The Super-est Bowl-Free Sunday Of All

It’s been a few years since I began my football boycott.

I can’t remember which Super Bowl was my last.

I don’t remember much about the games I did watch. I remember halftimes though.

Fun Fact: The University of Arizona and Grambling State University Marching Bands were the halftime performers at the first Super Bowl in 1967. The highlight? Their performance of “The Liberty Bell” which all of you know better as this …

 

And, who can forget Up With People in 1982?

Or, Mickey Rooney in 1987?

I know I was boycotting by the time Madonna did the halftime show in 2012.

I began my lonely football boycott because, well, because I don’t support traumatic brain injuries. I think traumatic brain injuries, Grade Three concussions, and permanent brain damage are bad things. The National Football League does not. We agree to disagree on this, but I am right.

So, I don’t watch. (Neither does Editor/Husband, because he is supportive like that, and because he, too, recognizes that a sport that not only allows, but encourages, traumatic brain injuries is a bad sport.)

If you need a reminder, here’s my list of 50 reasons why you shouldn’t watch football.

It’s been pretty lonely up here on my NFL boycott soapbox.

Until.

Until NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to “take a knee” rather than stand for the National Anthem – his nonviolent protest against racial discrimination in our country.

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Some people, apparently unbothered by Grade Three concussions, took offense to Kaepernick’s protest and started their own football boycott.

And by “some people,” I mean some, but not all, white people (and, I may be wrong, but I’m assuming those “some people” boycotting also include the two families on my little gravel farm road who fly the Confederate flag in their yards).

I’m being elbowed on my boycott podium by people who are boycotting for an entirely different reason.

While I hate to get all political on here, I do want to make clear my boycottish intention.

I boycott brain injuries in football.  I do not boycott a person’s right to nonviolently protest an issue that affects them personally and deeply.

Not only do I not boycott that, I applaud it.

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Super Bowl L — 50 Reasons Not To Watch

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Changing someone’s mind is never easy.

Our brains are wired to tightly hold on to our beliefs, preferences, and opinions, even the stupid ones.

After all, 25 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.  Rapper B.O.B. believes the earth is flat. We call people like that a few sandwiches short of a picnic. But, try changing their minds. I mean, just try.

I used to believe that football was great (greater than baseball, even).  I didn’t know that players were being permanently maimed and brain-damaged by the sport. I didn’t know that the National Football League (NFL) was complicit in this damage by covering up the dangers of their sport in an effort to pad their coffers and protect their billions at the expense of their players.

Now, I do.

Football is a violent and deadly game. The National Football League is a greedy, criminal, and negligent organization.

I have changed my mind about football. And, I haven’t watched a game since. I won’t be party to a game that sacrifices the health and welfare of their players in the name of sport.

I am, pretty much, a boycott of one.

I don’t pretend that I can change anyone’s mind about football, one of America’s most beloved pastimes. Super Bowl 50 – or Super Bowl L if the league used its traditional Roman numeral system – is  Sunday and more than 100 million will watch it.

Here are 50 reasons why you shouldn’t. (Short on time? Read #1 and #20. If you haven’t been convinced by those … please read a few more. Feeling political? Don’t miss #43 and #44.) (Click the links for citations.)

  1. Let’s get the big one out of the way – CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the degenerative permanent brain damage that comes from repeated brain trauma, including the concussions and minor concussions that football players at all levels of the sport are subjected to. Symptoms include memory loss, dementia, aggression, depression, tremors, erratic behavior, and suicidal tendencies. While other athletes in contact sports have been diagnosed with CTE, it is most commonly found in football players.
  2. In any given season, 10 percent of all college players and 20 percent of all high school players sustain brain injuries. Brain injuries result in more deaths than any other injury in sports.
  3. Each year, doctors treat 389,000 musculoskeletal injuries in football players aged five to 14. Studies show an “epidemic of extensive neck and head injuries,” including concussions and football-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which can lead to, among other things, memory problems, concentration issues, speech impediments, and headaches.
  4. Research by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University on deceased NFL players released last September revealed that more than 95 percent of players studied – 87 out of 91 – tested positive for CTE.  

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“It’s Completely Unraveling.”

football1A soapbox can be a lonely place. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday. Especially when I really do want to see Bruno Mars at half time. Especially when it seems like everyone will be watching.

But (me).

I used to love football (go ‘9ers!)

Not anymore.

Because football is increasingly brutal and senselessly violent. And, in every NFL game, including the “super” one today, men will crash into one another and get their clocks cleaned and their bells rung.

It’s part of the game. And, people will cheer.

And, brains will be injured.

Some will heal. But, some won’t.

And, the National Football League will continue to do its best to pretend like everything is ok.

And, they will continue to ignore the broken and damaged brains in so many broken and damaged players who no longer play the game.

This season the NFL reported that players sustained 228 concussions – a decrease from the previous season.

But, concussion experts say these numbers are deceiving, since the NFL doesn’t catch every concussion and players often hide their symptoms.

Gary Plummer

Gary Plummer. Permission: By © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Former NFL linebacker Gary Plummer estimates that he sustained five Grade I concussions in every game he played. Every game.

One thousand concussions over the course of his career.

Remember Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994? Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman doesn’t. 

He sustained a “mild” concussion in the NFC championship game and was still feeling dizziness and other effects of the injury when he led the Cowboys to their Super Bowl victory over the Bills. Today, he doesn’t remember a thing.

(Last week, Aikman told reporters he has had no recent issues related to the injury.)

But, a few forgotten hours is a small price to pay, compared to the debilitating, dark, and tragic reality facing many former players whose brains have been irreparably damaged by the game they loved.

It’s heartbreaking.

sean morey

Sean Morey. Permission: LPDrew via Creative Commons 2.0

On Friday, National Public Radio (NPR) told the story of Sean Morey, 37, who spent 10 years in the NFL and today struggles with the effects of long-ago, football-related concussions on a brain that has not – will not – heal.

Morey says there’s no question his symptoms are related to brain trauma he sustained playing football.

“You cannot feel that kind of pain and have it not be related to brain damage,” he told NPR. “The dysfunction, the pain, the misery, the confusion, the desperation, the depression. …

“There were instances in my life that would never have existed had I not damaged my brain.”

“It is completely unraveling.”

npr

Listen here.

The damage is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degeneration of the brain caused by repeated brain trauma and concussions. It is found in the brains of former NFL players, as well as those who played only in high school and college.  It appears years – sometimes decades – after the original  brain injury and shows itself in myriad ways. Memory loss, confusion, impulse control problems, dementia, depression, suicide.

Despite what the NFL would like you to believe, the damage is real. And, football is to blame.

Apologists say that players know the risk and can choose their fate.

That doesn’t absolve the NFL from its responsibility to provide proper treatment to its current players and adequate medical care to its former players.

I know the risk, too. And, I, too, can choose.

I love a good game. I really do.

But, if it means that even one player will struggle some day with brain damage and dementia simply to entertain me today, count me out.

LEARN MORE

My previous posts on brain injuries and concussions in sports:

The NFL Knew. And, They Covered It Up.

Don’t Try This At Home.

* * *

The Sports Legacy Group works to raise awareness to CTE and brain trauma in athletics and in the military. They work to help coaches and athletes at all levels of sports better understand how to prevent head trauma, as well as encourage proper treatment of concussions so that the brain may better heal.

sportslegacy

For more on their efforts click here.

* * *

To watch the excellent Frontline piece “League of Denial” on the NFL and the CTE crisis click here.

league of denial

Frontline recently updated their report.

Frontline Update

Click here.

And, for the powerful book that accompanies it click here.

league of denial book

Don’t Try This At Home

Ty-Cobb-hard-slide

Ty Cobb goes “spike’s up” into home. Navin Field, Detroit (1912 or 1913). Public Domain image.

Don’t try this at home.

Because it is stupid. (“It” being Ty Cobb’s collision. My pun, on the other hand, is brilliant.)

As a baseball-writing massage therapist with nearly 10,000 massage sessions under my belt, I’m often asked for my thoughts about home plate collisions.

Actually, no one’s asked.

But, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about home plate ever since my last post.

And, because one doofus said on his webpage (which has approximately a zillion more readers than I ever will) that banning home plate collisions is further proof of the “wussification of America.”

And, all I could think was, “Good god, how many times has Glenn Beck’s head collided with the sidewalk? Because he sure sounds like he’s brain-clunked pavement a few too many times.”

Glenn Beck doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But, I do.

I know collisions. I see colliders every day. Colliders are my massage (and Yoga) bread and butter.

I have clients who have collided with other people, with airbags, with telephone poles, with staircases, with the ground (woody, gravelly, asphalty, rocky, and cementy.) I see clients who have broken things, strained things, torn things, ruptured things, and gotten their bells rung.

I sometimes see them a day after they have collided and often for years afterward.

I see equestrian clients who are tossed off of their horses so often that you would think their bottoms are loaded with crazy Wonderland-like springs that catapult them randomly through the air and into rocks and bramble. Over and over.

I have clients who live with chronic pain and permanent injuries and brain impairment because they collided into something – or someone – else.

I know colliders.

So, I am delighted that Major League Baseball is taking the necessary steps to ban home plate collisions – where a base runner coming home seeks to dislodge the ball from a catcher’s mitt by violently colliding with him. That’s how the Giants’ Buster Posey broke his leg in 2011. And, that’s how many professional ballplayers sustain debilitating concussions throughout the season.

Home plate collisions are needlessly dangerous, unnecessary, and just plain stupid.

Former Catcher and now St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny retired in 2007 following a series of concussions caused by home plate collisions. He lost 18 months of his memory as a result. If I haven’t convinced you, listen to him, click here.

matheny

Baseball’s owners and the players’ union are still working out the details and wording, but the belief is that new rules could be in place by the start of this season or 2015 at the latest.

ESPN’s Buster Olney (who has so many “insider” sources, he probably knows someone who has spilled all your secrets), was told that the new rules would include:

• Catchers cannot block home plate.

• Runners will not be allowed to target the catchers.

• Umpires will determine whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher and this will be a reviewable call, and

• Players who violate these rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

This won’t eliminate all collisions. But, it will eliminate some extremely violent home-plate encounters.

In its very earliest long-time-ago incarnations, baseball required a runner to be struck by the ball in order to be out. Yes, just like dodgeball you would throw the baseball at the runner – as hard as you could and sometimes right at his head. If you severely maimed him in the process, well, hey, it was the 18th century, he probably wasn’t going to make it to 40 anyway.

But, that was stupid. And, baseball improved its rules.

The rules already protect fielders from collisions by base runners who seek to break up double plays through collision or “spikes up.” (Interference is called on the base runner and he is out.)

A sprained ankle might slow you down for a week or so. A concussion is much sneakier and can cause permanent brain damage that you won’t notice until one day you’re standing in a grocery store and you wonder, “Why am I here?” (And, not in an existential way, either.)

Watch the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial that shows, in grim detail, the heartbreaking damage that concussions have done to professional athletes. Watch it here.

league of denial

Glenn Beck, apparently, thinks that baseball rules are unnecessary (in the same way that he believes that government is unnecessary, until the potholes on his street need fixing).

Life has risks. Games have risks. Jobs have risks.

I know that.

But, that doesn’t mean that an employer doesn’t have the responsibility to try to eliminate risks whenever possible.

A bakery gives its baker an oven mitt so he doesn’t melt the skin off his hands when he pulls the bread out of a hot oven.

A warehouse puts brakes on its forklift so a driver doesn’t run over his colleague who is stacking boxes.

Baseball stops home plate collisions.

Good heavens, why are we even debating this?

I’m guessing Ty Cobb, like Glenn Beck, would say that minimizing injuries is a wussy thing to do. (Although, honestly, I don’t think Cobb would use the word “wussy.”)

But, tough. And, stop whining.

Those nasty spike’s up, knock-em-down, slasharoos that Ty Cobb made famous are stupid. (Say, Ty, maybe if you picked up the pace a bit coming in from third you could have beaten the throw to the plate. Now THAT’s exciting baseball!)

Just 25 days until pitchers and catchers report.

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0

The NFL Knew. And They Covered It Up.

If a big food corporation sells a contaminated product that makes people sick, they’re forced to remove the food from the shelves. If people actually died? Well, that could be criminal … or at least a top story in the news.

Same with pharmaceuticals. Car companies. Toy manufacturers. Anyone, really, who runs afoul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA, or even just riles up the local consumer action reporter at the evening news, has a lot of explaining to do if their product is dangerous.

So here’s what I don’t get.

How can the National Football League (NFL) endanger its players – knowingly – and still be not only the most popular sport in the country, but also the most profitable?

I loved football. Growing up, I was diehard for the 49ers. Oakland Raiders, too, but mostly ’9ers. I still have my Ronnie Lott bobblehead. My husband is from Colorado and a Broncos fan. Occasionally, I will say “55 to 10”. That’s all. Just “55 to 10.” He knows what I mean.  (Click here if you don’t.)

But, in recent years I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the growing violence of the game. The collisions seem uglier than usual. The game is becoming more about the train wreck, head-on-head, smash-ups. (And, this was even before the news broke this year about the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty hunting” – where players received financial bonuses based on the severity of the injuries they inflicted on opponents. The more serious the injury, the bigger the payoff.)

I started to lose interest in football, initially, because I was falling for baseball, and something had to give. Baseball seemed so much more athletically graceful. So much more strategically interesting. So much less ugly and brutal. So much more fun.

Oh sure, I thought football and I could still be friends. Even though I was in love with another game.

But, I finally had to break up with football.

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