by John Beattie, 2/3/99, The Herald (U.K.)
That lady Linda Evans suited them in Dallas, and Pamela Anderson wears hers in the most outrageous places, but why on earth are we allowing school kids to wear rugby padding?
Bagsy me tackle Miss Anderson first. Or maybe some rucking practice.
Young necks, young bones, young muscles, are all being subjected to bigger hits because kids as young as six and seven, out at mini rugby, are going into things harder than they usually would. Because of shoulder pads and headguards.
Harder than they should. I will say it again: young necks are at risk. We must ban shoulder pads and headguards at all school games.
A hundred years of safety has been thrown out by gullible children. Shoulder pads cost thirty quid. They are trendy. They produce bigger hits. They are dangerous.
Somebody is going to get hurt soon, and it will be too late.
There is this myth. It says that shoulder pads and headguards are good for you. What baloney.
We have just had a sit-down in the house with No.1 son and he thinks I am Godzilla for disallowing protective headgear and pads. And who can blame him?
The stuff looks good, looks trendy and menacing. But, I do not think he really is a Samurai warrior or an American footballer.
I think he is a schoolboy rugby player. And I don't think they should be allowed to wear the stuff.
I have a mate whose son went onto the pitch last Saturday in a morning school game against a pretty well known establishment.
None of the boys in the Glasgow school - still in primary - were wearing protective material.
All of the kids in the Edinburgh school were wearing the full works with built in shoulder pads and head guards almost three feet thick.
The kids from Glasgow lost the psychological battle before a whistle was blown. They were terrified. They lost by a barrow- load.
There would appear to be only one way to go - join them in this donning of unsuitable suits of armour. There is the hidden truth in all of this.
Shoulder pads and head- guards are not defensive items of clothing at all.
They are offensive. They are for attacking. They prevent pain in attacking situations.
You see, without shoulder pads a tackler goes into any situation limited by the prospect of pain and injury.
There are plenty of nerves on your shoulder that can be tingled through thin skin, and your face and scalp are sensitive areas.
I remember when you were between 19 and 23 you put in some tackles that were intended to kill, but, in general, when you tackle you go in just as hard as your body tells you it is safe.
Now here is where shoulder pads come into play. They short-circuit the "back off this could be sore" message.
Even if someone is coming towards you the shoulders are saying: "Go on, chicken, launch into him. You'll feel no pain." And then there is the headguard.
It has told the brain to say: "Listen, the head's with the shoulders. Go forward as hard as your legs can drive."
They all forget about the neck. And the bloke being rucked or tackled is hit pathetically hard.
Will all of you out there who disagree please write to me and tell me what I have got wrong here.
Then there really is the psychological side to it all.
Most schoolboy rugby players must have realised by now that padding-up menacingly, with all black gear de rigeur, is much better than taking two nuclear bombs onto the pitch.
I can remember, myself, the initial impression the South Africans made when they came here in 1994, all padded up.
Some of the pads were four inches deep.
It sent out a message, and the message was clear: "We have learned to tackle harder because of these things, and if you little Scottish twits come near us you will be flung back."
Now, I have got just as big a quibble with the gear the current internationalists wear.
If I was a current player, and the rules said I could do it, then I would wear pads as well. And a headguard two meters thick.
But once you rely on yet another piece of equipment then the person who has the best equipment wins. Not all pads will be the same. It removes some skill.
Of course, you could say that it helps folk with sore shoulders to play.
Listen, the biggest mistake any player can make is to play when he is knackered.
I am limping like a Celtic great of the fifties because of playing when knackered, and the game has to stop that.
It is time for a worldwide ban on this trendy, dangerous, expensive, but sheer stupidity called shoulder pads and headguards.