Chris Borland and Meaningful Dialogue Drowned Out


Chris Borland made a decision that obviously required introspection and careful consideration when he opted to walk away from football at just 24 years old. However, the same level of thoughtfulness isn’t being applied to the discourse surrounding Borland’s exit.

The typical brand of keyboard gangster questioning Borland’s toughness is not the issue. Chris Borland could be the poster child for football-tough, overcoming his size (5-foot-11) to reach the NFL from Wisconsin. As a Badger, he played with a Tasmanian devil-like ferocity that produced three seasons of 100-plus tackles.

But then, it’s one thing to have @NFL_liteb33r_Drinker69 on Twitter take Borland to task. A real problem is when a prominent journalist goes after Chris Borland — or any other player, for that matter — over valid health concerns.

As easy as advising media consumers to not feed trolls might be, Mike Florio is afforded a pulpit that reaches millions through his NBC affiliation and frequent guest hosting spots on the nationally syndicated Dan Patrick Show.

Like it or not, reactionary takes are big business — and that’s fine, because there’s a market for it. However, inane banter is the junk food of sports journalism — and given sports journalism is itself the junk food of all journalism, such distinction is particularly damning.

Head trauma is one of sport’s serious issue that requires serious dialogue. All levels of the game must find ways to lessen the risk of debilitating head injury, lest football become a regional, niche sport.

The constant threat of serious injury is one of the issues challenging college football presently. Medical research and improvements to equipment can take years that the sport doesn’t have. But there are areas for reform that, if the NCAA enacted, could have immediate and far-reaching positive impacts for all college players.

I wrote on the role of healthcare in reforming college football earlier this month. Education is another facet in need of change. Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett offered tremendous insight on the topic, through the lens of Chris Borland retiring:

Like Chris Borland in choosing to retire, Clarett demonstrates genuine thoughtfulness from a place of firsthand experience. Both the game of football, and us as consumers of football, could benefit from dining on more of this fare then from sucking back the junk food Florio’s ilk offers.