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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Salon: O’Hehir: Football’s death spiral

“Corroded by scandal and undermined by shocking new science, America’s killer sport may be nearing collapse” Not if “Dr. Death” Steve Williams has anything to say about thi…oh, wait.

If baseball is, or at least used to be, a languidly paced sport played on an asymmetrical greensward that recalls America’s agrarian past, football is an industrial product of the modern age. Confined to a precisely measured rectangle that mimics the electronic screen, football plays out in staccato bursts of violence, interrupted by commentary and meta-commentary, near-pornographic slow-motion replays and scantily clad young women selling you stuff.

...It’s admittedly difficult to imagine that possibility now. For at least 20 years, football has had unquestioned supremacy among America’s major spectator sports. If the process wasn’t quite complete by the time baseball committed near-suicide with the 1994 players’ strike and the ensuing “steroid era,” that pretty much settled matters. Beyond the obvious fact that football is more fun to watch from the sofa from the stadium, and brings people together on weekends when it’s too cold to spend time outdoors, various aspects of the game seemed to capture the ethos of 1990s and 2000s America on a symbolic level. At least at the pro level, football focuses on freakish excesses of size and speed (augmented by who knows what exotic chemical regimens), head-on collisions that rival a demolition derby, and overheated masculine melodrama surrounded by endless nattering. It’s like all the vulgarity, violence and excitement of American life served up in a colorful three-hour package on Sunday afternoon. With beer! No wonder people enjoy it so much.

...Just as the Church in America will never be the same after the sexual abuse scandals, America’s dominant sport will never reclaim the air of cartoonish, ‘roided-up unreality it had a few years ago, when no one in sports journalism knew how to spell “encephalopathy.” All the loudness and emptiness of the Super Bowl spectacle can’t conceal the aura of doubt around the future of the game, or the collective shock of our discovery that the endpoint of this gladiatorial combat is actual death. Football is a central ingredient in the American narrative of masculinity, and it’s also the zillion-dollar linchpin of network television. But in case you haven’t heard the news, both those institutions are in crisis. Is it hard to imagine America without football? Yeah, but it’s time to start. It’s a killing game, and we have to let it die.

Repoz Posted: February 03, 2013 at 10:54 AM | 212 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: football, really, sucks

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   201. phredbird Posted: February 05, 2013 at 04:53 PM (#4363330)
To some extent, MMA is less brutal than Queensberry boxing because it ends when it is painful, not when you're bludgeoned into unconsciousness. Not that I enjoy either


YR needs to weigh in here, but i think how brutal a queensberry match is depends on the equipment and some of the rule modifications. early to mid 20th century prizefighting featured 6-oz gloves and no standing 8 counts, you didn't have to retire to a neutral corner on a knockdown so an opponent could wait and clock the guy as soon as he stood up ... stuff like that. now, the gloves are like giant pillows, 3-knockdown rules, neutral corner, refs will stop a fight much more early than they used to. it depends on the era. not that boxing is a walk in the park, even now.

i would say on balance that MMA is more brutal just because they allow kicking. ymmv.
   202. phredbird Posted: February 05, 2013 at 04:58 PM (#4363337)
also, i think a lot of the brutality and injuries in football would be lessened if they went back to limited subsitutions. i know that sounds counter intuitive, but if guys had to play both sides of the ball, they would be lighter, thus the hits would not be so hard on the body.

its not a perfect solution, but it would help. well, maybe not.
   203. depletion Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:33 PM (#4363368)
Reduce passing. How many injurous hits occur on running plays? In passing you have two players, receiver and QB, whose attention is not on the defenders around them, therefore the expression "defenseless receiver". Besides running plays are just as much fun to watch.
Also, the league could limit the number of plays each player could be on the field in a season, and maybe in a career. If Junior Seau doesn't make his comeback with the Patriots, might he have escaped brain problems.
   204. SoSH U at work Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4363376)
Reduce passing. How many injurous hits occur on running plays? In passing you have two players, receiver and QB, whose attention is not on the defenders around them, therefore the expression "defenseless receiver".


I've advocated for a massive overhaul of the PI rules, basically allowing no limit to how far down the field defenders could chuck receivers. I think this would serve the dual purpose of making passing less advantageous vs. running the ball (a balance that needs to be restored), while also making passing plays safer in general (at least for the DBs/receivers) as it would (I believe) keep the two in closer proximity and thus reduce the higher-speed impacts.
   205. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4363391)
also, i think a lot of the brutality and injuries in football would be lessened if they went back to limited subsitutions. i know that sounds counter intuitive, but if guys had to play both sides of the ball, they would be lighter, thus the hits would not be so hard on the body.

its not a perfect solution, but it would help. well, maybe not.


Or, you could institute weight limits.

Football was just fine with 230-250 lb. linemen, no need for the 330 lb behemoths.
   206. zack Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:51 PM (#4363393)
I've advocated for a massive overhaul of the PI rules, basically allowing no limit to how far down the field defenders could chuck receivers. I think this would serve the dual purpose of making passing less advantageous vs. running the ball (a balance that needs to be restored), while also making passing plays safer in general (at least for the DBs/receivers) as it would (I believe) keep the two in closer proximity and thus reduce the higher-speed impacts.

Aren't most of the bad hits on receivers from safeties?
   207. Lassus Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:55 PM (#4363399)
Were #183 and #184 serious posts?

How could mine not be? I quoted Walt Whitman! Kinda.
   208. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 05, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4363406)
The evidence on sub-concussive brain trauma and CTE is perhaps the scariest, and those traumas happen to a great degree at the line of scrimmage. I think outlawing the 3-point stance, and forcing everyone to begin from a standing position would be one of the best quick changes to improve safety in football.
   209. cmd600 Posted: February 05, 2013 at 06:42 PM (#4363438)
How many injurous hits occur on running plays


Plenty. The linemen headbutting each other every play is no less damaging to the brain. And you can still get a guy lit up, see Vincent Smith and Jadeveon Clowney for an extreme example.
   210. Dale Sams Posted: February 05, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4363440)
Were #183 and #184 serious posts?


Reminds me of the Phineas and Ferb ep where all kids were locked away because all activity is dangerous.
   211. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 05, 2013 at 06:52 PM (#4363446)
There are a bunch of CTE cases from the "deadball" era of pro football, ca. 1970-77, when teams ran all the time (and when players were much lighter). Fred McNeill, ex-Viking LB, is possibly the most tragic -- lawyer, big firm, dementia before 60. Ray Easterling's another.

If the CTE/head trauma/football link is as strong as it appears to be, there really isn't much that can be done (*), other than PRing the problem away and/or promoting the kind of ersatz sympathy America engages in toward its soldiery after throwing it into unnecessary combat.

(*) Other than relatively radical measures such as cutting back to a 12-game schedule, or taxing the profits of NFL franchises at 95%, which would at least internalize the costs. You could take the profit and excess out of the game at both the pro and college levels, so at least people aren't making millions in blood money, but don't hold your breath.
   212. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 07:17 PM (#4363463)
The linemen headbutting each other every play is no less damaging to the brain.


Not to mention the RB lowering his head into someone else's head on every up-the-middle run.
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