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.”
“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.
**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.