Debate to tackle issue of football safety

by Dennis Dalman

Should the sport of football be banned from all public schools? Should its playing rules be changed? Will today’s football concussions lead to more serious health problems in the future for today’s young players? How many concussions are “too many?”

Those disturbing questions and many others will be addressed during an upcoming debate at Sartell City Hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19. It’s the second debate in the “Sartell Says” series that began in late 2013. The first debate’s topic was whether or not the raising of chickens should in allowed in the yards of Sartell residential areas. That debate was videotaped and later picked up by Minnesota Public Radio, which broadcast it statewide at noon Feb. 10.

The debate about football dangers and safety concerns will be debated by the following four experts in their fields:

Julie Alexander, the chief athletic trainer at St. Cloud State University.

Dave DeLand, sports editor for the St. Cloud Times newspaper.

Tony Cunningham, former boxer and current philosophy professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

Dr. George Morris, sports and family-medicine physician at CentraCare.

The debate will be moderated by Sartell resident Patty Candella, who moderated the last debate and who is executive producer for the “Sartell Says” debate series.

In Candella’s press release for the upcoming debate, it states:

“In living rooms around Sartell and across central Minnesota parents are already deliberating whether to let their kids play football in middle school and high school. Families are carefully weighing the risks and rewards of the game. Are we creating character? Are we injuring our children? Can they get a college scholarship? How many concussions are too many?”

The audience that evening will have a chance at the conclusion of the debate to ask questions of the panelists. Then the audience members, as they did at the last debate, will have a chance to vote as to which side won the debate.

An increasing number of lawsuits are being filed, claiming long-term brain trauma due to violent collisions that happen in the sport of football. Will schools be subject to lawsuits in the future by adults who claim football caused later brain problems? That is another question that will be raised at the debate.

Candella chose the “football concussion” topic because it’s a subject she has thought long and hard about. When news surfaced about the tie between concussions and later brain problems, she began to worry about the concussion one of her sons suffered when he was a child. She has also worried about other boys playing football in schools area wide.

But Candella is quick to add she does not want to create public hysteria by the debate. Rather, she hopes all facts about the topic will surface objectively and rationally so those facts can be weighed through a process of rational discourse, without emotionalism or over-reactions.

A former radio reporter, Candella has always been in the thick of controversial news topics, and she is a strong believer in the power of public conversation and debate. Last year, she approached Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni, wondering how to create more dialogue among Sartell residents – something more along the lines of a rational and civil conversation rather than the kind of rancorous debates so common among mudslinging politicians. She and Degiovanni decided holding public debates would be an ideal forum for examining important and interesting topics. Thus, “Sartell Says” began.

The first debate’s expenses were covered by contributions by area businesses and by the Sen. Eugene McCarthy Center, based at St. John’s University. Candella produced the first debate, did the marketing and lined up the panel of experts. She is doing the same for the upcoming debate. Currently, she is seeking a funding source so the debates can continue. She is also considering taking the debate forum “on the road” from city to city.

“I see it as a public service,” Candella said.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Candella is the daughter of an American father and a Canadian mother. She grew up mostly in Ontario, Canada, near Niagra Falls and played hockey in her Canadian high school at a time when girls playing hockey was unthinkable in the United States.

Candella began her broadcasting career in Buffalo at the Buffalo Bills’ flagship station, WGR Newsradio 55. She also worked in both television and radio in Rochester, N.Y.

Later, in Phoenix, Ariz., Candella made the leap to public radio, covering politics, lifestyle issues and breaking-news stories, as well as anchoring the “Weekend Edition.” She placed many stories for both national and international broadcast and won a number of awards for excellence in reporting from the Associated Press.

While living in Washington, D.C., she ran TERP Information Radio for the University of Maryland. After moving to Sartell, she formed her own marketing and communications firm, “Patty Candella and Some Other Guy Associates.”

She and her husband, Brian Jose, have four children: Liam, Seth, Aiden and Harper. Brian is executive director of Fine Arts Programming for St. John’s University, who recently was honored as “Presenter of the Year” in New York. (See related story in today’s paper.)

contributed photo
Patty Candella is the executive producer of the “Sartell Says” series of debates. The next one, the second, will address concerns about the safety of football and other contact sports in schools. It will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Sartell City Hall.

Dennis Dalman

Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.
Dennis Dalman
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