University of Minnesota assistant philosophy Prof. Michael Bennett McNulty’s call for a boycott on the game of football, from youth leagues to the NFL (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 27), is the forgivable overreaction of a young academic who lacks knowledge and experience of the game as it once was played by humans of normal size. It is not surprising that collisions among muscular men often weighing more than 350 pounds, with weights approaching that even in high school, might result in brain trauma, not to mention less dramatic long-term injuries to the body. Not surprising, but also not necessary.

As a Division III college lineman in the 1960s, I was larger than average at 225 pounds. Most high school linemen now exceed that weight, while college and professional players dwarf that size. While some may dispute this, I believe that I have retained most of my marbles at age 71, as have virtually all former players of my era with whom I am familiar. We also retain the fondest of memories of playing the best game ever invented from our youth though our college years, with relatively little adverse impact upon our bodies or our minds throughout our adult years.

I have been shocked and saddened by continuous expansion of body sizes populating the game of football during the past 50 years. Certainly, the oversized players risk not only brain damage to themselves and others, but also lifelong issues for their joints, their hearts and the rest of their bodies. Certainly, this unfortunate trend has been driven by the success motive, not by evolution. Spurred on by coaches, parents and, ultimately, owners, boys and men put themselves and others at risk of diminished lives.

A solution, short of abandoning this great game altogether? How about weight limits? Having upper limits of 225 in high school, 250 in college and 275 in the professional game would not realistically exclude any athlete from the game, while it would enable many of more normal size to compete without danger of serious injury. Weight limits have defined the high school and college sport of wrestling for many years. They could easily be incorporated into football, with nothing but salutary impact.

Thomas L. Fabel, Arden Hills

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My suggestion to improve the Minneapolis high school sports financial dilemma (“Budget woes pinching sports in Minneapolis schools,” Dec. 28) is to eliminate football. Squads are large and the necessary equipment is expensive. In other words, “Save money, save brains.”

Paul Waytz, Minneapolis


State mandate is a very bad, and very much not conservative, idea

If state Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, really believes it is a good idea to force consumers to purchase a product they do not want and cannot afford (“Why we should start talking about a state mandate,” Dec. 28), then he is in the wrong party. Further, he has learned nothing from the past eight years watching these bad ideas fail nationwide.

Yes, Jensen is correct that conservatives value individual responsibility. But this requires freedom of action — not coercion. Suggesting that a state health care mandate “resonates with conservative principles” is so far off the mark it’s no wonder Mitt Romney, who implemented one in Massachusetts, had no credibility on the issue when he ran against President Barack Obama.

These attempts at government force always raise the fundamental question: What happens to those people who do not comply? Jail? Jensen’s mandates subject average folks to the awesome power of the state. This isn’t just contrary to conservative values, it’s morally wrong.

The best way to help individuals buy health insurance is to reduce the cost of it. The conservative approach is to get government out of the business of micromanaging coverage — something Jensen is already hedging on.

Thank goodness the recently enacted tax bill does away with this intrusion once and for all. And for that we can thank Republicans like my congressman, Jason Lewis in the Second District.

Kyle Christensen, Farmington


Silica sand extraction: An item to include on the 2018 agenda

A Minnesota state legislative solution and individual county actions need to be considered regarding the problem of extraction of silica sand, a nonreplaceable natural resource that is being mined in several places in southeast Minnesota and removed by private extractors to other states. This is not unlike iron-ore extraction and that of other of our irreplaceable mineral resources. Silica sand is removed from the state for use and profit elsewhere. The depletion of this irreplaceable natural mineral should be subject to a depletion tax, as is iron ore.

This tax should be a burden on the extractor, not the land owner. The imposed tax should reflect the value of the minerals removed, and a portion of the tax should be returned to the communities affected by the extraction for consideration of their related costs and permanent losses.

Jack and Nancy Bratrud, Preston, Minn.


Back, with buses and blah

This qualifies as Monday-morning quarterbacking, but I’m in total agreement with recent letter writers’ assessments of the new Nicollet Mall. I (and I’m sure others) had suggested to the Planning Commission a string of pedestrian-friendly parks and plazas from the Gateway to Loring Park. Instead, we have a meandering right of way for buses, etc. Of course, it is the “bleak midwinter,” and nothing looks great this time of year. But the absence of street-level shops and markets along the way makes it a dreary walk with no incentive to take your time strolling (when the windchill is above zero). Let’s see what it’s like after the spring thaw.

Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park

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I agree with a recent letter writer that the newly redone Nicollet Mall has a desolate nature and stark design. There will be no “wow!” factor for Super Bowl visitors. However, I disagree with the writer’s comment that he is “glad buses have returned to Nicollet Mall.” I am very disappointed that the mall is not vehicle-free.

On July 4, 2014, a quiet day in downtown Minneapolis, a Metro Transit bus driver had a medical emergency and became incapacitated. The bus he was no longer in control of continued down Nicollet. It ran over and destroyed numerous items before it was stopped by the metal WCCO-TV awning. The roof of the bus was peeled back like opening a sardine can. It was fortunate that this event did not occur on a busy day with potentially dozens of victims.

During fall semester 2013, I was a graduate student in occupational safety. I studied transit bus safety, and researched and wrote my term paper on it. At that time, I was skeptical about safety of our transit bus fleet — and still am. For far less than what the Metropolitan Council has spent so far on Southwest light rail, the Metro Transit fleet could have been equipped with state-of-the-art safety. I even checked with Gillig, the company that manufactured most buses. The 2015 death of Andrew Beisner, struck and killed by a Metro Transit bus, and criminal charges/convictions against the bus driver would have been entirely different. Minneapolis needs to re-evaluate buses on Nicollet.

Wayne Dokken, Robbinsdale