I know, I know, incendiary title. Bear with me.
#USC currently has available less than 40 players who saw playing time against Notre Dame.— USC Football News (@USCFootballNews) October 23, 2013
That's...not good. That's worse than not good. That's downright dangerous. Injuries are a part of the game, but injuries are also based on the idea that there's an option for you to step out, rest, take a game off, and one of your backups will step up in your place. When you have a full roster it's easy and worry-free. USC doesn't have that luxury. USC is literally playing with less than half a team. And there are SIX games left on the schedule, including games against Stanford and UCLA, which will take no prisoners.
I'm no fan of walking away, but at what point can you ethically continue to put these young people in harm's way over and over again, knowing they'll come back out even more hurt than before? For no reason other than sport! Players are tough-minded, they want to be strong and they don't want to quit. They'll play through just about any injury. They'll hide injuries to avoid being taken out. USC's administrators and coaches are responsible for making sure that players are fundamentally safe, and they need to start having this conversation. How much is too much? How important is it to suit up? Is it more important than keeping your students healthy? How many NFL careers will be damaged because of these mounting injuries? How much money will be lost? How many more tweaked ankles and torn ACL's?
#USC walk-on RB Taylor Ross suffered what was described as a devastating knee injury. He left practice yesterday in an ambulance.— USC Football News (@USCFootballNews) October 23, 2013
Here is where the idea becomes intriguing (and this was not my notion, but M.Agrippa's). What if USC used a forfeit to protest its treatment? The players at Grambling State rightfully stood up and walked out in protest of their horrendous conditions and poor treatment, resulting in things like staph infections ravaging the team. They were right to step up and speak out. There are some things more important than football. Why not USC?
You don't want us to play well? You don't want us to have a fair shot? Well fine, see you later. We won't suffer needlessly so you can make your TV contract dollars rain in. Did you support USC through these sanctions or did you speak out against USC? Then don't expect us to come in and sell out your puny stadium for you. Why would any of these players suit up and risk their careers and lives just to play a game that's stacked against them, to make money for corrupt fat cats who would rather see them carted off in ambulances than give up a smidge of their precious revenue? They clearly don't care enough about the health and safety of players to even consider lifting some of the reductions. So why should the players play in this system that only values them for cannon fodder and TV eyeballs?
The knee injury Jordan Simmons suffered during Monday's practice has also turned out to be season-ending.— USC Football News (@USCFootballNews) October 23, 2013
In my line of work I teach young people (middle schoolers mostly) how to stand up and raise their voices. Injustice is everywhere, and oftentimes we think protests don't matter, or that they're for the weak, a form of whining. But there is a value to the protest - to giving up something you love because you know it is corrupt, because you want to fix it, because you cannot in good conscience continue with the way things are. Protests and boycotts are noble, commendable actions that have changed the world many times over.
I don't know if we're there yet, but I think we should start thinking about it. And I would hope that fans recognize that if USC decides to do the unthinkable, that it's a noble gesture worthy of our support. There are other ways to Fight On than in a game on the field. In life the football field is probably the least important place to make your stand. Being a Trojan is more than just scoring points in a game, and should USC and its players decide to take a stand, we should support it.
Something to think about anyways.
EDIT TO ADD: While I wrote this, this tweet came out:
Zero scholarship tight ends were available for practice yesterday. #USC will have no more than one available Saturday.— USC Football News (@USCFootballNews) October 23, 2013
There will probably be more and more of these every week.