by Roxanne Jones
(CNN) — Growing up, I wanted to be Too Tall Jones, the Hall of Fame defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
The way I saw it, I already had the last name. And I was oversized, much taller than the other girls — and the boys for that matter. So in my mind I was Too Tall. No one could tell me different.
It made me feel special to walk around the neighborhood with that nickname. Too Tall was a superstar. So I was, too — and not just the gangly girl some people saw trying to find her way.
My scruffy friends and I would play tackle football for hours in a dusty patch behind my building. And I would charge the field, screaming with unbridled joy, crushing anything in my path.
No pads. No flags. No rules.
Getting injured? Nobody worried about such nonsense.
But those days are long gone. Today, though few things bring me greater joy than football, I am at a crossroads. It’s obvious we need new rules to save the game and protect players. No one can ignore the mounting medical evidence that brain damage sustained in football, as well as other contact sports, is linked to serious health problems, including depression, dementia, suicide and death from respiratory problems.
The discussion has even reached the White House. Last week, President Obama weighed in, urging the NCAA to address the serious health hazards in the college game. This week, the NFL players union announced it has given Harvard University a $100 million contract to conduct a 10-year study on concussions and other health issues associated with the game.
For me, it is not only a question of whether the multimillionaire NFL pros are being protected. You don’t have to be a sports insider to understand that the tragic death of Junior Seau and the serious health problems of many retired NFL players demand changes in the way football is played. There really is no choice.