Football Is Life: Tackling To The Glory of God. No, Like, Seriously.

The big ongoing story in American football over the past few years has been safety, especially concerning concussion and head injuries. As rules changes have been instituted one of the chief complaints has been that unrealistic demands were being made of football players. How could a blitzing linebacker or roving safety be expected to go against a lifetime of training and stop being a headhunter? How could we ask a running back not to lead with his head when his salary depends on making an extra half-yard consistently?

As a rugby player and enthusiast, I had little patience with such complaints. Apparently so did someone else who matters way more: Super Bowl 2014 champion coach Pete Carroll. Carroll was a defensive coordinator for fifteen years, then a highly successful college coach, and now a Super Bowl winning coach in the NFL.

In rugby, there are rules (enforced, by the way) governing how to make a tackle. No hitting people in the air. Nothing above the shoulder. No hitting, just tackling (i.e. at least look like you're trying to wrap). If you fail to do these things you will be penalized, which is potentially worth three points, sent off the game for ten minutes, or possibly kicked out of the game entirely, leaving your team down a man.

Rugby is safe because people want it to be safe.

Pete Carroll uses rugby drills and techniques when coaching tackling. You can read about it here and watch it below.

Carroll is legitimately concerned with maintaining player safety, and he coaches that way. For example, his "drive for five" is the solution to the concern that form tackling instead of hitting will surrender extra territory. And the reward for honoring player safety is obvious: your best players are more likely to be around at the end of the year, during crunch time.

Two things men like Carroll reject. First, that form tackling isn't real football. That football is hitting, and that players who aren't willing to play in a league with a high head injury rate don't deserve to be football players. Second, that safe tackling might be well and good on paper, but it's too hard in real life.

When you tackle you can be a pagan, and say that football is death and pain. Or you can be a nominal Christian, who thinks form tackling is a nice thought, but doesn't work in real life. Because, you know, football is death and pain. Or you can be a Christian when you tackle, taking satisfaction and joy in the knowledge that football is life.

Even when your entire culture is against you, doing right for the sake of doing right is usually easier than we in our wickedness suppose. And even when doing good only brings difficulty upon difficulty, it blesses. Choose life, in all areas. If you want to love Jesus, you will love Jesus. If you seek life, you will be given life.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.  
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”