I can't shake the images. Of Florida quarterback
Then again, as a college football fan I'm pumped about Florida facing LSU this Saturday. Who isn't? This is No. 1 versus No. 4, a night game in Death Valley. The national title could be at stake, not to mention Tebow's chances of winning a second Heisman Trophy. So while I'm concerned for Tebow's well-being, I want him in the lineup. In fact, whether he plays will determine whether I watch. That's just how it is.
So how do I -- how do any of us -- reconcile these dueling impulses? Undeniably, the risks for Tebow are scary. Postconcussion syndrome can send its victims into depression and lead to memory loss.
That said, as a fan my relationship to Tebow is strictly football-centric -- play-tonic, if you will. And injuries are not only part of the game; legends are also made by coming back from them. The day after Tebow's concussion, Florida offensive coordinator
Of course, if Tebow suits up on Saturday LSU fans will want to see him get tattooed, but even the hardest-core booster doesn't want to see him suffer irreparable brain damage. God forbid, right? It's simply hard to square what we want as compassionate human beings with what we want as passionate sports fans. So we look for reassurance. If the team doctors clear an athlete, then we're cleared to cheer his return. If the NFL Players Association endorses the league's current safety guidelines on concussions, then that laid-out linebacker accepted the risk of a blindside hit, and so can we. If the NHL continues to permit shots to the head because banning them would reduce the game's entertainment value, then we're free to revel in such collisions. In other words, as long as we know the risks are sanctioned, then our hometown stars should get out there and be gamers.
Because we all love gamers, don't we? We loved watching
Perhaps as fans all we really want is for sports not to be complicated. The rest of life is complicated enough; on weekends we just want to see a tight end get lit up by a safety and feel guilt-free. Just let me know if it's O.K. to cheer or not. And please don't force me to extrapolate too much -- to think about children's sports leagues or the hundreds of teenage athletes, even more susceptible to concussions than adults, who watch the hasty returns made by countless college stars and NFL players and use them as their own guideline.
Because the more I learn about head injuries, the more torn I become. Which is to say that while I'd really like to see Tim Tebow play this weekend, it's going to be hard for me to enjoy it if he does.