North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora knows what might cause the downfall of America and he shared it with the world at ACC Media Days on Wednesday:
Larry Fedora: “Our game is under attack ... I fear that the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won’t recognize it 10 years from now. And if it does, our country will go down, too.”— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) July 18, 2018
Fedora also relays this point he says comes from a conversation with a service member, but which no small number of coaches and fans also think:
UNC coach Larry Fedora says he once spoke with a general and asked him what makes the American military the best in the world.— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) July 18, 2018
The general’s answer, per Fedora, was simple: The United States is the only football-playing nation in the world. pic.twitter.com/eCRY40gIeD
I think the U.S. military’s strength comes from our government spending way more money on it than any other country on earth does, and that our military has a now centuries-long history of waging war all over the world. But I don’t mean to get too political or call into question the knowledge of a general. Football is probably the reason for our military might.
The general Fedora talks about here isn’t the only person who thinks football ties into military dominance. Structurally, this sport lends itself to warfare comparisons:
Football gets likened to war because it’s a territorial struggle. Football plays are the distribution of players across open space. When you think of it like that, it makes sense. If you’re going to conquer the space — a football field — you should understand its constraints.
And America’s got an ongoing cultural tendency to attach football to war in all kinds of subliminal ways. We do this when we talk about “ground attacks” and “battles” and “flankers,” and even when we talk about teams getting the “territorial advantage.”
Where there’s an attachment to war, there’s an attachment to some sense of patriotism. Today, at its highest level, American football paints itself as ultra-patriotic, right down to the great American tradition of telling players to please pipe down because their protests for social justice made the president pretend to be angry. If this sport changes too much, it’s hard to see how America could ever live up to its constitutional promise.
So I agree with Larry Fedora. If anything brings down our grand national experiment, it’s going to be changes to the rules of football. He’s got his finger right on the pulse.
Fedora was talking at length about head injuries and rule changes, and he also said there’s no proven link between football and CTE.
Larry Fedora: “I don’t think it’s been proven that the game of football causes CTE. We don’t really know that. Are there chances for concussions? Of course. There are collisions. But the game is safer than it’s ever been.”— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) July 18, 2018
Again, he’s right on the money.
UNC AD Bubba Cunningham told @KyleBaileyWFNZ just now he was "surprised" by HC Larry Fedora's comments today that football doesn't cause CTE.— Nick Carboni (@NickCarboniWCNC) July 18, 2018
How football connects to CTE is not scientifically settled. But Fedora emphasizing the lack of scientific proof of a specific connection to argue against making changes is different than just stating that point.
Fedora came back out to talk to reporters later, apparently with the aim of expanding on his thoughts about head injuries. Fedora didn’t really back off anything, though:
UNC coach Larry Fedora came back out a few minutes ago to clarify remarks with reporters, although he didn’t exactly back down from his earlier comments. pic.twitter.com/VY7GdxF0ma— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) July 18, 2018
“I don’t know if clarification is the right word,” he said. “It’s more about what I said. I’m not sure that anything is proven, that football itself causes it. Now we do know, from what my understanding is, that repeated blows to the head cause it, so I’m assuming that every sport that you have, football included, could be a problem with that. As long as you’ve got any kind of contact, you could have that. That does not diminish the fact that the game is still safer than it’s ever been in the history of the game, because we continue to tweak the game to try to make it safer for our players.”
He ticked off a few things North Carolina’s done to promote player health, like monitoring head impact with helmet technology and having a concussions expert on hand.
“Again, I’m gonna say the game is safer than it’s ever been in the history of the game, but we will still continue to tweak the game as we go,” Fedora said.
It wasn’t clear if he thought those tweaks would bring about the end of American society as we know it.