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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11 Minutes. No Football.

How will you spend your Sunday?

Yeh, I know. There’s a “super” bowl on.

I know all about your Patriots and your Seahawks. And, your Marshawn Lynch. And, your “Deflategate.” I learned all about it on Saturday Night Live last night. I know about these things.

Today’s Super Bowl will take up hours and hours and hours of airtime. Yet, if you add up the actual football action? Eleven minutes.

Between the Budweiser commercials, the broadcasters jabbering, and Katy Perry, there will be 11 minutes of actual football … 67 minutes of football players just standing around … 17 minutes of replays … and more than an hour of beer and truck commercials. (And, probably a concussion or two.)

SportsGrid broke it down in this easy-to-follow pie chart:

pie chart

Fun Fact: The average baseball game? 18 minutes of action. That’s 67 percent MORE baseball, people.

I gave up on football a few years back with the ugly revelations of the game’s concussion crisis and the National Football League’s irresponsible inaction.

So, I won’t be spending my 11 minutes watching football tonight.

And, just maybe, you won’t be either. So, here are some things we can do with the 11 minutes we just freed up!

** Make Chocolate Chip Cookies for the nice fella who fixed the coat rack in your Yoga studio. (Or, for any nice person you know.)

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cookie2

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Bake for just 11 minutes in a 350 oven.

** Do Yoga.

If you’re in the groove, you’ll squeeze 11 rounds of Sun Salutations into your 11 minutes. (Cat preferred, but always optional.)

 

** Listen to Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row”.

highway 61 revisited

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk 

What?

When you’re done, you can tell me what the hell he’s singing about for 11 minutes. But, it’s a good song, even if I don’t get it.

** Read War & Peace.

** Read a CHAPTER of War & Peace.

read war and peace

Just 300 pages left.

** Break in your new baseball glove before heading to Spring Training.

But, if you’re going to microwave it, heed the advice of former Twin-Angel-Tiger and current Twin (again) Torii Hunter who warns you that if you nuke it for more than a minute it will start to cook. He also recommends softening it up in your hot tub first. After nuking, give it some good smacks with your baseball bat.

Just 18 days ‘til Pitchers and Catchers report. So let’s get those gloves in the hot tub, Birdland!

“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.

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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.

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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