The Norman Transcript

November 3, 2013

Save the helmets for the field

By Chelsey Brown
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — During Oklahoma’s football game against Tulsa, Sooner safety Gabe Lynn was called for targeting, an offense that carries a 15-yard penalty and an ejection from the game.

After an official review of the play, the call was overturned and the ruling on the field became what everyone else had seen: Lynn went low; no foul.

But there was a foul: that the call was made in the first place.

But who’s to blame? The referee for trying to protect the players? The NCAA for caring enough to create the rule? What about society?

Concussions in football are an issue, and the intentions behind the rule are admirable, but the emerging problem in today’s society is that fear of injury is beginning to bleed off the fields and into life.

A school district in New Jersey recently banned dodgeballs, footballs and cartwheels during recess. An elementary in New Hampshire has banned the game of tag.

A stamp campaign meant to commemorate first lady Michelle Obama’s youth anti-obesity program has been destroyed by the United States Postal Service for illustrating “dangerous” activities, like cannonballing into a swimming pool and skateboarding without kneepads.

At some point in the last few decades, America The Brave has become America Just Play On Your iPad.

Is it wrong to be concerned for the well-being of a child? Of course not. 

But when I was a kid, having bruised knees and scraped elbows meant that you actually had an imagination of your own. It meant that you had a life.

When I was a kid, my parents would laugh affectionately as they helped brush me off after a stumble. So now, when I stumble as an adult, I know how to laugh as I pick myself up.

When I was a kid, we played games on the gravel schoolyard. We tried to be the highest swingers in the history of swingers, and when we reached those heights, we always launched ourselves into the air. Did kids ever get hurt? Sure. But bones can heal naturally.

I’m not a parent, so I don’t know what it feels like to see my child suffer a world face-plant. But I do know that when you ban children from playing tag, you’re teaching them that falling down isn’t supposed to happen.

When you make a child wear a helmet to do a cartwheel, you’re teaching them to cry. When you take away the lesson of recovering from a physical bruise, you’re denying them the lesson of recovering from a mental one.

Sometimes Goliath kicks the crap out of David, and there’s no helmet for that life lesson.

Chelsey Brown is a senior journalism major at the University of Oklahoma.