Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, September 18, 2014 12:15 pm

Someone’s doing something about football and domestic violence. Spread the word.

(Via my Facebook friend Melissa Hassard)

To bring further awareness to the issue of domestic violence within the football culture, and to open up a dialogue with our young players, Jacar Press, a community-active press, and Women Writers of the Triad are teaming up to create an essay competition open to all high school football players, on Why Domestic Violence is Wrong.

Submissions open through November 30, 2014. There is no fee for submission but a $1 donation is encouraged. Winning essay will be awarded $75, and all donations collected will go to the local domestic violence shelter in the winning writer/athlete’s hometown.

E-mail submissions to jacarassist@gmail.com and donations may be made via Paypal on the jacarpress.com website.

Ideally, education about this link will start earlier and at home, but at this point anything helps. The NFL, by “suspending” convicted players while allowing them to keep getting paid, as in the case of the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy, is screwing the pooch. Yeah, if Hardy misses the rest of the year, as now appears likely, team owner Jerry Richardson will, in effect, have contributed about $13 million to a domestic-violence awareness campaign, but the league, and all of us, can do a lot better.

Thursday, January 24, 2013 8:10 pm

Football and CTE: Beginning of the end?

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:10 pm
Tags: , , , ,

From PBS’s Frontline:

Brain scans performed on five former NFL players revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease in living players.

Researchers who conducted the pilot study at UCLA described the findings as a significant step toward being able to diagnose the disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living patients.

“I’ve been saying that identifying CTE in a living person is the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able make advances in treatment,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill., and one of the study’s co-authors. “It’s not definitive and there’s a lot we still need to discover to help these people, but it’s very compelling. It’s a new discovery.”

If it turns out that we can now diagnose CTE in living patients — and that remains to be confirmed, I hasten to add — I think the NFL’s days as America’s Sport are numbered. I don’t think pro football could be either regulated or sued out of existence, but I think it probably would move well away from the center of popular culture toward the fringes. Put another way, well-off and middle-class kids would find other things to do with their time because their well-off and middle-class parents would probably insist on it, and a lot of the NFL’s current audience would find other things to do with its time as well, and so there would go the big advertisers and there would go most of the big money.

And there would still be young people poor and/or desperate enough to play the game for money even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it was damaging their brains and shortening their lives.

Previously.

Previously.

Previously.

Previously.

 

Friday, January 18, 2013 9:07 pm

Charlie Pierce on Manti Te’o

I do not know, nor do I care, about the Manti Te’o story, inasmuch as the Panthers, about whom I do care somewhat, will, if they are smart, draft a defensive lineman in the first round next April, not a linebacker.

But Charlie Pierce cares about the story both in and of itself and because of what it says not just about sports media but about all news media. In particular, he calls out the elite political loudmouths on the teevee who are using Te’o and coverage thereof as a Shiny Object to distract public attention from its own failings, a game they’ve been playing since even before Mark Hertsgaard published “On Bended Knee” a quarter-century ago. And Charlie knows enough about both sides of this particular game that when he speaks, you should listen:

There also is, or ought to be, a lot of soul-searching going on at the various media outlets that passed along this barrel of bushwah. The fact-checking system at a lot of important places utterly broke down. (Your fact-checker discovers that there’s no record of a person at the college she allegedly attended, and no record at all of the severe automobile accident that is so central to the story, and the response is to  “write around” these inconveniences? This is not good.) But, as someone who’s working both sides of the aisle at the moment, there is something up with which I will not put, and that is snarky comments from the elite political press about what suckers the people who write for The Toy Department  are. Knock it off, foofs. Careers are made in the courtier press by doing deliberately what probably may have happened by slovenly accident in the case of the sportswriters who passed along this tale of highly marketable pathos. What is the significant difference between the actual reality of Manti Te’o’s dead imaginary girlfriend and the actual reality George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford?

In the elite political press, mythmaking —  which the gang at Politico would call “building the narrative” — has become so deeply entrenched as a boon to various careers that hardly anyone notices any more.  Stephen Glass got away with it for longer than Manti Te’o did, and he did so at several different prestigious publications. Almost nine years ago, Sasha Issenberg pretty much tied David Brooks’s entire reportorial credibility up in a sack and dropped it into the Schuykill, and Brooks nonetheless has continued to thrive and will be teaching Yale undergraduates about humility next fall. So let’s not be doing the Superior Dance too vigorously in the faces of the sportswriters who got played in this case, OK, cool kidz?

But it’s not the spectacular cases that are the real problem. It’s the steady, day-to-day mythmaking — the encasement of grubby political transactions in shiny marble, the draping of togas upon unimaginative hacks, the endless who’s-up-and-who’s-down scoreboard watching that passes for analysis. All of these are just as phony as the ongoing farce in South Bend is. Only within this manufactured world are “the American people” worried right now about The Deficit. The creation of bad vaudeville spectaculars for public consumption is the way to the top of the ladder in political  journalism.

Al Gore ran for president and he was beset by a press corps that fashioned its own Al Gore out of nothing more than its own naked animus, and that Al Gore was no more real than Manti Te’o’s dead imaginary girlfriend was. (Alas, Melinda Henneberger, who has dogged the Lizzie Seeberg [link added — Lex] case, was in the middle of that fiasco back in the day, although she was far from the worst of them.) The grand prize of them all, of course, was the spectacular failure of the political press in the matter of Ronald Reagan, who made up more complete shinola about himself and his life before breakfast than Manti Te’o has in his entire life as a public figure. This particular failure has continued even after Reagan’s death.

Manti Te’o met his dead imaginary girlfriend and they “locked eyes” after a game at Stanford? Ronald Reagan knew a welfare queen in Chicago who was driving a Cadillac.

Manti Te’o hung out with his dead imaginary girlfriend in Hawaii? Ronald Reagan liberated death camps during World War II.

Manti Te’o said that his dead imaginary girlfriend was the love of his life? Ronald Reagan said trees cause air pollution.

Manti Te’o said that his dead imaginary girlfriend would have wanted him to play against Michigan State? Ronald Reagan told a story about an act of military heroism that never actually happened, but that he apparently got from a 1944 war movie called, A Wing And A Prayer and when Reagan’s spokesman was asked about this whopper, he replied, “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.

So there’s a rough kind of historical symmetry in the fact that Ronald Reagan provided the whitewashed portrayal of the bounder, George Gipp, in the movie that launched the mythology in which the saga of Manti Te’o  and his dead imaginary girlfriend found such a proper and profitable home.

The failure of sports journalism in this case is huge and spectacular but, in its impact, it is nothing compared to the discreet daily fabulism that attends so much of the coverage of politics in this country. “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.” As anyone who follows elite political journalism in this country will tell you, this is now axiomatic in the field. It’s the way you get ahead. It’s the way you get on television. It is the crude way of saying that perception is reality, which is the fundamental journalistic heresy through which lies become truth simply if they work, and N. Leroy Gingrich becomes a visionary political leader. At least sportswriters still give you an honest account of what happens in the games.

The wealthiest 0.01% are expecting you and me, not them, to fix the deficit even though the deficit is actually well on its way toward fixing itself at the moment and would do so even faster if we worried less about it and more about jobs (particularly here in North Carolina, where the unemployment rate went back up in December). What the wealthiest 0.01% want will, literally, kill tens of thousands of Americans prematurely for lack of job safety and health care. But God forbid we worry about anything more important than a trivial fabrication by a naive/manipulative/closeted-gay (among the many hypotheses I’ve heard) college football player.

 

Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:08 am

Lawsuit rings the NCAA’s bell

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:08 am
Tags: , , , ,

It was bound to happen, and now it has: Two former college football players have filed a class-action suit against the NCAA, alleging that it hasn’t protected players against concussions and the brain injury that can result from them. Dozens of former pro players sued the NFL in July.

This is an area in which we don’t know a lot. But we’re learning more, and the more we learn, the worse the news gets.

Previously.

Previously.

 

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 8:48 pm

Genius

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

Kevin Guskiewicz, who is leading research at UNC into the permanent, long-term brain damage caused by playing football, got a MacArthur “genius” grant today. Good for him.

Previously.

Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:53 pm

Football concussions: Is judgment day coming?

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags: , ,

Even as the NFL was preparing to celebrate an end to this year’s lockout, 75 former NFL players sued today, claiming that the league has pulled a Big Tobacco by concealing since the 1920s evidence that football-induced concussions caused brain injury. Helmet maker Riddell also is a defendant.

Irrespective of the merits of this particular suit (whose plaintiffs include Dolphins WR Mark Duper and Giants RBs Ottis Anderson and Rodney Hampton), as I’ve said before, a day of reckoning is coming for organized football. If this suit doesn’t bring it, something else will. Permanent brain damage — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — is a feature of football, not a bug. And there’s no technological fix.

Previously.

Previously.

Previously.

 

 

Monday, June 28, 2010 9:15 pm

Researchers: Chris Henry had long-term brain damage

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sad:

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry suffered from a chronic brain injury that may have influenced his mental state and behavior before he died last winter, West Virginia University researchers said Monday.

The doctors had done a microscopic tissue analysis of Henry’s brain that showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes and California medical examiner Bennet Omalu, co-directors of the Brain Injury Research Institute at WVU, announced their findings alongside Henry’s mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, who called it a “big shock” because she knew nothing about her 26-year-old son’s underlying condition or the disease.

Henry died in December, a day after he came out of the back of a pickup truck his fiancee was driving near their home in Charlotte, N.C. It’s unclear whether Henry jumped or fell. Toxicology tests found no alcohol in his system, and an autopsy concluded he died of numerous head injuries, including a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.

But Bailes, team doctor for the Mountaineers and a former Pittsburgh Steelers physician, said it’s easy to distinguish those acute traumatic injuries from the underlying condition he and Omalu found when staining tiny slices of Henry’s brain.

I’ve written a couple of times about the growing body of research into long-term brain damage caused by contact in football. (Researcher Omalu is also quoted in the GQ article linked in that second post.) In Chris Henry’s case, it’s important to distinguish what we know from what we don’t: specifically, whether his erratic behavior was caused by the underlying long-term brain damage or not.

And as I’ve said before, a reckoning is coming for organized football at all levels but particularly the college and pro games and their fans, me included. Depending on what additional research reveals, this kind of brain damage, which may be simply the normal consequence of routine contact in college and pro ball, could be an existential threat to the game because at least right now technology cannot provide a solution.

Where does it end? I think the two likeliest endings are 1) the legal liability will become too great for even the vast revenues generated by those games to overcome, or 2) a critical number of fans will conclude that they’re not willing to countenance widespread, permanent, potentially lethal brain damage among the players who entertain them. Which happens first, I don’t know.

But I still maintain the belief, or at least the hope, that America won’t continue to support the games at this level if it turns out that widespread premature death is indeed the routine cost.

Monday, September 21, 2009 8:58 pm

Going for it

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:58 pm
Tags: ,

Apparently, at least at the high school level, there’s a statistical case to be made for not punting or attempting a field goal on fourth down — ever:

Pulaski hasn’t punted since 2007 (when it did so as a gesture of sportsmanship in a lopsided game), and here’s why: “The average punt in high school nets you 30 yards, but we convert around half our fourth downs, so it doesn’t make sense to give up the ball,” Kelley says. “Besides, if your offense knows it has four downs instead of three, it totally changes the game. I don’t believe in punting and really can’t ever see doing it again.”

He means ever. Consider the most extreme scenario, say, fourth-and-long near your own end zone. According to Kelley’s data (much of which came from a documentary he saw), when a team punts from that deep, the opponents will take possession inside the 40-yard line and will then score a touchdown 77% of the time. If they recover on downs inside the 10, they’ll score a touchdown 92% of the time. “So [forsaking] a punt, you give your offense a chance to stay on the field. And if you miss, the odds of the other team scoring only increase 15 percent. …”

If some NFL teams went this route, it would be REAL interesting.

Also, I have the impression that players are disproportionately more likely to get hurt in special-teams play than they are in plays from scrimmage. If that were true, this approach also would reduce injuries. But it might not be true.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 8:38 pm

Buccaneers 27, Panthers 3

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , ,

The Panthers need to enshrine me as their official good-luck charm, because when I don’t watch at least a significant portion of the game, bad things happen. I missed pretty much all the game yesterday while working on trim taping for the house painting, although I listened to a bit on the radio. (I heard Steve Smith fall down after a 48-yard catch that would have gone for a 72-yard TD if he’d kept his feet.) It was just ugly all the way around, a good, ol’-fashioned buttwhipping.

Now 4-2, the Panthers face the 3-3 Saints next weekend. (It looks like the Bucs and Falcons are off.) A loss ties them for bottom of the league division. A win puts them in first by a half-game. The question: Which Panthers team will show up? And will *I* show up?

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