Pity Poor Linemen

At the beginning of the 20th Century, officials in New York had to find a way for the exploding population of that metropolis to navigate its streets filled as they were with excrement from conveyances pulled by horses, pre-automobile.

The solution was subways and sewers, underground tunnels dug through rock and sand, block upon block, built by sand hogs as they were called. These men labored long days in dangerous conditions, many dying from the bends, an illness caused by ingesting heavy dust for long periods beneath the earth.

But the subways and sewers got built and the city grew cleaner. The sand hogs were forgotten and Wall Street types prospered.

And in the process, the streets and fields of Gotham were rid of above ground excrement, for the most part. There remain the New York Jets, of course, but men are working on that.

Stretch if you will to compare those two types of men to today’s NFL strata. The sand hogs have become the linemen and the Wall Street suits have become the owners.

Linemen labor unnoticed, save the occasional glance up at the Jumbotron after one has been found guilty of holding, seen mouthing to the nearest huddled teammate, “That call was bullshit!”

All the men wearing 50s, 60s, and 70s make half the money other numbers make, and in the process receive over one-hundred blows to the head every Sunday afternoon, dozens more than what any other team member feels.

Beginning to see the sand hog/Wall Street comparison?

For his efforts, a lineman is six to seven times more likely to suffer from CTE later in life, a debilitating illness of depression, anxiety and delusion, in some cases leading to suicide.

If the game of football were invented today, knowing what we now know through scientific study on concussions, there would be no 350 pound men playing the game. They would have to find another job. I understand San Francisco is considering subways.

But, football being what it is, let’s recognize those denizens of defense, those bastards of ball control, those masters of mayhem on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Although, truth be known, so many of them are bearded, I think they themselves may be ashamed to be seen.

To be sure, there are many fine linemen in the NFL. Some of them even have college degrees.

Twenty-five years ago, no NFL lineman weighed 300 pounds. Today 390 do. Get a grip on yourselves, guys. You’re gonna die young, fat and sad.

Get out while you can. Some of your fellow players have already made that call. Don’t have life throw a flag on you. The game, and you, will be better for your absence. Nobody ever watches you play anyway. You are the sand hogs who built the game of football but you’ve become expendable.

Those hedge funders simply can’t afford you. That billion dollar payout to old NFL veterans was a one time deal. Find another line of work, men.

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