Cris Collinsworth: Football Is Here to Stay Because There's a Caveman in Us All

Cris Collinsworth: Football Is Here to Stay Because There's a Caveman in Us All

BEVERLY HILLS, CA–It’s an irony that at the moment when the NFL has become television’s ratings powerhouse the increasing feminization of American culture demonizes the notion of men willingly enduring physical pain and risking injury to achieve in sports. 

Speaking about the new season of NBC’s Sunday Night Football to assembled press, including Breitbart News, this weekend at the biannual Television Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, former Cincinnati Bengal and current NFL Network, Showtime, and NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth raised a stir with the following assertion:

If you really want to know what I think, I think the most important thing in the world for most people is now to get knocked on your ass and get up and start fighting again. I think it happens to all of us in all walks of life. And football has a pretty unique way of teaching you how to do that. And, so, I personally believe that in this stage–I also coached high-school football, I coached at the peewee level, I coached all the way up and through–and the more I see of young men today and the lack of traditional families, and mom and dad and dinner at night and all that, the more I think that coaches in this country have a really significant role in our society, and what great things they’re doing. And so I’m thrilled that my kids play football.

Longtime TV journalist Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter tweeted from his @BastardMachine account:

Every parent makes their own decision, but Collinsworth’s logic — he believes in the value of getting knocked on your ass — was stunning.

Collinsworth’s comments came about as part of a conversation about the hot-button NFL concussion issue, which has been the subject of a class-action suit, recently approved by a federal judge, brought by former players claiming cognitive impairment as a result of sports-related concussions.

Collinsworth has a son who played high-school football, and said he currently has one playing as a fifth-year senior for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. He says he feels “great responsibility” for improving training and safety measures in the game.

“No matter what the safety rules may be that the NFL hands down,” he said, “and the referees try to enforce, and the players try to enact on the field, it is our job in the media, and your job as well, to make sure that this is real, that this isn’t lip service.

“There are changes that had to be made in the game of football. And if you go back through the history of the game, there were changes when it first started. There was talk that it would be abolished because people were dying at the time. It was insane what the game was. So it is a different game.”

Fellow panelist Fred Gaudelli, the coordinating producer for Sunday Night Football, said, “Ten or fifteen years ago, and you had big helmet-to-helmet collision, it was replayed. It was glorified. It was the essence of football. As we’ve learned more about the after-effects of a football career and what can happen to these players–you don’t glorify it anymore, and you’re much more sensitive to it.

“Football is a collision sport, and it will never not be that. But I do think the NFL has taken some steps to take needless collisions out of it, whether it’s hits on defenseless players, whether it’s using your helmet outside of a particular area of the field, as a battering ram.”

Gaudelli also acknowledged that the culture of football is also evolving, saying, “Football players are taught from the very beginning about toughness and sacrifice and playing injured and doing whatever it takes. We’re now seeing a very dramatic pullback from that. Let’s be smart and not put people in harm’s way when we don’t have to put them there anymore.”

But Collinsworth said a certain amount of that attitude is baked in the cake for men who love to play football.

“As a man,” he said, “there’s a bit of caveman built into all of us, gladiator, whatever you want to say, that we want to be challenged in that way. So, I think [football is] going to be around forever. I do.”