“More than 100 million people will watch this year’s Super Bowl. If you’re going to be one of them, and you care about the players on the team you’re rooting for, then don’t fall for the fantasy notion that fancy new helmets are going to protect their brains. Instead, support changes to the game that will truly protect players.” ~ Usha Lee McFarling
You knew I wouldn’t let Super Bowl Sunday pass by without my annual reminder that football is a vile, brutal, and unacceptably dangerous game. Also, stupid.
High-Tech Helmets Won’t Solve The NFL’s Concussion Problem
After the number of concussions in the NFL spiked dramatically in 2017, the number during this past season dropped by nearly one-quarter.
Really? That startled you? Because it didn’t surprise any of us regular people who have even the slightest understanding of what happens when your head is slammed into, say, the ground, with the weight of 300-pound lineman on top of you.
The NFL attributes some of the drop in 2018 to “advanced helmets.” And, they may be right, but when your game is still suffering hundreds of concussions each season, I’m pretty sure your “advanced helmets” aren’t advanced enough.
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 …
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
A 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.
I used to love football (go ‘9ers!)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
My previous posts on brain injuries and concussions in sports:
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.
Sadly, in a moment of weakness, I started to compile my own list.
It was stupid. And, so I stopped.
If you love baseball, then you already know why it will always be far superior to football.
In the same way that cats and dogs are far superior to Sea Monkeys. Which is to say VERY, VERY Super Superior.
Sea Monkeys: Bitter Disappointment
If you’re still wavering, I don’t know what I can say to convince you. Maybe you watch football the same way many NASCAR fans watch auto racing — just waiting to see someone get smooshed, flattened, tackled, or sacked.
Baseball avoids carnage and bloodshed whenever possible. When it does happen, no one cheers. This, bottom line, is why it will always be superior to football in my book.
Hey, I know football. I was a San Francisco 49ers fan for many, many years. But, I boycott it now, because it is increasingly grisly, unnecessarily violent, and has destroyed the quality of life for many former athletes (from NFL-level players to the unfortunate high school and college players who are reminded about rough hits when the arthritis starts to set in around age 30). I yammered on about my boycott last season here.
Oh, sure you can Google “football is better than baseball” and some links will come up.
I found a list of 25 reasons – shared by CBS Sports. Why is football better than baseball? I kid you not, this was reason three.
#3. Football statistics are simple and involve little mathematics to compute.
If the lack of math is really the thing that makes football superior, I’m still marveling that this guy was able to coherently count to 25 for his list.
OK, let’s try a little football math:
2 Touchdowns + 1 Touchdown – 1 Missed Point After + 2 Field Goals + 1 Safety = How Many Points? *
OK, how about this:
1 3-Run Homer = How Many Runs? **
Oh, goodie, there’s more.
#17. Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.
This doesn’t even make sense. It’s gibberish.
#23. Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.
You’re joking, right?
Dodgers vs. Giants? Yankees vs. Red Sox?
Yankees vs. everyone else?
Baseball teams play 162 games a season – even more if you make it to the playoffs and World Series. 162 games is a lot of games and a lot of time to brew some historic rivalries.
Heck, baseball rivalries are so hot, even the managers get in fights – as the Orioles’ Buck Showalter and Yankees’ Joe Girardi proved just a few nights ago. Click here. (Go Buck!)
If you’re a football team and you’re playing another team just once a season, if that, I’m not sure how a lasting rivalry can even start. “Hi, you must be the Jacksonville Jaguars. I guess we’re playing you today. Gosh, I didn’t even know there was a team here. What state is this?”
His number one reason why football is better?
#1. Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players are involved on every play.
Does he even realize that an entirely DIFFERENT football team plays offense than the one that plays defense? Add in special teams – and it’s a THREE-TEAM “team sport”. As I’m sure you know, a baseball player is expected to play both offense and defense (except for those pitcher/DH guys in the American League.)
What to take away from this thoughtful list?
When dining out with football fans, be a pal and offer to calculate the tip for them. It will save them from math-phobic paralysis.
Now, back to baseball.
Here’s one George Carlin missed.
Baseball is better than football, because in baseball you, the fan, can catch a ball. If you catch it, you get to keep it.
You can even bring your glove to help you out.
If you make a clean catch, the fans around you will cheer.
It happens at every game in every ballpark every night.
And, on Tuesday night, a grandmother celebrated her birthday at the Giants’ game. Took her glove. And, snagged a souvenir.
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.
I’ve had a few Yoga students leave me for Zumba, the Salsa-Aerobic workout.
I admit it. It hurt my feelings.
What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with Yoga? Why go? Stay. Stay.
I think that Yoga vs. Zumba is similar to my feelings about Baseball vs. Football.
Yoga is … Serene … Mindful … Toned … Disciplined … Careful … Graceful … Strong. Yoga is bathed in a long, rich, and often-quirky history.
Zumba is a nice work-out to some sassy music, but that’s it as far as I can tell.
(But, then I’m biased. You’ll have to check out the Zumba Girl’s blog — Football, Zumba, Life … (and she)? — to get the other side.)
Baseball … Football … same thing.
I see baseball as this graceful game of strategy, and mindfulness, and strength, and focus. A game that treasures its own long, rich, and often-quirky history.
Football has some strategy yes, but isn’t the point really to just smoosh the other guy a little harder than he just smooshed you? (And, history is often lost, except for the occasional throwback uniform like this cute little Steelers number last Sunday … click here.)
As a massage therapist, I can tell you that I’ve had to work my way through a good number of Zumba injuries in my clients over the years. Yoga, a few, yes, not many. Likewise, I’ve got a few clients who still suffer from aches and pains from long-ago (sometimes decades-old) football collisions. Again, baseball? Ok, a few.
In an earlier post, I explained why I boycotted baseball (and even my beloved Orioles) for several seasons … disillusioned by the widespread use of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs). I’m back now, although I know that, sadly, the drugs are still there.
Now, I am boycotting football and have been for the past couple seasons. (Sorry, beloved 49ers.) The distressing violence of the game, the ignorance over the long-term damage of head-to-head collisions and concussions, finally made it unbearable to watch.
But, I know I’m the minority.
The World Series hit a televised record low this year.
Really? You all missed Sergio Romo … Barry Zito … Pablo Sandoval! It was good (unless you’re a Detroit fan, then, not so much). And, you missed the free Taco Bell tacos for America … awarded when the Giants’ Angel Pagan stole a base. (I also missed it, because there’s no Taco Bell nearby).
Today on National Public Radio, Frank Deford discussed the decline of Baseball, the rise of Football. (Sadly, no discussion of Yoga vs. Zumba.)
Here it is. He’s much more eloquent than me. Hope you listen!