‘The home of the brave’ is close
to becoming ‘the land of the weak’

There it is, lovers of Americana, happening right there in front of our eyes. Another proud American institution is being torn to smithereens by the media, the flaccid forces of political correctness and the unwitting complicity of a growing population of Americans who are so easily whipped into fear-writhing panic that it’s a wonder they can even muster the gumption to face the world most days.

Is this still the nation that bum-rushed Normandy? Some days it is hard to tell. The “home of the brave” is dangerously close to becoming the “land of the weak.” 

The latest assault on Americana to which I refer is not an effort to ban apple pie, organized by the growing chorus of gluten-free gladiators in our midst, although that’s probably only a matter of time.

Neither am I referring to the campaign to ban peanuts, since peanuts — that black plague of the 21st century — have been essentially chased from public spaces already.

Never before in the history of free people has any one small faction wielded such overwhelming power as do the peanut banners. About one-half of 1 percent of humans have a peanut allergy (most, only mildly so), and fewer than 10 out of the 300 million or so Americans die from peanut allergies each year. For those focused on the elimination of remote public menaces, a better target would be crosswalks.

None of which matters. Peanuts have been blacklisted, as I was reminded last week. There, in the long list of dos and don’ts that my daughter brought home from school was the admonition: “No peanuts, no exceptions.”

Precaution against even the most statistically remote calamities must always prevail these days, at the expense of everything, including common sense.

The most poignant current example of our society’s pervasive spinal atrophy is the new-fangled crusade against American football — that latest, greatest American institution under siege by Team Pansy, in this case, amid a torrent of hype and hysteria about concussions.

As the new football season gets under way, there is more talk of head injuries than there is of Manning and the Broncos, which is saying something.

Even formerly nonstop coverage of Tim Tebow has taken a backseat to exposés about the “concussion crisis.”

Last year, Colorado passed a law mandating concussion training for Pee Wee football coaches. This fall, headlines are chock-full of stories about parents pulling their kids from the character-building sport for fear of permanent impairment.

Even conservative columnist George Will got into the act a few Sundays back, invoking the suicide death of former pro-footballer Dave Duerson as proof of football’s untenable barbarism. But while alive, Duerson openly questioned this rush to blame pro football in tragic cases like his own. The air is getting awfully thin in Will’s ivory tower.

The suicide of Junior Seau was fuel on the fire of all this hysteria. In the immediate aftermath of his death, there was rampant speculation, masquerading as medical authority, that his suicide was the result of a sort of depression caused by repeated head trauma. A post mortem on Seau disproving all this received far less media attention.

That football is a violent game — and that concussions are a part of it — is not news except to the oblivious and disingenuous.

From the time that Bronko Nagurski first strapped on a leather helmet, to the time that Dick Butkus first flashed a toothless smile, until that famed Monday night when Steve Atwater annihilated a full-speed behemoth named Christian Okoye — football has been, and always will be, a collision sport.

And still, not since Ritalin and the phony proliferation of clinically hyperactive 12-year-old boys has a “crisis” been so spectacularly trumped up as this. Football is a great sport — an American pastime. There are, of course, dangers in the game, none of which are new, just as there is danger in mountain biking, skydiving and the consumption of peanuts and Cracker Jack.

What is new is the increasing compulsion in our society to behave like unthinking pansies. Life is full of risks and opportunities. So, too, is football. Weighing and safeguarding against those risks is an essential part of living. Cowering in the closet for fear of what remote risk lurks is not.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the the Colorado Senate and former quarterback for Mesa State College, where he survived multiple concussions.


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