"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A questionable choice for SCMC speaker

Here's another situation where I'm feeling like the only sane person in an insane asylum. I'm referring to the selection of a speaker for SCMC's Fall Into Health event, set for October 24. The event is previewed nicely in the October edition of Senior Perspective. I really appreciate the large type size!
"Fall Into Health" will bring Ben Utecht to Morris. He'll speak at our elementary school. I suspect that what I say here will fall on deaf ears. It's fun watching football if you're in your recliner at home. This love of football affects our ability to judge rationally. Someone like me who points out the obvious, that football is totally unacceptable for our boys to take up, risks considerable scorn. It's bizarre.
SCMC
is an institution that stands for taking care of one's health. But it's showcasing a speaker who uses his own brain problems as a springboard for his message. It would be nice if the message was "don't let your sons play football." This is a guy who has a book out entitled "Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away." That strikes me as quite sad. But I'm thinking like that outlier again (in the insane asylum).
Can't anyone agree with me that it's at least highly ironic that a man whose football accomplishments serve to glorify the sport, has a background that screams at us to avoid the sport?
The article in Senior Perspective gives such a wonderful impression of SCMC and its resources to help everyone. I just don't see the point of bringing Utecht here. I'm sure he got drawn into the sport of football innocently enough, as countless boys do. I'm sure all the cheers were quite the elixir for him. How can you beat that? Being made to feel like a hero to counter all those boring hours in school?
Boys play football year after year, taking considerable risks with their brains and bodies. The negative effects may take years to show up. Someone like Utecht should go on tour trying to tamp down the enthusiasm for football, just like the guys who looked into the sun for an eclipse go around saying "don't do this!"
The Senior Perspective article by Jim Palmer introduces us to Utecht in quite the positive light within his football background. Utecht is a Hastings native. "He loved to play football," we learn. He was the starting tight end for the U of M Gophers for four years. He wasn't chosen in the pro draft but signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.
"He became one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets," the article tells us with hype. What a role model! He caught passes from Peyton Manning, now seen as a ubiquitous TV commercial pitchman. We learn that Utecht played a big role for the Colts in winning the 2006 Super Bowl. He was dealt five documented concussions. Writer Palmer tells us "while (Utecht's) career was cut short, he still loves the game of football and is still around the game. But now, his focus is on being an advocate for sports brain injury awareness."
More from the article: "Utecht will openly discuss his experiences, from the injuries themselves to the ongoing neuro-cognitive issues he experiences, including memory loss."
Who would want their son to risk this kind of outcome from playing a quite pointless game? Is "awareness" really the answer? If it is, it's the kind of awareness that should lead to boys walking away from the sport. Is that so hard? Can you suggest with a straight face that there are no more constructive activities for boys than to practice and play football, to view opposing players as adversaries (when they might be your friends) and who you try to knock on their rear end? Can any of you really make a contrary argument to me?
Utecht
realizes that football has come to define him whether he likes it or not. So he's going to continue riding football's gravy train, post-career, despite the irony that he's really focusing on the most negative aspect of the game: the disastrous health consequences. Utecht is the national spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology and the American Brain Foundation.
"He has earned honors for his brave honesty and advocacy, receiving the 2014 Public Leadership in Neurology Award from the American Academy of Neurology," the article reads. Is it brave to just acknowledge the truth? Wouldn't it be more brave to assert that football is an outdated, Neanderthal activity no longer worthy of boys' time and commitment?
Utecht
is a musician too. He put out a single called "You Will Always Be My Girls" in 2013. The song is described as "a love letter to his wife Karyn and their daughters, as he fears that one day his brain injuries will lead him to not know them."
I'm scratching my head. Are these consequences of playing football not drastic? Are they not catastrophic? Couldn't Utecht have weaved through his life quite satisfactorily without having played football?
This past summer he released that book, "Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away." If the day comes that his mind is gone, will he not need some government-supported assistance? As a result of his conscious decision to play the game? Boys should be steered away from the game. This should in fact be his message. But if it was, he wouldn't be so popular on the lecture circuit.
Society is still too in love with football. Change in society takes time.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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