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Football Fighting: My Observation (09/16/05) --
This article also appears at FargoFan.com

The media was buzzing this week about the pregame fight between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons. While most of the talking heads were racking their brains to try and figure out how a group of supplement-fueled testosterone vats taught to injure their enemies could possibly allow themselves to get into a fight, I was taking a different look at the situation.

The social implications of this donnybrook didnít concern me. If the Eaglesí middle linebacker shows up in my hallway, then the proper responses to his anger might have to cross my mind. But until that happens, I couldnít care less. But there was one aspect of this fight, like countless others seen on the football field, that fascinated me: The throwing of fists at one another.

When you first start football as a kid, the piece of equipment you are undoubtedly most enamored with is your helmet. While the butt pad is pretty exciting and I did have some neat thigh pads when I was in seventh grade, itís that helmet that captures your curiosity. You feel as though you are invincible, like nothing can hurt you, and that this helmet will protect you from the world. If you do not believe this is true, Iíd like to present my high school football concussions as Exhibit A.

Which brings me to my point: If a seventh grader can figure out that the helmet is a pretty sturdy piece of plastic, shouldnít grown football players have figured that out by now as well? Throwing fists into a facemask simply isnít going to work so if weíre going to get real, effective fights in football, some guidelines are going to have to be followed.

A logical answer would be to go the hockey route and shed the helmet prior to the fist making its grand entrance. But letís consider that that isnít an option for this discussion. Where is the athlete vulnerable? The natural response would be the always-popular groin shot, but the girdle does a remarkable job of protecting this part of the body. Add to that an athletic supporter and you are now looking at the gridiron Fort Knox.

Thighs and knees are out of the question, as are the shoulder blades and chest. I would be a fan of a kidney punch in most situations, as any time you can use an illegal boxing move to your advantage you know you have the upper hand. However, many players skill players (Quarterbacks and tailbacks especially) will probably be wearing a flak jacket, so this is out of the question then as well.

Alas, I have found the answer: The shins. Universally, this is the only unprotected part of a football playerís body. This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that attached to every playerís shoe are 3/4 inch weapons, ready to lacerate like nobodyís business. Sure, watching Jeremiah Trotter throw fists at a facemask is funny. But watching him stand there and trade shin kicks with two other guys? I think that may be the apex of sports on television.

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