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Violence and Madness
November 22, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

"During my career, I kept my mouth shut. This now, speaking out, it’s about telling you my life. There’s no agenda, no vendetta. This is what football is really like." Kris Jenkins’s View of Life in the N.F.L. Trenches.
posted by cashman (82 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, there was an article in the NY Times yesterday about Wayne Chrebet refusing to talk about his current health situation due to concussions. So, at least someone is speaking out.
posted by spicynuts at 11:08 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trenches.....

I've long thought that American-style football is somewhat like sending troops over the edge in WW1. You're sore, tired, and dealing with physical and psychological trauma in all sorts of unhealthy ways, when someone puts 60lb of weight on your back and sends you onto a battlefield with constantly moving hazards.

Except in WWI they dressed their guys in drab clothing.
posted by LN at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of interesting stuff here, but I'm guessing the thing that will stay with me the longest is learning that Patriots have a staff acupuncturist, that and the phrase "We’re on turf, which is disgusting for fat people."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


They also didn't pay the WWI guys $1e6/yr.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sounds like The All-American Game to me. (And remember, Canada has a league too!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2011


Except in WWI they dressed their guys in drab clothing.

Well, except for those jaunty spikey helmets.
posted by marienbad at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Roger Goodell said something to me that always stuck in my head: We’re ambassadors for the game.

O.K., well, if we’re ambassadors for the game, then we should be able to have a voice. We should be able to stand up and say, I’m union, I’m proud of that. Where I grew up near Detroit, people were proud to be in unions. They had a voice.



Yes. Hell yes. Someone needs to stand up for the players. Someone to help them watch out for financial predators, someone to get them decent medical care during and especially after their careers. (Or at least, that's how it should be.)

So often the rhetoric around sports unions and strikes is all about them being selfish, being greedy, when they're just trying to leverage the power they have to get decent treatment.

You know, like any union.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 11:24 AM on November 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


Self destructive madness, brutality, mayhem, pilates, and acupuncture.
posted by idiopath at 11:28 AM on November 22, 2011


Don't forget roots and herbs.
posted by DU at 11:30 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stuff like this makes me feel like a massive hypocrite. I love watching NFL football, and I'm passing my love for the game to my son, who's fascinated by all the goddamn rules. I think he'll be a ref someday.

At the same time, I'm acutely aware of the injuries. I know all about concussions. About how Earl Campbell was once an incredible specimen of human athletics, and now he can't walk. I know about the shockingly low life expectancy. I know about the suicides.

I said he might be a ref someday. I hope he's a ref someday, and not a player.

But still, there I am every Sunday. Watching a game that gets (rightly) compared to gladiator combat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:39 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Football is a helluva game. A helluva game.
posted by OmieWise at 11:41 AM on November 22, 2011


Stuff like this makes me feel like a massive hypocrite. I love watching NFL football, and I'm passing my love for the game to my son, who's fascinated by all the goddamn rules. I think he'll be a ref someday.

At the same time, I'm acutely aware of the injuries. I know all about concussions. About how Earl Campbell was once an incredible specimen of human athletics, and now he can't walk. I know about the shockingly low life expectancy. I know about the suicides.


Yeah, I'm going through something similar. For whatever reason, the past few years have really reignited my interest in football; and following the Packers is one of the few things I have in common with my father-in-law. But in every game I watch, I can count on feeling shitty for a while if I stop and think about what I'm actually watching.
posted by COBRA! at 11:42 AM on November 22, 2011


They just kept double-teaming me, hoping I would fold and cave in. I didn’t. But that was probably the most painful day I had.

From the double teams, over the years, I wore the left side of my body down. I was past hurt. I was at the point of numb. Like my body was shutting down nervous systems, so I didn’t have to deal with pain.


what a spectacularly arbitrary useless waste. the only thing I get less than this is religion.
posted by herbplarfegan at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2011


I was thinking about a FPP about this subject, but maybe it fits here?

The Footage the NFL Won't Show You
(why the NFL refuses to release camera footage from above the field showing all 22 players at once)
posted by straight at 11:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's not a total waste; he and his ilk have made millions. Hopefully they made wise investment choices. Tough luck about the brain damage, you still had fun while it lasted.
posted by Renoroc at 11:48 AM on November 22, 2011


Deep-snapper, Cool Papa Bell, train the kid to be a deep-snapper.
posted by resurrexit at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2011


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. YOU decided to accept a multi-million dollar contract for a professonal team. Yes, there are serious risks, but also incredible rewards; given another chance YOU would make the exact same choice, every time. The brutality, the harshness, the raw edge, and yes, even the concussions, are all integral parts of contact sport. Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.
posted by Vindaloo at 12:04 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. YOU decided to accept a multi-million dollar contract for a professonal team. Yes, there are serious risks, but also incredible rewards; given another chance YOU would make the exact same choice, every time. The brutality, the harshness, the raw edge, and yes, even the concussions, are all integral parts of contact sport.

Which doesn't conflict with anything Jenkins said in the article, in fact he says more or less exactly the same thing at one point:

I made the choice to play football. I made the choice to walk through the concussions. I could have stopped. I could have said, my head hurts. It was my choice, as a man. We consider football a gladiator sport because we understand you’re going to get hurt. You’re putting your life on the line. You might not die now, like in an old Roman arena, but 5, 10 years down the road, you could. You know that.

I wouldn’t change anything.

posted by burnmp3s at 12:11 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. YOU decided to accept a multi-million dollar contract for a professonal team. Yes, there are serious risks, but also incredible rewards; given another chance YOU would make the exact same choice, every time. The brutality, the harshness, the raw edge, and yes, even the concussions, are all integral parts of contact sport. Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

They often decide this as emotionally immature (even for 20 year olds) young men who've been brought up in a culture that reveres the sports hero.

I mean... did you even read the article? Because he says as much as you say, which is that he would do it again, and that it was ultimately his choice, but he also says that the way the players are treated usually doesn't make any effort to turn them in to rational people, but rather keeps producing more and more Terrell Owens. He's not saying, oh, he has it so bad, but rather that there's a culture of silence around the game which doesn't really help anybody.
posted by codacorolla at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Still the best sport ever created.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dear Vindaloo, congratulations on not reading the article. You may want to get round to it at some point, since there is so much about which you and Jenkins agree.
posted by Diablevert at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or perhaps "hence the best..."
posted by nathancaswell at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2011


> those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

I can't muster much sympathy for the professionals, but what is troubling is how high school football coaches and players adopt that same never say die attitude. Kids end up getting lots of concussions and other avoidable injuries in the name of a silly game and the mostly empty promise of hitting the big leagues.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I guess I'm the only person who quit watching NFL football after all these players drinking antifreeze and stuff?
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2011


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. YOU decided to accept a multi-million dollar contract for a professonal team...Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom.

That sounds like the kind of attitude that justifies pushing talented high school and college players to put their bodies at risk.
posted by mullacc at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


All true, Vindaloo.

Tell-alls such as this remind fans that they have opportunity to choose whether or not to enable the pro-athlete's choice, via their time, money, and attention.

And they give everybody involved an opportunity to consider whether or not the institution can be improved such that risk is minimized.
posted by notyou at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2011


Still the best sport ever created.

Next to hockey.
posted by notyou at 12:15 PM on November 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


And yes because all of those other options for kids whose parents grew up cutting Cane in Immokalee and Pahokee are so great? Come on. Recognize that for the vast majority of professional athletes it was their path out poverty.

Blame society for over emphasizing sports and not doing enough to deal with poverty, but don't blame these people because they were lucky enough to be born with innate athletic abiliites that most of us can only dream of.
posted by JPD at 12:15 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The brutality, the harshness, the raw edge, and yes, even the concussions, are all integral parts of contact sport. Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

I certainly sympathize with this view, but considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the world today, paying pro athletes to beat each other into brain damage and death has to be one of the easiest we can do something about. It's a hell of a lot harder to develop and enforce new safety regulations in every mine or factory in the world than to change the rules of the NFL and enforce safer ways to play. We should be so lucky that every policy we want to enact can be instantly communicated to all parties and expertly enforced by professional referees. By all means let's spread happiness and health and joy throughout the entire land, but I don't see why these guys should be last in line when their problems are a lot easier to solve than most of the other ones in our society.
posted by zachlipton at 12:16 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


*hangs head in shame* yes, it's true, I posted too soon - as as readin the article I went "oops, mefi will not be happy with my comment". Apologies to all.
posted by Vindaloo at 12:17 PM on November 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


He's not saying, oh, he has it so bad, but rather that there's a culture of silence around the game

Where is this silence, again? There are constant articles about the dangers, and they mention it fairly often even during games.

Running into people at full speed is dangerous. So is just about everything that's fun in life.

So what's the alternative? Outlaw contact sports? Dress players in fat suits to they can't hurt each other? What's the supposed endgame of breaking this non-existent "silence"?
posted by coolguymichael at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've had this discussion a lot. At some point, just as with boxing the brutality of this sport will finally seep in with viewers. It seems to be with some commenters here. It also seems the NFL realizes this and is (too slowly) trying to head that off with the new concussion and hitting rules.
posted by dig_duggler at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2011


Deep-snapper, Cool Papa Bell, train the kid to be a deep-snapper.

Are you just mocking Bears fans because Patrick Mannelly is out for the season?

Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

So if your life isn't bad enough, you don't deserve pity? Waking up in constant pain every day, not being able to walk, possibly committing suicide, as Cool Papa Bell pointed out, that isn't enough unless you're also poor? Metafilter's attitude toward people with physical and mental illness, its attiude toward labor versus management, it all goes out the window when professional athletes are involved and it's frankly disgusting.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:28 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recognize that for the vast majority of professional athletes it was their path out poverty.

Got a cite for that? I've known a few professional athletes, and they were mostly middle-class kids whose parents could afford the camps and equipment to get them to the next level. And that doesn't even count the hundreds of second-generation pro athletes.
posted by Etrigan at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2011


The Footage the NFL Won't Show You (why the NFL refuses to release camera footage from above the field showing all 22 players at once)

Interesting article, I've always wondered about that. Diva wide receivers are some of the players I like best and it's always frustrating when you have no idea what someone like DeSean Jackson or TO is even doing for most of the game.

The article seems to conclude they keep the tape to themselves so coaches don't get exposed for bad decisions, but I think it's more about promoting attendance at the stadiums like the archaic blackout rules.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2011


If you watch, you are complicit.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


> If you watch, you are complicit.

That's a bit extreme.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was thinking about a FPP about this subject, but maybe it fits here?

The Footage the NFL Won't Show You (why the NFL refuses to release camera footage from above the field showing all 22 players at once)
posted by straight


I know, I was at a game last week and RogGod stood in front of me through the whole game blocking my view of at least half the play.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. ... Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

Let's imagine there were a line of work ... let's say, unobtanium mining ... that paid a minimum, non-guaranteed salary of about $300,000, with huge upsides for the best performers, and the average salary landing on about $2 million. Let's imagine that you were capable of doing this work only for an average of 3-5 years. So the perfectly average guy makes $6 - 10 million.

Remove about half for taxes and agent commissions.

What about fame, you say? Well, the truth of it is, there's 53 people in your mining company, and only 1 or 2 of them are "famous" as unobtanium miners. Most of the people in your company are completely unknown.

Let's also imagine that doing this work actively prevents you from doing many other lines of work. You're spending your formative years preparing for unobtanium mining -- only very rarely does someone, say, go to medical school afterward. Once you stop doing this work, you'll be a salesman of some kind. Real estate, most likely. Regardless, your salary after doing this profession will almost never get to one tenth of what you were making before.

Now, let's say there was an incredible rate of injuries and deaths directly associated and attributable to this line of work. It's rare for any unobtanium miner to make it past age 65.

How do you feel about unobtanium mining now?

Call NFL football anything else, and there'd be Congressional committee meetings about it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:44 PM on November 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think I'm pretty aware of the brutality of the sport. My knees sometimes hurt just watching. I've certainly been cognizant for quite some time that my enjoyment of it comes at the very real expense of people's health. I think most fans are. It's hard not to be when someone is writhing in pain after a big hit, or worse, lying motionless.

But it hasn't really stopped me from being a huge fan. The players make their choice and for every one of them there are literally thousands of others who would love to take their place on the field.

The Penn State thing on the hand.... that does make me seriously question the culture of the game. And my role as a fan in perpetuating it.
posted by Dano St at 12:45 PM on November 22, 2011


> If you watch, you are complicit.

That's a bit extreme.


Actually, I don't think it's extreme at all. Like I said, I feel massive hypocrisy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:45 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe more accurately "if you're a fan, you're complicit". I occasionally catch a bit of NFL on TV and know full well it's like watching any other horrible thing. I'm not complicit in the prison industry if I catch a bit of "Lockup".
posted by Burhanistan at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article seems to conclude they keep the tape to themselves so coaches don't get exposed for bad decisions, but I think it's more about promoting attendance at the stadiums like the archaic blackout rules.

I think there's that, I also think that the NFL wants to sell its stars, so we need to be able to see their faces; it's why we spend the moment before the play looking at the blooming quarterback's face rather than watching the presnap defensive adjustments, and the center calling out blitzers, and, you know, the game.

Thankfully, as a Bears fan I can just assume that Devin Hester is running straight downfield looking for something to trip over and Roy Williams is making the first-down signal for no particular reason, so I don't really need to see the whole field.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:50 PM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is this the first time that a former NFL player has openly talked about, on the record, what exactly is going on in the modern NFL? If so, I think this is going to be a watershed event in football.
posted by mod zero at 12:51 PM on November 22, 2011


If people stopped watching "Lockup" the prison industry wouldn't go bankrupt.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:52 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter's attitude toward people with physical and mental illness, its attiude toward labor versus management, it all goes out the window when professional athletes are involved and it's frankly disgusting.

I don't think the slice of metafilter that reads sports threads is the same as the slice that reads politics or health threads.
posted by GregorWill at 12:54 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not a total waste; he and his ilk have made millions.

When I think about a group of (mostly white) owners, with all the opportunities in the world to get rich in other ways, making an unimaginable amount of money on the bodies and lives of a group of (mostly black) players, who have very few other opportunities, making merely a lot of money... that's when I start to get sick to my stomach.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what's the alternative? Outlaw contact sports? Dress players in fat suits to they can't hurt each other? What's the supposed endgame of breaking this non-existent "silence"?

Changing the rules of the game, which change every year anyway, to make it safer for players? Becoming something closer to sprint football in order to discourage linemen from overloading their hearts and joints with excessive body fat? Returning to grass fields? Installing something more like the springy floor gymnasts use to reduce the negative impact on joints during hits? Shortening the pro season? Changing the penalties for concussive hits to involve suspensions on the regular? Developing new and more effective ways of training players in the off season so they are less vulnerable to joint injuries and ligament tears that cripple them later in life? Establishing a more robust pension and disability fund so former players don't have to go on Medicaid when they need a knee replacement or full-time home care for dementia?

Or we could just throw our hands up and say there's nothing to be done, there's always that option.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:01 PM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Except in WWI they dressed their guys in drab clothing.

"One last mistake that the French Army had made when equipping their Army was the uniforms. The French had paid no mind whatsoever to practicality or function, only form. The German Army had more useful uniforms, theirs being field grey, a neutral tone which is good for camouflage in the terrain they were fighting in. The German uniform was simple, with no whistles or bells. The French uniform, on the other hand, was bright red and blue, with hat plumes, and such. These uniforms were definitely not very useful for fighting in mountains, forests, and plains." (source)

The Guns of August has a great description of the french uniform as well.
posted by stratastar at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2011


Is this the first time that a former NFL player has openly talked about, on the record, what exactly is going on in the modern NFL? If so, I think this is going to be a watershed event in football

Not by a long shot. As a casual fan of the NFL there was nothing in this piece that surprised or offended me.

It's also amusing to read the defensive stance (pun intended) of those commentors who immediately assume that players who have made the choice to play football are somehow enslaved by wealthy owners, etc. and need to be independently protected from themselves and their chosen profession.
posted by eggman at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Changing the rules of the game, which change every year anyway, to make it safer for players?

Many (most?) rule changes are made with safety in mind. The big one this year is moving the kickoff line. So I think the NFL is already doing this. But such fundamental changes will always move at glacial pace for any profitable business. There's a big continuum between doing nothing and moving the game onto springy gymnast floors.
posted by Dano St at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you watch, you are complicit.

That's a bit extreme.


No, it isn't. Football is played for the fans, and supported by their dollars and the advertising sold to them while they watch.

All sports involves injuries, of course. High-level competition will take a toll on any human body in the long-term, and given that excellence demands starting athletes when they are young and their bodies are still growing, supporting any sport has some moral ambiguity to it. Young healthy people are encouraged to risk their health and bodies to entertain the rest of us, and over time, competition tends to become more extreme, as new records are set and become goals to be surpassed.

Sports is really a very odd cultural practice, in that sense. Why do we set so much store in it that we think it's worth the cost? I've never really heard a good answer to that question.
posted by emjaybee at 1:22 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


They've also made huge changes about penalties for hitting "defenseless" receivers, and helmet to helmet hits. And unlike in years past, the referees this year are throwing the flag 100% of the time on these hits.

I think the NFL finally acknowledged all the data about concussions and brain injuries was starting to show up and finally made the decision that they couldn't hide behind "the data isn't in yet." I suspect they knew they would be getting hit with some huge lawsuits if they didn't start making some changes.

And fucking good on them for it, I start yelling at the screen every time Jaworski, and Gruden start saying shit like "this is football."

No, these are actionable brain injuries, didn't the NFL owners give you the memo?
posted by stratastar at 1:22 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except in WWI they dressed their guys in drab clothing.

"One last mistake that the French Army had made when equipping their Army was the uniforms. The French had paid no mind whatsoever to practicality or function, only form.


You're right, of course. However, my great-uncle fought at Vimy and Passchendaele, and as a soldier for the British Army (Canadian infantry), his uniform was that drab olive-grey colour. I guess I had Uncle John on the brain.
posted by LN at 1:23 PM on November 22, 2011


> I guess I'm the only person who quit watching NFL football after all these players drinking antifreeze and stuff?

I posted this in either the Mackey obit thread or the Duerson brain scan thread, but it bears repetition:

Top all time rated television shows

Of the 45 shows on this list:

21 are Super Bowls
Eight are from mini series (six Roots and two The Thorn Birds)
Three are series finales (The Fugitive, M*A*S*H, Cheers)
Eleven are special/rare or highly anticipated events
the first two US television performances by The Beatles
the two parts of the Ol
y . . . &c

I wonder if they will someday do a scan of OJ's brain and find out it is a particularly damaged specimen.
posted by bukvich at 1:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sports is really a very odd cultural practice, in that sense. Why do we set so much store in it that we think it's worth the cost? I've never really heard a good answer to that question.
posted by emjaybee


I've put a lot of thought into this; in the part of the country where I grew up, it's really not an exaggeration to say that football is a religion, and I've always wondered why.

I think there are 3 things that bigtime ports do that make people value them so much:

1. They provide community. Humans are tribal; rooting communities make for easy tribes (Kurt Vonnegut would call them granfalloons). If I go back to the small town in Nebraska where I grew up, I have very little to talk to people about. Until someone brings up the Huskers, and then there's a communal thing we all know about and feel bonded to.

2. They provide clarity and certainty. Life is messy, uncertain, and full of compromise. Sports have rules and clear winners and losers. You can debate whether or not America is in decline, but there's no question that the Packers are undefeated. People thirst for that. Particularly in combination to the community aspect.

3. They provide narrative. People love stories, and they love stories about larger-than-life figures. I don't think it's an accident that pro sports uniforms are colorful and often designed to accentuate the size of the players. People respond on a deep, subconscious level to these giant, colorful figures (who represent a community they identify with!) struggling with each other (within clearly-laid out bounds, and according to clearly-laid-out rules!).

None of this is meant as a justification; it's just my best analysis as to why my hometown was a ghost town every Fall Saturday when I was growing up, and why the fucking Vikings will probably succeed at making me help buy them a new stadium some time before long.
posted by COBRA! at 1:30 PM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


wonder if they will someday do a scan of OJ's brain and find out it is a particularly damaged specimen.

Chris Henry, who had more than his share of off-the-field legal problems and erratic behavior was found to have CTE after he died, despite never having been diagnosed with a concussion in college or the NFL. You have to wonder how much his brain damage contributed to his behavior.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:34 PM on November 22, 2011


Has anyone been held out of a game this year because of concussion? I've seen several plays that looked like they ended with the player concussed, but haven't heard anything afterwards.
posted by drezdn at 1:53 PM on November 22, 2011


Why do we set so much store in it that we think it's worth the cost? I've never really heard a good answer to that question.

There was some discussion of the value of sports in the recent thread on "fan's we".
posted by stebulus at 1:59 PM on November 22, 2011


Has anyone been held out of a game this year because of concussion? I've seen several plays that looked like they ended with the player concussed, but haven't heard anything afterwards.

Yeah, this has been happening on the regular. DJ Ware left the Sunday night Giants-Eagles game with a concussion and didn't return. Not sure what's up for him next week though.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2011


If anybody wants to bust out the "they make [large amount of dollars], why should we feel bad" argument - which I'm not seeing much of here, thankfully - they should keep in mind that there's not really any stark line where that argument becomes invalid. 100 years ago factory workers were losing life and limb on the regular and the owners just said, well, hey, we're paying them, right? The number of dollars doesn't change the basic principle.

And I mean, does anybody remember being in high school? There's probably literally nothing you could do in high school in America that garners more praise and attention than playing football well. It's asking a lot for young players to weigh the risks and benefits when they're being distorted by their parents, teachers and peers.

I guess I'm the only person who quit watching NFL football after all these players drinking antifreeze and stuff?

I've stopped watching the NFL regularly; I used to be an every-Sunday guy but now I watch two or three regular season games and a few in the playoffs (including the Super Bowl, obviously). I can't quite say that it's because of the brutality, although given the fact that I can't point to a specific reason it's probably a contributor.

I think, though, I've been turned off more by the sport's ridiculous hyper-macho, overdramatic culture, and the middle aged guys screaming at the top of their lungs on the pregame shows and every commercial break reminding you that you need to buy this beer/car/satellite package and if you don't, it's probably because you're gay. It's sickening.

David Roth did a weekly series at The Awl last season critiquing the game's culture and it's highly recommended reading.
posted by mellow seas at 2:32 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The French uniform, on the other hand, was bright red and blue, with hat plumes, and such.

There are actually color photographs of French uniforms amidst the trenches, and yep, they're sky freakin' blue. Fortunately for the French, this was far from the most insane thing about WWI...

As for the subject at hand: I'd like to see the game become less about hitting, especially helmet-to-helmet, but at bottom it's a contact sport; rugby has had much the same problem lately. I hope both sports can come up with regulations which minimize concussion, but I suspect it's always going to be a problem to some degree.
posted by vorfeed at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's also amusing to read the defensive stance (pun intended) of those commentors who immediately assume that players who have made the choice to play football are somehow enslaved by wealthy owners, etc. and need to be independently protected from themselves and their chosen profession.

It's not so much that they need to be independently protected from themselves and their profession, but perhaps that they didn't have all the facts going in about the true seriousness of their injuries. Or how shaking off those concussions and rubbing some dirt on themselves and going in to get hit again wasn't a manly thing or a team loyalty thing for old-time players to do, but rather a really fucking stupid thing to do (or be encouraged to do). Or how protecting players from unprotected hits to the head might've been a good thing to do before the last year or two.

Or how it's far from just an NFL-level thing. For every player who makes the NFL for any length of time (average career length: 3.5 years. median salary: $770K, a far cry from the $1.9M average. guaranteed money most players get: very little. protection against a contract being terminated early by ownership: very little), there are that many more who are smashing each other at the college level, a humongous national industry that makes a mockery of the phrase 'student-athlete', and shall we bring up the Penn State example of how some view a major college program as being more important than the rest of its institution combined?

Or how for everyone who makes it to a college team, there are many more teenagers smashing each other at the high school level, which is lionized like nothing else for that age group. In some parts of the country, it's popular; in others, it's flat-out insanely popular. Texas alone has lots of HIGH SCHOOL stadiums with capacities well into five figures. How many movies and TV shows have there been about high school football alone?

Anyone out there making $770K a year smashing into people at the high school level? Didn't think so.

I watch the NFL. I like the NFL. I like football in general. But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that there's something very, very wrong with football culture in America. It DOES take a brain surgeon sometimes to view the results.
posted by delfin at 3:24 PM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's an interesting read but cripes is he ever all-over the place. Was this interview done in a bar?
posted by srboisvert at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2011


It's an interesting read but cripes is he ever all-over the place. Was this interview done in a bar?

"The brain fog? It still hasn’t stopped. It feels like you’re punch-drunk, like someone hit you over the head. It’s like you knock yourself stupid. When you have to concentrate on things, then it becomes an issue. My head gets foggy to the point where I really can’t function."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:17 PM on November 22, 2011


It's an interesting read but cripes is he ever all-over the place. Was this interview done in a bar?

No, I think you missed a point he didn't specifically make but which is very obvious.
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2011


Actually, the WWI analogy is pretty apt. Very linear- grind, grind, grind, gain a few yards. You hope for some sort of lucky breakthrough, but most likely you'll give up the yards you just made on the next turnover.

Soccer is more like the mechanized fighting at El Alamein or Kursk. Hockey is WWII aerial combat. Cycling is like four-dimensional warfare from the timewars of the 22nd century.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, my great-grandfather was a Scots Guard in the trenches at Passchendaele. His uniform was a god-damn kilt.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:48 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Very linear- grind, grind, grind, gain a few yards. You hope for some sort of lucky breakthrough, but most likely you'll give up the yards you just made on the next turnover.

Your profile indicates you're in Toronto, so I'm going to go with...Bills fan?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:58 PM on November 22, 2011


Fucking Redskins.
posted by bardic at 8:05 PM on November 22, 2011


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. ... Considering all the pain and hurt and suffering abound in the word today, those of the millionaire pro-athlete ranks near the bottom. I'm sorry, but that is just what it is.

This comment rubs me the wrong way for several reasons. One is it comes across to me as echoing that naive and pernicious "everyone is where they are in life solely because of the choices they made, so their parasitic claims on my sympathy have no validity" Randroid mantra.

Another is because of someone who's made a huge difference in my life over the past year: the guy who teaches the first fitness bootcamp class I've ever taken. Keep in mind that before the class, I was still pretty much stuck in a "jocks vs nerds" mentality and I'd been firmly in the nerd camp ever since those labels first became relevant in my childhood.

So I was somewhat surprised to find that he's the nicest guy in the world, carefully balances intense challenge with support and encouragement . . . and he even gave me a huge hug the first day I was finally able to fully complete a weekly challenge he sets out for us -- that moment meant so much to me I would have broken down in tears if I hadn't been so physically taxed. Not what I'd expected based on what I experienced in elementary and high schools.

One day he and our small group were chatting while warming up. He talked a bit about his years playing college football and started talking about his injuries. He eventually remarked that he'd spent countless weekend nights after games dealing with profound headaches and vomiting. Eventually, his short term memory started suffering, and he claims it got to a point where he'd frequently be in the midst of talking to someone about something and suffer pretty serious amnesia -- no recollection of where he was in the sentence, no recollection of the subject of the conversation, no recollection of why he was even conversing with the person. Apparently, this lasted for many years and only got better slowly.

So it's not just a pro thing. It's part of the deeply-ingrained American football culture, which takes its cues from the pros and which trickles those cues down to the college and high school levels and maybe even out to the broader culture in general. That's why it's so important that people like Kris Jenkins speak out.
posted by treepour at 8:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Snarl Furillo: "Shortening the pro season?"

If doing something a dozen times a year is hazardous enough to have serious long-term health implications, I don't think that you'll see any significant benefit from only doing it 8 or 6 times a year.

Then there's the issue of football stadiums. Because a regular season is already ridiculously short compared to any other sport, they're huge. Absolutely fucking massive. Cowboys Stadium can hold 110,000 people. Because they're huge and rarely used (~20 times a year in the best cases), tickets are correspondingly expensive.

Then there's the issue of where to put the stadium. Generally speaking, it's a bad idea to put a football stadium in the middle of a city, because a gigantic building that sits idle for 340 days a year does not foster a "good neighborhood" in its surroundings. (Soccer and Baseball stadiums have been linked to successful urban redevelopment efforts. The track record for indoor arenas is more of a mixed bag, but there have also been successes there. I can't think of a single football stadium that's located in a thriving neighborhood).

So, you're left with the position of putting your stadium in the suburbs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you do need to find a way for your fans to get to the game. Designing a road network that can funnel 110,000 people from multiple origins into a single destination in a short period of time is no easy task. Fortunately, the bizarre tailgating phenomenon softens this blow somewhat. However, you then need to provide a metric shit-ton of surface parking around the stadium. It's a lot of land, and more distressingly, it's a lot of impermeable land, which is horrible from an ecological and environmental standpoint. Team owners also tend to capitalize on the fact that they have a captive audience, and charge an arm and a leg for parking. (The issue of NFL ownership is another discussion that needs to be had at some point)

Although efforts to extend public transportation to football stadiums have been largely successful, capacity remains an issue, and it's often difficult to convince fans of the Great American Sport to get on a bus. However, the widespread derision of public transportation doesn't really become an issue, simply because there's no way to economically design a public transportation system that can carry 110,000 people a few times a year. NJTransit built a line to the Meadowlands that's been very successful in its first few years of operation, but can only carry 10,000 passengers an hour (the Meadowlands Stadium holds 82,000 people). That limit's not half-bad for a rail line, and attempting to increase it would be fairly impractical.

Discussions about relocating the Landover Redskins back to DC in a larger stadium with very little parking have been halted by the fact that the Metro can only carry about 16,000 passengers an hour away from the stadium when it's running at full-tilt, with trains packed like sardines. There's not enough room anywhere in DC to house the amount of parking needed for a large NFL stadium. Fortunately, nobody seems to be taking such proposals seriously, and RFK Stadium, and its visible-from-space parking lot will hopefully be gone at some point in the next decade, hopefully turned into a nice park. (Runoff parking lot is also a major source of contamination and pollution to the Anacostia River, and adds unnecessary burden to the city's already-stressed combined sewer/storm drain system.)

So, yeah. Football hurts its players and its cities.
posted by schmod at 10:27 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think Philly has kind of the right idea if you have all the major sports and want to keep them in the city. The football, baseball, and basketball/hockey buildings are all in the same complex in South Philly. This way you can share the parking resources and you can put lots of businesses in the area that will have people coming in year round for the various sports.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:50 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


schmod, what does any of that have to do with article?

the bizarre tailgating phenomenon

What the fuck?
posted by Dano St at 4:48 AM on November 23, 2011


YOU decided to take the pro-football route. YOU decided to accept a multi-million dollar contract for a professonal team. Yes, there are serious risks, but also incredible rewards; given another chance YOU would make the exact same choice, every time. The brutality, the harshness, the raw edge, and yes, even the concussions, are all integral parts of contact sport.

FTFA: I can’t blame anybody for my death. I made the choice to play football. I made the choice to walk through the concussions. I could have stopped. I could have said, my head hurts. It was my choice, as a man.

Unfortunately, these are extremely short-sighted viewpoints. If people have been telling you for your whole life that you're meant to play football and quitting is for losers and babies and any other perceived insult, its absolutely not a simple choice. Especially when the athletes have been hearing these things since they were children.

And the 'incredible rewards' aren't as incredible as you think they are. Divide the average NFL players lifetime earnings by the number of years he's actually alive, you'll quickly realize the rewards arn't as 'incredible' as you thought. Their NFL careers are short. Please don't be fooled. Try googling NFL player bankruptcy rate.
posted by czytm at 7:27 AM on November 23, 2011


Recognize that for the vast majority of professional athletes it was their path out poverty.

Got a cite for that? I've known a few professional athletes, and they were mostly middle-class kids whose parents could afford the camps and equipment to get them to the next level.


Remember - we're just talking about revenue sports here - not tennis, golf, soccer, lacrosse - all of which I pretty much agree with you about.

The most recent study I've seen dates to the 60's, and is before integration of a lot of major college football and just samples major colleges so it is quite flawed. That said, the areas that produced the most top level football players on a per-capital basis were some of the poorest areas of the country - WV Coal Mining, PA Steel, Southern Mississippi, San Joaquin Valley, a sparsely populated areas on Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Idaho.

for more recent day stuff you have to rely on anecdote - things like the town with the most NFL players on a per capita basis - Pahokee FL has a poverty rate >40% for children. Same with Belle Glade, or the fact that on a per capita basis New Orleans produces the most NFL and NBA players of any major city (And ex-the Mannings, they are nearly all African-American and not from the Garden District). The states with the highest per-capita production of NFL players are Louisiana, Mississippi, and Hawaii (all Pacific Islanders AFAIK, so the poorest part of the population). If it was all camps and the middle class you wouldn't expect two of the poorest states to be top of the table. Now is it going to be the absolutely poorest kids around? probably not, but still for many of them sports and pro sports given them a path to something better. Its only when they hit 30 they realized the price they paid.

And that doesn't even count the hundreds of second-generation pro athletes. Not really. There have only been something like 150 and 50 father-son combos in the history of the NFL and NBA respectively. Given there are about 1700 Players on NFL rosters and 450 players on NBA rosters every year it just isn't that meaningful.
posted by JPD at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2011


And the 'incredible rewards' aren't as incredible as you think they are. Divide the average NFL players lifetime earnings by the number of years he's actually alive, you'll quickly realize the rewards arn't as 'incredible' as you thought. Their NFL careers are short. Please don't be fooled. Try googling NFL player bankruptcy rate.

yep median salary is 800k or so, average career is 3.5 years. These guys aren't retiring rich.
posted by JPD at 7:46 AM on November 23, 2011


And that doesn't even count the hundreds of second-generation pro athletes. Not really. There have only been something like 150 and 50 father-son combos in the history of the NFL and NBA respectively. Given there are about 1700 Players on NFL rosters and 450 players on NBA rosters every year it just isn't that meaningful.

Is there a particular reason that you're not using MLB or NHL numbers, besides that there are many, many more second-generation players and it would move the numbers away from the point you're trying to make?

"Vast majority" is a pretty big statement to make about something like this. Yes, there are a lot of professional athletes who saw it as their only viable career path. But saying that everyone who plays is ignorant of the risks because it was this or the sugarcane fields is paternalistic at best.
posted by Etrigan at 8:12 AM on November 23, 2011


I'll back peddle on vast majority sure. How about very large percentage? I'm ignoring MLB because I was just looking at college data, also about 20-25% of MLB is from outside of the US so the data is a little more tricky, . I'm ignoring the NHL for a bunch of reasons - one of them being money is a pretty big barrier to entry to the sport in the US. The other being I don't know much about the sport or the people who play it.

But to you point - MLB has something like 200 father son combos - but they've been playing the sport professionally for 120 years at this point so you end up with something pretty close to what you see for the NFL and NBA as a %, NHL it looks like 100 father-son combos. So again - really not that meaningful.

But saying that everyone who plays is ignorant of the risks because it was this or the sugarcane fields is paternalistic at best.
No, I was exaggerating for effect, but the other options arrayed before a lot of people who end up playing the NFL and NBA are not especially attractive.
posted by JPD at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2011


Sir or madam, you are a reasonable human being, willing to consider evidence to the contrary of your thesis and backtrack from overly broad generalizations. Clearly, you do not belong on the Internet. I hereby revoke your WHARGARBLE card.
posted by Etrigan at 9:53 AM on November 23, 2011


Dano St: "the bizarre tailgating phenomenon

What the fuck?
"

Eating food out of the back of a car in a parking lot the size of a small city, and paying for the privilege? Yeah. It's kind of weird.
posted by schmod at 11:10 AM on November 23, 2011


Hey, I do it to avoid the privilege of paying the larcenous prices for food and beer inside the stadium.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:47 PM on November 23, 2011


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