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An ex-pro talks up football

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Considering that one pro football player blatantly entitled his biography "Assassin," and that highlight films put vicious tackles to music, is it any wonder people are coming to question the sport's value?

Some concerned parents have taken to shepherding their children into what they think is the saner game of soccer, yet football still has its advocates, and one of the most sensitive and eloquent is John Dockery.

If the name sounds slightly familiar, it's because Dockery was a defensive back and special-teams players for the New York Jets when they won the Super Bowl in 1969 and later for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before reaching the National Football League, the Brooklyn-born Harvard graduate gave pro baseball a try, choosing to pursue a sports career over one in architecture.

Today, besides his work as a sportscarter, he runs a youth football camp with Joe Namath in Connecticut and teaches the sport to youngsters through Boys Club clinics sponsored by Parker Brothers, manufacturer of the spongy Nerf football.

Considering his background, when John talks about football, people -- especially young ones -- listen.

John's primary concern is that children enjoy a positive experience in whatever sport they pursue.

"I'm not pushing football as the sport every youngster should play," he says. "Actually I'm delighted soccer has emerged as an alternative to football, since some boys were under tremendous pressure from the whole macho thing of achieving manhood through football."

The real value of football, Dockery feels, is in teaching self-reliance, discipline, concentration, cooperation, and team spirit. But the game must be fun, John emphasizes, or these lessons are lost on youngsters, no matter what their backgrounds.

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