Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. Look, I know a lot of you complain about rain. But we need it. Lawns need it. Crops need it. The little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street needs it. So don’t be selfish. I’m good with rain, as long as it occurs when I’m out of town. Let’s go to the phones.
Tom, Rita from Ronda. Can you help me? I worry that football is on its way out. Parents don’t want their kids to play it, and fans no longer embrace collisions the way they once did.
The violence and injuries can’t be stopped. But they can be mitigated. We know more about injuries than we ever have. Equipment will improve. There will be a breakthrough with helmets. Helmet-first tackles will become flukes. Alas, those flukes remain with us, as Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly will attest. More kids will turn to sports such as soccer, which is fine. Remember the outcry from former players when the NFL began to fine players for helmet-first tackles? Other than from the player who is penalized, his teammates and their fans, who complains? Football is our game and, even as it is amended to accommodate safety, it will continue to be.
Tom, Paul III from Princeton. The NFL will play three games in London this season. Do you think football will catch on across the pond?
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Football has a better chance of catching on in London than soccer has of catching on here. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. A third of my friends follow the United Kingdom’s Premier League. I like Arsenal because Nick Hornby wrote about the team so beautifully in “Fever Pitch.”
Tom, Hal from Hot Springs. If you could say something to Shadrach Thornton, the enormously talented and oft-disciplined N.C. State running back who finally was kicked off the team this week, what would it be?
Who told you that the rules that apply to the rest of the human race don’t apply to you?
Tom, Betsy from Bear Grass.
That’s a town?
I’ll say. Do you know what our motto is?
I have no idea. I’m asking you.
Bear Grass is better than wheatgrass.
Thanks. Boy, Larry Brown got a raw deal from the NCAA, didn’t he?
Brown got what he deserved. He has coached at three schools, Kansas, UCLA and now SMU, and each was hit with a major penalty. This time, at SMU, the transgressions included unethical conduct and academic fraud. When Brown coached the Charlotte Bobcats he ripped his players so publicly and so relentlessly that, as good a coach as he is, he forced the team to let him go. He’s 75. If he coaches again, it has to be in the pros.
Tom, Ike from Indian Trail. You like the federal court ruling this week that says colleges can’t pay athletes?
No. I’d pay athletes in revenue producing sports and, yes, I know that many schools lose money on football. I’d pay a stipend to all male basketball and football players.
Wouldn’t they start to feel superior to the other athletes?
Tom, Tina from Trent Woods. Didn’t you get a concussion last year about this time?
I was concussed in Baltimore Sept. 27, 2114. The fault was mine, not Baltimore’s.
How did you celebrate your one-year anniversary?
I didn’t fall.