Baumann: Too easy to say ‘just play baseball’

From SABR member Michael Baumann at Baseball Prospectus on January 21, 2016:

It’s a ritual now for football fans: Gravely watching one of their former heroes talk about how broken his life has become after years of head trauma. In a story that ran on Tuesday, former Steelers receiver and Super Bowl XL hero Antwaan Randle El told J. Brady McCollough of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has memory losses and sometimes has trouble going down stairs because of brain injuries he suffered playing football. Randle-El is 36 years old.

Randle El’s is a sad story on its own, and a common one, and sad because it’s so common. But it got interesting for baseball fans when McCollough asked him if he regretted playing football.

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” Randle El said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But, right now, I could still be playing baseball.”

That’s an easy sentiment to latch on to for baseball fans—baseball isn’t without risk, but the degree and nature of that risk are trivial compared to the suffering Randle El and others have described after a career in football. Major-league ballplayers also tend to make more money and play longer than their NFL counterparts do, which all makes it easy to shroud “please like my sport”-level smugness in the clothing of altruism.

Because telling young football players to just play baseball isn’t that simple.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: January 25, 2016. Last Updated: January 25, 2016.