood. It was his livelihood. It isn’t anymore. Despite his notable career, I didn’t know who Cunningham was until last week. I didn’t even know that he covered college football for the worldwide leader in sports. After he resigned from ESPN last week and announced that he would no longer be associated with the game of football, I can’t get Cunningham, this long-time stranger, out of myhead. On the surface, it’s a peculiar move: Cunningham, just 48, immediately and voluntarily severed a lifelong connection with football. But his explanation added a fascinating level of depth and complexity that has me racked with consternation. Cunningham divorced football because of debilitating head injuries. In his parting remarks, Cunningham noted that, “…the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.” Cun- ningham took “full ownership” of his in- volvement in the sport but reached a point, after considering the overwhelming con- nection between football and long-term brain injury, that he could “no longer be in that cheerleader spot.” A few years ago, Cunningham’s deci- sion may have been met by snickers, raised eyebrows and, by the particularly boorish and emboldened, social media trolling. We’re past that now. There’s no denying what’s happen- ing when 22 players, 11 on a side, line up year after year, week after week, day after day, play after play and try to knock the snot out of one another. The data can’t be ignored. The movie “Concussion” and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) being diagnosed in the brains of 121 of 122 former NFL players can’t be ignored. The struggles of former players like Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon can’t be ig- nored. The suicides of Junior Seau, Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, Cunningham’s former teammate, can’t be ignored. As long as tackle football is played, the partic- ipants are at risk of severe consequences, ones largely realized long after the cheers have silenced. This new reality is having an impact. Early retirements from the NFL are grow- ing more common, a trend that touched both local teams this year. Ravens offen- sive lineman John Urschel, 26, offi cially retired in July and Washington safety Su’a Cravens, 22, is currently on the exempt/ left team list whil ѕѕ́)ѡ̸ÁЁٕ́ɔ)ɥѡͥͅ)܁ɕ́ɔ܁ѕ)Ёѡȁɕ她щ) չѡ՝́չՔѡ)ЁѡЁɥѽȁѼѡ)Ѽͅͽє͕ݥѠд)!́ͥ݅ͻeЁ͕)Ѡȁ́䰁Ё݅́ɽѕ)䁍͍) չéх䁅)ѥѡȁ$ٔɽՉ݅э)щٕ䁝ɕձ́ɥ̃L)́ȁѕѡ)ݽ䁽ȁЁѕ)ٕ䁝ݥѡЁ9ѡȁ)ȁЁ́ѡи$݅э5居)ЁQ́ЁMɑ䃊L՝ݥ)ȁѡQ̸ Ё$ձѡ)е݅́5居ɹɉ)݅Iɑͽݡ݅́ѕ)ѕȁх) Ёԁ܁ݡ'e݅э)є䁝եи5䁱ٔѡ)́$݅ЁѼٔ܁ͅ)ɕ̰եЁم́)ɽٕͥɽѽM$ѕ)ɕ䁅ݕٔݥѕѧѥ)Ѽ䁵䁍͍ݡѥԴ)ѼյѡɕЁщ)ͽ܁ѡɵ́ɼщɽи)ѡӊéݡЁ͕Ʌѕ́ չ)ɽѡ͔ͥɱ䁍ѕ+Lѡɗéхݕ չ)éѥ̸́́)٥ѥх́ݕ)]ѡȁԁɕݥѠѡ͔ѡ՝)щȁeЁٔЁЁѡ)ѡɗéͽѡչٕͅ䁥)ɥЁͽݡ䁅Դ)ѡѥ䁙́ѡȁٕ̀ѡ)ٕЁ̸)ѡٕЁ̸)I)