Monday, October 06, 2008

Gotta Disagree, Hub Politics

Hub Politics posted a blog that, as a slightly rotund person, absolutely offends me. Hub thinks that there should be a weight limit on high school football players -- because they're getting too fat. Or something.

First, let's look at this logically. If you were a doctor who had an overweight patient, would you want them going to football practice every day, getting 3-4 hours of exercise Mon-Fri and being required to have a year-round exercise schedule... or would you want them to practice every day, sitting on their ass, playing Madden on the Xbox 360? Football doesn't make that person fat, it makes them that much more likely to get exercise everyday. Believe me, football coaches don't want fat players, they want healthy ones.

Now, let's look at this anecdotally. My father played professional football for 7 years, on the Buffalo Bills. He was a lineman. He wasn't overly large, but was large enough that he passed down his large frame to his even-larger sons. When I played football in high school, I was 6 feet and - according to any medical calculation, "morbidly obese," weighing more than the average Brockton lineman that the Hub railed against.

Of course, I was also the fastest sprinting lineman on the team, faster than people much skinnier than I, and could run a mile in around 8 minutes (not wicked fast, but not wicked slow either). I was at one point a 3 sport player in High School, playing football, basketball and track. I'm just one of those people who are genetically big and will look it no matter how much I exercise or refrain from eating. I was not in terrible shape and could play a whole football game, on both sides - and then some.

That part of my life was around 6 years ago now. It seems like it was yesterday, but that's actually getting close to a long time. Since then, as with any adult, it's been tough to stay as active. I haven't gained any weight since high school - I essentially weigh the same now as I did then - but I'm not nearly in the same shape. I don't look it either.

The thing is, if I wasn't so active in high school, I would have been much less healthy. I'd probably weigh a lot more even today, never having developed any sense of trying to stay in shape. More importantly, just because someone looks "fat" doesn't mean they're necessarily unhealthy. There's plenty of studies indicating that people who are active every day, even if they're overweight, are much healthier, will look younger and live longer.

Many people who end up being the larger lineman on teams are going to be "fat" if they worked out 4 hours a day or if they worked out 4 minutes. It's just how their bodies are genetically built; they're going to weigh close to or over 250 pounds no matter what. As someone who's built that way and has been both active and not, I can attest to that.

What i can't imagine or attest to, though, is the absurd notion that society would ever try to prevent young teenagers - who need all the exercise they can get - from going out for a team because they're overweight. If we want physically fit, healthy teenagers, we need more student athletes, not less, especially when genetics do so much to determine weight and doesn't necessary correlate with fitness.

Note: Below I posted two photos. One is of me in 2001, the other is me yesterday picking apples. I weigh almost exactly the same in each picture (within 5 pounds), the difference - in addition to a few years and a Ralph Lauren jacket - was that I was much more active playing football and other sports nearly every day in 01.

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