Tag Archives: Dan Marino

When will the NFL take concussions seriously? And stuff on the Jets and authors who write too long

nflconcussions

So I’m going to get up Sunday, saunter over to my favorite sports bar, and watch several hours of professional football, enjoying the touchdowns, and the big hits on defense.

I realize that because of this, I’ll be open to being called a hypocrite when I write what I’m about to write.

But every year, there are more and more studies and more and more signs that NFL players are doing serious damage to their brains by playing football.

And every year, the NFL just looks the other way, making excuse after excuse and trying to push the problem back under the rug.

This week a new study, commissioned by the NFL and done by the University of Michigan Institute for Social research, determined that pro football players suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related ailments far more frequently than other Americans.

The study should, theoretically, bolster the cases of so many retired players who’ve been neglected by the union, and whose concussions and other blows to the head have not been treated seriously by the current NFL management.

The study showed that 6.1 percent of retired players over 50 said they had received a dementia-related diagnosis, five times higher than the national average. And players 30-49 reported dementia-related diagnoses at a rate of 1.9 percent, 19 times higher than the national average.

And what is the NFL’s response to this news? Not concern. Not empathy. Not a human response, indicating that they’re tremendously troubled by the report.

No, this is the quote from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, according to the New York Times:

“There are thousands of retired players who do not have memory problems.”

And this:

“Memory disorders affect many people who never played football or other sports,” Mr. Aiello said. “We are trying to understand it as it relates to our retired players.”

My God, how pathetic. So let me get this straight: If cranes keep collapsing on construction workers and killing them, is it OK if the foreman keeps pointing out how many guys didn’t die on the job that day?

Look, I may be a little more sensitive to this issue, because for six months in 2007 I worked on a story about pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who snapped one day and killed his wife and son. I interviewed several concussion experts who said the repeated blows to Benoit’s head over his wrestling career damaged his brain to a point where he may have had trouble telling right from wrong.

Concussions, and post-playing dementia, are an incredibly dangerous aspect of life in the NFL. Great strides have been made, and much more care is now taken when players get knocked out.

But it would sure be nice if the NFL, while making billions of dollars, would at least admit that these retired players aren’t faking. And that for far too long the league counted the profits while players’ brains slowly withered away.

***Not feeling real confident about the Jets’ chances today at New Orleans. Course, I haven’t been confident about the Jets for the last three weeks,  and they’re 3-0. But Drew Brees is playing like Dan Marino, the Saints’ D is improved, and this game, to me, is a house-money game for the Jets. No one thought they’d be 3-0, so 3-1, with a wounded Miami team on the sked for next week, would be just fine by me.

But if the green and white someone win … well, then the NY media will really go nuts. They’ll be printing Jets-Giants Super Bowl tickets in Penn Station.

louis_brandeis

**Finally, someone explain this to me: So I’m reading last week’s NY Times Book Review on Saturday (I’m a week behind). I love the Book Review, absolutely love it.

And I’m reading about this new biography of ex-Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.  Truly a legendary man, one of the foremost legal minds of our time; all good. Then I see the book is 976 pages long.

And I’m thinking: Has the term “editor” been introduced to this guy? I mean, nobody needs a 976-page book on anyone. Who’s reading that? And more importantly, who’s buying it?

You’re telling me you couldn’t sum up the life of Louis Brandeis in a trim 500-600 pages? I’m not saying we all have to revert to the Jeff Goldblum People magazine theory spouted in the classic movie “The Big Chill” (“where I work, we have only one editorial rule: You can’t write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap”).

I’m just sayin, if I may get a hernia lifting your book, it may be too long.

Michael Vick has paid his debt. Let him play.

vick

My mother-in-law is pretty far from what you’d call a sports fan.

Wonderful woman that she is, she couldn’t tell you the difference between John Elway, Dan Marino or Wayne Gretzky if you put them in a police lineup.

She doesn’t watch sports, follow sports, or care about sports; one time while on a car trip I asked her over the phone to “check the score” of some game, and it was as if I’d asked her to explain quantum physics. She was completely flummoxed.

Anyway, I relate all this because about two or three times a year, she gets really angry about something that happens in the world of sports. I feel like if she’s fired up about it, plenty of other non-sports fans are, and Monday evening she was all kinds of fired up about the Michael Vick reinstatement to the NFL.

Before I go into why I think Roger Goodell did the right thing by conditionally allowing the felonious Vick back into the league in October, pending certain conditions, I want to stipulate the following, before I get tons of angry comments (actually, I’d be happy for ANY comments at this point, but that’s another story).

Michael Vick has been a disgusting excuse for a human being. His pathetic abuse of defenseless dogs, his blatant lying to everyone about his involvement, and the frightening and methodical way he ran a dogfighting ring puts him just below bat excrement on my list of favorite things.

He deserved to be punished severely, and he was. He absolutely, positively should live in shame for a long time in the public eye for what he did.

But I’m having a hard time agreeing with people, like my mother-in-law, who think he should never be allowed to play pro football again. They argue his deeds were so heinous that he should never be allowed the right to resume his profession.

I don’t get that. Let’s think about what has happened to Vick in the last two years: He lost his NFL career and his major contract with the Atlanta Falcons, costing himself more than a hundred million dollars.  He lost all of his endorsers. He was convicted of a felony. He spent nearly two years in prison, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the memory of what he did (and, I’m sure, he’ll have to live with the animal-loving masses who no doubt will stalk him wherever he ends up.)

Now that he has paid his debt, is he not entitled to go back to work? If he was a banker or a lawyer or a gravedigger, would he not be allowed to try to pick up the pieces of his life and resume his career?

This is America, where getting a second chance is practically written into the Constitution. Was Vick’s crime more disgusting than most? Sure. Is it worse than athletes who beat their wives or get charged with DUI manslaughter like Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little, NFL players who aren’t suffering 1/10th the penalty that Vick has gotten?

One other thing that people who are railing against the NFL seem to be forgetting is that no team has to sign him. There are no guns to anyone’ s head.

It would take a coach and general manager who are awfully secure in their jobs, and in their team’s popularity with its fan base, to risk the backlash of a Vick signing. I fully expect huge PETA and/or ASPCA protests at any NFL stadium Vick would play in this year, or any year. Who could gamble on him? I’d say New England, because Bill Belichick is pretty bulletproof up there, or maybe Pittsburgh, coming off a Super Bowl win. And then there’s the Detroit Lions, who are so pathetic that perhaps their fans wouldn’t care about Vick’s transgressions if he helped them win.

Look, I think Vick should absolutely be scrutinized and banned permanently from the NFL if he even does anything remotely outside of the law.

But how long do we as a society need to punish a person? I’m not saying forgive Michael Vick, because he doesn’t deserve that yet.

But by allowing him to attempt to pick up  the pieces of his shattered life, the NFL is simply giving Michael Vick a second chance.

A chance that all of us in this country deserve.