Is football in disarray?

Marissa Stubbs’ stepfather, Altonio Kennedy, carrying his daughter across the field. Photo courtesy Kennedy

Since the first game in the 1800s to now, football has brought out both the best and worst in athletes, fans and coaches. Football is a game loved by many but played by only a select few. Despite its popularity, many football fans believe the game has changed — and not for the better.

My stepdad Altonio Kennedy, a former high school football player and former football coach of little league football, describes the evolution of the sport as exhilarating, political and weakened. At age 49, Kennedy has seen the game transformed in numerous ways that have shaped the sport as we know it today.

“Growing up when I was a kid, we were tough. We didn’t have anything to lose, so we left it all on the field,” Kennedy said.

While Kennedy was in high school he explained how colleges and scouts didn’t rank the athletes like they do now. During scouting season most players today receive star rankings. A player can be ranked the lowest, a one star, all the way up to the highest, a five star. “If they ranked us back then, I would’ve been a three star athlete,” Kennedy said.

High school football three decades ago was much different from high school football now. A major change is improvements to the equipment, making it safer for teenagers.

“ I can say that football has changed for the better in terms of equipping players with better protection for their bodies,” Kennedy said.

When comparing the players from now to back in the late 1980s, most former players agree that players possessed more physicality than we’re seeing today.

Players were stronger, taller and more competitive. Players didn’t have a specific offensive or defensive position, they played multiple spots on both sides of the ball.

“I played my heart out on the field, no matter what position, I dominated at each one. You don’t see much domination today,” Kennedy added.

Many ask: Have the players gotten weak due to the fear of hurting themselves?

Injuries weren’t as prevalent back then as they are now. Kennedy explained how there were times where he would have a concussion but still go out and play. Nowadays players with any type of injury are required to sit out in order to recover fully.

As football has changed, so have the rules. Kennedy explained how during his time, there weren’t many rules to follow. “You played the game to your best ability and let your work ethic speak for itself,” Kennedy said.

In the game today, there are many rules and some result in serious repercussions. In the NFL, players can be fined a significant amount for violating rules.

Despite the numerous fines players may face, a bigger issue has taken place in today’s society, which has ended most players’ careers.

Politics, politics and more politics have taken over football over the years. “Football is very political nowadays. Back then nobody cared but today, oh you have to watch what you say and do as an athlete in general,” Kennedy said.

There have been many cases where athletes have been fined for saying or doing something that doesn’t sit right with the powers that be. A lot of people are asking: Can playing football be detrimental to an athlete?

Players such as Colin Kaepernick have proven that questioning the status quo can have long-lasting repercussions.

There is no question that football has changed, and is still changing today. From the wide selection of players to pick from to the right skill set of coaches to hire, the game will continue to evolve.

For Kennedy, his love for football is everlasting. He tries to teach the heart of football to little boys in the St. Petersburg community. Today, he continues to inspire athletes to have grit and put in the hard work it takes to be a great football player. Considering the transitions made to football over the years, Kennedy knows that the game still carries significance.

Although it’s not played how it used to be played, players, coaches and fans have asked the question: Is the game in disarray?