“Debate This” is a recurring feature here at HLS in which two writers argue an issue. Yesterday, Elvis argued that Corey Robinson should not return to the gridiron due to his concussion issue. Today, for what it’s worth, I argue that he should.
The only reason Corey Robinson should quit football is if he doesn’t love it anymore. Concussion, and its sequelae, shouldn’t keep him from playing, and by finishing what he started, he sets himself up to be the star of one of the more remarkable narratives in Notre Dame football’s storied history.
But first, a few caveats: 1.) Corey Robinson is an adult and will make up his own mind, in consultation with his physicians, family, and coaches. That’s the only caveat. He’s not my son. His decision is his and his future is extraordinarily bright, whether he plays another down or not. In fact, to suggest that he needs to return to the game to complete some dopey narrative is wrong of me. I never caught a touchdown against USC and I never successfully ran for student body president. Thank goodness neither are criteria for graduation from the University.
But Corey should play, because he can. Assuming he is medically cleared, he should play, because he has the talent to be an important part of a championship run and he has the talent to play at the next level. That is an opportunity, professionally and economically that should not be disregarded.
He owes nothing to his teammates or to us. But he owes it to himself to see how great he can be at this remarkable thing we call football. He owes it to himself to see what could be and to see how large the crowds can be and how loud can be their roars. He owes it to himself to see how far the game can take him. Not that these are easy decisions for him or, his peers.
An enormous amount of science is catching up to the game. When I played football and lacrosse, heck, when I played soccer and basketball, we were shown five fingers by a coach and given a cup of water. We were sent back in by well-intentioned guys. Guys like Brady Hoke. Thankfully, sport has changed, and football has changed most of all. There are protocols that now take the decisions away from the coaches and players. These protocols are not perfect, but they’re there now.
Thankfully, concussion protocols, and the recognition that traumatic brain injuries can occur in the absence of bruise or blood, have become accepted in society at large. The military now segregates warriors who were close enough to a blast so that they can be evaluated. When I deployed in 2003 and 2004, these protocols didn’t exist. I’m glad they do now.
Football is a game of purposeful violence. It will always be dominated by the player who can run faster, or hit harder. Physics will always undo the most careful scheme or the most deliberate technique. Players will forever get hurt, paralyzed, and possibly die. Until the game is changed so deliberately that it becomes a pantomime of itself, there will always be extraordinary risk to life and limb.
Devon Walker and Eric Legrand didn’t get the luxury of walking away from the game on their terms. The twenty-odd first graders dead in Newtown and the fifty-odd revelers in Orlando didn’t get the luxury of choosing their fate. Neither did or will the thousands upon thousands of Americans who have and forever will die or lose limbs for their country.
Corey Robinson should play if the doctors say he can and if he still loves it. Because if he still loves it, he should see how far the game can carry him.
Dulce et decorum est.