by Vito J. Leo
Over the years, the National Football League (NFL) evolved from a rough and tumble, beer-drinking, for-men-only image, to one that is more family oriented, embracing women as ardent fans and sportscasters.
And never was that more evident than during games played on the first Sunday of October – the month which for the past 25 years is traditionally reserved as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On October 4th, the New England Patriots kicked off a month-long campaign to raise public awareness concerning breast cancer. Other NFL are participating, each franchise using different approaches all with the same goal: to raise awareness and money to help in the national effort to beat breast cancer.
“Throughout the league, games are featuring players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencils, special K-balls and pink coins,” said a Patriots spokesperson.
In addition to players wearing pink accessories and the cheerleaders wearing pretty pink outfits, the team festooned Gillette Stadium with colorful pink, including the padding on the goal posts, and fans could purchase pink towels to wave during the game, with proceeds going to breast cancer research.
Jill Fallon, Salem, nurse manager, Cancer Center, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, New London, was first diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.
“It’s awesome that they’re so aware of this,” said the decade-long survivor. “I love the fact that they can reach a lot of men and younger people who watch the games on TV might and who may not be aware of the need for annual mammograms,” she said.
But Jill offered a thought that perhaps people shouldn’t just turn off the awareness button come November 1 after the month-long spotlight on breast cancer during October.
“I wish there was similar awareness for other diseases as well,” she said. “So many people have other diseases [which aren’t fortunate enough to] get such national support.”
Tami Chapman, Griswold, is a registered nurse at L&M, and is involved with various support groups at the hospital.
She said she was pleased while watching an NFL game earlier this month and seeing the players wearing various pink accessories.
“I’m encouraged that they’re making an effort to make people more aware of this but people should realize that breast cancer is just one of many forms of cancer, although it seems to get more exposure than most of the others,” Tami said. “Everybody should realize there’s a ribbon color for every type of cancer, not just pink for breast cancer. Maybe the NFL could give some exposure to some other types of the disease during future months,” she said.
The NFL website also has specially designed pink paraphernalia for sale with a portion of the proceeds donated to support the fight against breast cancer. Visit www.nflshop.com and click on the breast cancer awareness icon.
The league has labeled its campaign “A Crucial Catch,” using the play on words to underscore the fact that catching symptoms of this disease early on is crucial in effecting good outcomes.
One way people can support the effort to raise research funding – without having to donate any money – is simply by visiting the website www.thebreastcancersite.com and clicking on the appropriate box. Sponsors donate funds for each click made, one per computer per day.
The NFL sends this message to both its male and female fans: “If you’re a woman who is 40 or older, be sure to get a mammogram every year. Men, don’t forget to encourage the important women in your life to get yearly mammograms, too.”
It’s important to realize that men are also susceptible to this disease, accounting for about one percent of all cases nationwide.