What American football needs: No helmets and short shorts

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Mrs. Curious Capitalist, talking yesterday about the paralyzing injury to Buffalo Bill Kevin Everett, wondered if someday football would retreat to the sidelines of American sports, its terrible health consequences for so many players ruling it out as a game for with appeal for regular folks. After all, boxing used to be the most popular sport in the land, and now it’s an afterthought.

I love watching football (and used to love playing its flag and tag varieties), and don’t love watching boxing (or punching people). So I would hope she’s wrong. But even though Everett appears to be defying his doctors’ predictions and getting better, I think something’s got to give with football. In an article about the Everett case and football injuries in general here on Time.com, Alice Park and Sean Gregory write:

Is better equipment the answer? Yes and no. Responding to the growing concern over concussions on the field, helmet manufacturers have added aid bladders to cushion the head as well as support to the cheek, jaw and facemask areas. But nothing has yet been developed that can protect the spine, especially during a spear tackle.

Well, here’s another idea. Get rid of the helmets. You won’t see a lot of spear tackles after that. Get rid of the pads, too. You’ll end up with more bloody noses and possibly more broken bones, but far fewer life-threatening or debilitating injuries. The game will lose that element of run-into-a-guy-at-full-speed hitting, which might lessen its appeal for some spectators. But nobody who has watched American football’s helmetless, padless cousins–rugby and Australian rules football–can say they’re lacking in exciting action. The basic appeal of the sport would, I think, remain. Plus, the idea of Ray Lewis wearing little hot pants like the Aussie rules players do is just so amusing that I think it must be tried.