Need advice on whether your son should play football?
Just ask somebody with a hypothetical son.
A week or so ago, a writer from the New Republic was talking to President Barack Obama about gun violence, which somehow led to a question about football violence.
This was Obama's answer, which by now you've surely heard: "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football."
As an astute Sound Off! contributor noted earlier this week, the reporter should have asked Obama if he'd let his two real daughters serve in combat. Our astute Sound Off! headline writer ("When they're old enough, it's not his call") also noted that the first daughters will be able to decide for themselves soon enough.
By the way, it's been more than 20 years since we had a sitting U.S. president with a son. That was George H.W. Bush, whose son George W. played rugby at Yale, in addition to being a cheerleader.
Of course, after Obama talked about his non-existent son playing football, somebody just had to ask the same thing to another man with two daughters and zero sons.
That would be Roger Goodell.
His answer will shock you. The commissioner of the National Football League said he would actually let his son play football.
So let me get this straight: The man responsible for the safety of every child in America would "think long and hard" about letting his son play football, while the commissioner of America's favorite sport would "absolutely" let his son play it.
If they had sons.
I have three sons, so let me tell you what I think.
I agree with Goodell that football is a great sport and that it teaches leadership and valuable life lessons. Two of my sons play football, one in high school and one in middle school, and it's had a positive effect on them. My brother is a college football coach, and the sport has made him an even better person and has been something he's used to help make young men better, too.
But I agree with Obama about thinking long and hard. You should think long and hard before you let your sons do anything dangerous. Football is dangerous. So is baseball, soccer, skateboarding and downhill skiing.
So is operating a motor vehicle.
A smart parent considers the dangers, makes sure the son is healthy and able to participate, and then ensures he gets the proper training and equipment.
That doesn't mean bad things won't happen. Boys have suffered serious injuries and even died playing football, just like they've died falling off trampolines and crashing their bicycles.
My father encouraged me to play football. When I had two concussions as a high school freshman, he encouraged me to stop.
Being the parent of a son is all about risk assessment.
It's your choice to make.
If you really have a son.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.