Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CTE continued

Two quickie links:
  • A harrowing interview with former Browns running back Leroy Hoard exploring his post-football struggles with memory loss, depression and severe headaches--- “My legs are both numb. I can’t feel my toes. I can’t feel this arm, and I’m getting a headache from these damn lights. Other than that, I feel great."
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, from the Atlantic, has a great timeline detailing the NFL's culpability in downplaying the long term effects of repeated head trauma sustained over time
I also need to address the argument that "these men know exactly what they are getting into, they are grown men, mature adults, they are well compensated for assuming a certain element of known risk, etc etc".

The data on CTE has been trickling in just over the past 3-4 years.  Established NFL veterans are already locked in.  They have non-guaranteed contracts.  It's not so easy to just walk away, especially if you are not experiencing any overt signs or symptoms (many of which won't develop for years).  The game is a long term time bomb that infiltrates the lives of men who play it over time.  This is undeniable.  I understand that the NFL won't suddenly go the way of prizefighing (marginalized as a brutal, high risk form of condoned violence, where the risks are clear both to spectators and the combatants, that loses broad cultural appeal due to this violence/brutality).  The game will either die/change via two mechanisms.

One, is to starve it from below.  Lawsuits and the threat of litgation will make youth leagues and even high school football prohibitively expensive.  Kids will be redirected into other forms of competition (lacrosse, soccer, flag football, whatever) and the supply chain that feeds college programs and the NFL will subsequently dry up.

Two, is to alter the mindset of the viewing fan.  The casual boxing fan will occasionally plunk down the cash for a pay per view marquee matchup but, in general, nobody is tuning in to watch weekly prizefights, either on TV or live, to the extent they did from 1930-1980.  I suppose you could make (weakly) an argument that this is due to marketing failures or what have you.  But I am inclined to think that perhaps the fact that dudes have actually DIED IN THE RING contributes more to its decline in widespread popularity.  It doesn't help that Muhammad Ali, the greatest American athlete of the 20th century, is still shuffling around, barely verbal, a monstrous shell of his former self, trotted out as an immobile prop at important sporting events. 

The more we highlight the dangers of repeated head trauma and its the long term cognitive and psychiatric disabilities, the more this "Boxing Perception" will take hold in the general population, as applied to football.  The nausea and moral conflict that I and others get when watching two men pummel each other in a ring, for entertainment, will creep into the consciousness of those who watch football as well.  It is a matter of time. 

The more we watch, the temptation will always remain for a young athletic male to put short term glory and wealth over long term health and mental well being.  Undoubtedly there will always be a market for brutality.  But the time for football to be shunted off into the embarrassing marginalia is past due....      


Brian said...

Jeff, I agree - i have a hard time even watching football anymore, especially when the biggest cheers come from the biggest hits.

Anonymous said...

Dr P, I also feel that "getting into a square" to beat the crap out of each other is just plain stupid. Football faniatics will always have their counter views and that is OK, but they will not have to live the future life of an retired player whom took his chances to play the "All American Sport". Cheap head shots and the fines the players pay are the NFL's way of putting a bandaid on a gun shot wound. Not even close to covering lives and the future of all the players and their families.

Vince D said...

Jon Stewart did a nice interview with Bob Costas touching on this topic just the other night.

It means a lot to see someone whose career revolves around sports speaking out.