NFL Concussions

Since I’ve been writing here for months about what the NFL knew about the potential for head injuries and CTE and when it knew it, I was pleased to see a review of the book, League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth, in today’s Washington Post. The review is by former NFL Tight end Nate Jackson, who in the first paragraph, explains to readers that he kept the last helmet that he wore in the final game of the season for every year that he played. He looked inside and saw a small, clear sticker behind and underneath the right earhole. In tiny print it reads, “Warning: No Helmet can prevent serious head or neck injuries a player might receive while participating in football….Contact in football may result in concussion-brain injury which no helmet can prevent. Thank God for lawyers trying to help companies avoid liability and law suits!\

Most intriguing is that Jackson’s review supports a good portion of what the book discusses. However, he makes a point that only a former player or a medical therapist might, that the physical pounding, CTE and disabilities that football players suffer is only one part of what a former gridiron star has to accept once his career is over. Jackson wants a significant amount of attention devoted to the loss of identity and sense of purpose that goes when a career comes to an end. He argues that suicide and depression are human problems. That the situation former players find themselves in is very human and about more than the physical effects of the brutal beatings that their bodies and minds take on the field. It’s a fascinating view and a significant argument that warrants attention. With all the money the NFL and the players make selling and playing football, some funding needs to go to education and post-football career development. Still, the reality of the problems that come from playing the game ought not to be diminished and Jackson’s review ends with a statement that encourages his brothers (former players) not to open Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s book.

America’s Team: Dallas Cowboys Star Has CTE

If you grew up in the 1970s, you knew a family member or friends who loved the Cowboys, with Roger Staubach as the quarterback and Tony Dorsett as the key running back. Both were Hall-of-Famers and legends in the NFL. Before that the running back played for the University of Pittsburgh and won the Heisman Trophy in 1976.

The latest report is that Dorsett has the problem that has plagued many veteran football players and some younger football players as well: chronic encephalopathy. Dorsettt figured in among the veteran players who sued the NFL and won the court settlement without the NFL admitting any responsibility to the players for injuries. (One of the principal terms of the settlement is that the agreement “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football.”)

As noted in a Sports Illustrated article, former NFL players union president Kevin Mawae that Thursday’s concussion litigation settlement was an even-handed resolution to the most contentious and significant issue facing the sport as the NFL’s 2013 regular season looms. Mawae, a retired 16-year NFL veteran and two-term NFLPA president, said only the ex-players in the most dire need of financial and medical assistance truly won a victory with Thursday’s announcement of a $765 million mediated settlement. “I think the league won big on this, because the players settled for a pittance,” Mawae told SI.com, on the phone from his home near Baton Rouge, La. “It’s a relative drop in the bucket. I’m not going to say the players caved, because it would do an injustice to the older men who really need the help now, but at some point in time, the collective body of players, retired and active, have got to be willing to go all the way to the wall with this issue. But the settlement is a setback for players in the long run, Mawae said, because it keeps the NFL from having to release information in court about what it knew in regards to the connection between brain injuries and football, and when it knew it. And that opportunity lost represents a discovery process that can’t have a dollar value placed upon it. “Because in the end, settling it for however much money is a whole lot better for the league than giving up everything they have as far as information and potentially harming the shield for good. There’s too much potential for information that could have done damage to the NFL, and it’s better to just pay it off with $765 million, plus court costs.”

According to the settlement, $675 million of the $765 million would be used to compensate former players and families of deceased players who have suffered cognitive injury, including the families of players who committed suicide after suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Other money will be used for baseline medical exams, the cost of which will be capped at $75 million. The NFL also will fund research and education at a cost of $10 million.

That $10 million is wisely spent. If the league can continue to spend the money for research into the issue then it can claim that the link between football and concussions has not been resolved. In order to continue this research effort, they convinced the family of star linebacker Junior Seau to send his brain for testing to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which the NFL gave $1 million  to become the brain research center. But wait, wasn’t there already a research center on brain concussions that the NFL sponsored? Why didn’t they receive Seau’s brain. There was, the Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The Center notes on its website: recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.  The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia. Might be a problem for the NFL. Better stop working with that group and direct football player’s brains to another location. So what will happen to Dorsett?

 

 

Icognito, Martin and the Miami Dolphins

I’ve been waiting to find the right moment to join in with comments about this insane story. It reflected a warped sense of what is masculinity to me.  Another situation where the loud, extrovert overwhelms that introverted intelligent man. Thgen I saw Jason Whitlock’s piece and decided to reprint it here.

 

Martin walked into twisted world

He confronted an unrelenting, prison yard mentality in the Miami locker room

Updated: November 7, 2013, 5:23 PM ET

By Jason Whitlock | ESPN.com

Incognito Considered ‘Honorary Black Man’
Jason Whitlock discusses the culture in the NFL and the news that Richie Incognito was considered an “honorary black man” in the Dolphins’ locker room.Tags: NFLDolphinsJason WhitlockRichie IncognitoJonathan Martin

Mass incarceration has turned segments of Black America so upside down that a tatted-up, N-word-tossing white goon is more respected and accepted than a soft-spoken, highly intelligent black Stanford graduate.

According to a story in the Miami Herald, black Dolphins players granted Richie Incognito“honorary” status as a black man while feeling little connection to Jonathan Martin.

 

The Herd with Colin Cowherd

ESPN’s Jason Whitlock weighs in on the racial angle of the Richie Incognito situation, Jonathan Martin’s departure from the Dolphins, Martin’s non-violent approach to the conflict and more.

More Podcasts »

 

Welcome to Incarceration Nation, where the mindset of the Miami Dolphins‘ locker room mirrors the mentality of a maximum-security prison yard and where a wide swath of America believes the nonviolent intellectual needs to adopt the tactics of the barbarian.

I don’t blame Jonathan Martin for walking away from the Dolphins and checking himself into a hospital seeking treatment for emotional distress. The cesspool of insanity that apparently is the Miami locker room would test the mental stability of any sane man. Martin, the offspring of Harvard grads, a 24-year-old trained at some of America’s finest academic institutions, is a first-time offender callously thrown into an Attica prison cell with Incognito and Aaron Hernandez‘s BFF Mike Pouncey. Dolphins warden Jeff Ireland and deputy warden Joe Philbin put zero sophisticated thought into what they were doing when they drafted Martin in the second round in 2012.

You don’t put Jonathan Martin in a cell with Incognito and Pouncey. You draft someone else, and let another team take Martin. The Dolphins don’t have the kind of environment to support someone with Martin’s background. It takes intelligence and common sense to connect with and manage Martin. Those attributes appear to be in short supply in Miami.

“Richie is honorary,” a black former Dolphins player told Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”

I’m black. And I totally understand the genesis of this particular brand of stupidity and self-hatred. Mass Incarceration, its bastard child, Hurricane Illegitimacy, and their marketing firm, commercial hip-hop music, have created a culture that perpetrates the idea that authentic blackness is criminal, savage, uneducated and irresponsible. The tenets of white supremacy and bigotry have been injected into popular youth culture. The blackest things a black man can do are loudly spew the N-word publicly and react violently to the slightest sign of disrespect or disagreement.

 

More from ESPN.com

Is Richie Incognito the problem? Or a scapegoat? NFL Nation polled teams to find out whether players or coaches are more responsible for policing locker rooms. Story
• SportsNation: Give us your take
• First Take: Skip, Stephen A react Video

It’s time for Jonathan Martin to leave Miami. The Dolphins’ locker room has spoken — and it sided with Richie Incognito, writes James Walker. Story

More:
• NFL Nation: Players’ reactions
• Grantland: War on warrior culture
• espnW: What is a real man in sports?
• Isaacson: How does it end?

 

Yeah, Richie Incognito is an honorary black. And Jonathan Martin is a sellout.

“I don’t have a problem with Richie,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace was quoted in Salguero’s story. “I love Richie.”

Yeah, the Dolphins are circling the wagons around Incognito. I get Ryan Tannehill‘s defense of his Pro Bowl left guard. He needs him. He doesn’t believe the Dolphins can protect him or win games without Incognito. There’s a popular belief you can’t consistently win football games without a few “thugs” like Incognito in your locker room. Makes you wonder how Stanford competes with USC, Oregon, UCLA, etc., every year. You wonder how Nebraska and Oregon survived after booting Incognito. You wonder why three NFL teams let him go. Maybe he’s not as essential as the myth-makers would have you believe.

But what makes me want to check into a mental hospital is Miami’s black players’ unconditional love of Incognito and indifference to Martin.

It points to our fundamental lack of knowledge of our own history in this country. We think the fake tough guy, the ex-con turned rhetoric spewer was more courageous than the educated pacifist who won our liberation standing in the streets, absorbing repeated ass-whippings, jail and a white assassin’s bullet. We fell for the okeydoke.

We think Malcolm X was blacker than Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve read X’s autobiography a half-dozen times. I own Spike Lee’s movie about X and watch it a couple of times a year. I love Malcolm X. But I’m not an idiot. MLK liberated me. MLK blazed the proper path to respect, progress and achievement. Barack Obama stands on MLK’s shoulders. And so does Jonathan Martin.

Richie Incognito is an “honorary” bigot, standing on the shoulders of Gov. George Wallace. The fact that a group of young black men in the Dolphins’ locker room can’t see that speaks to the level of ignorance unleashed by Mass Incarceration, Hurricane Illegitimacy and commercial hip-hop.

Too many young people have grown up. There’s a difference between growing up and being raised. When you grow up, you’re left to figure things out on your own. That’s why we have a generation of young people who can’t recognize the self-hatred and damage of describing yourself as the N-word. They don’t know what they haven’t been taught. Video games, iPads and headphones can’t raise a child. But those technological advances can entertain and empower popular culture to corrupt.

 

[+] EnlargeIncognito/Martin

AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeRichie Incognito, left, has been suspended as the NFL investigates if he sent Jonathan Martin, right, harassing texts and voice-mail messages.

 

I don’t know Jonathan Martin. He’s biracial. He was apparently smart enough to qualify for entry into Harvard. He’s huge and athletic. He strikes me as someone ripe to struggle with his identity.

The Dolphins tagged him the “Big Weirdo.” The Dolphins held up Richie Incognito as the ultimate role model for offensive linemen. Incognito was a Pro Bowler. He was a member of the six-man leadership council. It makes perfect sense for a kid like Martin to befriend Incognito and try to fit in. I’m sure they were best friends, for a time. I’m sure Incognito offered Martin physical protection on the football field. It’s standard operating procedure for a prison-yard bully to cultivate a relationship that is equal parts fear, love and disrespect. It’s how you turn a guy out and make him grab your belt loop.

Martin was confused. He probably thought the bullying and hazing would pass after his rookie season. He wanted to fit in and make it in the NFL. The paycheck is incredible. He tried to laugh off the abuse and disrespect. He participated in it. He coughed up $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas he didn’t want to take.

Finally he snapped. He wasn’t raised to be a full-blown idiot. He was raised to think and solve problems with his mind. He was savvy enough to figure out a physical confrontation with Incognito was a no-win situation. It wouldn’t curb Incognito’s behavior or change the culture inside the Miami locker room. It would confirm it. In order to win the fight, Martin would have to physically harm Incognito. It would not be a one-punch or two-punch fight.

Martin walked. If the entry fee to being an NFL offensive lineman is adopting the mindset of Incognito and Pouncey, Martin wisely chose not to pay it. He has a developed brain and a supportive family unit. He’s not desperate. He has options. People with limited options and no family support may not understand or respect his decision. That’s on them and illustrates the vast impact of Mass Incarceration and Hurricane Illegitimacy.

It’s now time for Roger Goodell to render a verdict on wardens Ireland and Philbin and Cell Block D leader Incognito. The world is so upside down that I half expect Goodell to suspend Martin for conduct detrimental to American idiocy.

Celebrity Watching

Went to the opening night of Betrayal:

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz have caused a stampede to the box office by theatregoers keen to keen to see the husband and wife acting powerhouse in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal.

The show opened on Sunday, in front of a star-studded audience including director Steven Spielberg, musician Bruce Springsteen and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre who were among the lucky ticketholders.

Others I saw included actor Ian McKellen and his husband. Playwright Tony Kushner and his husband, actress Ellen Barkin, actress Patricia Clarkson, actress Candice Bergen, newsperson Chris Matthews, and of course since Mike Nichols was the director, newsperson Diane Sawyer.

But others desperate to see the show have seen theatre lovers pay $2,500 on the black market to see the new adaptation, directed by ten-time Tony Award winner Mike Nichols.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2478075/Daniel-Craig-Rachel-Weisz-star-Broadway-Betrayal-Steven-Spielberg–tickets-sell-figure-sums-black-market.html#ixzz2j7UHUaSp

Celtic, Laker Great Dies

Sadly, one of the NBA’s top scorers and a great coach, Bill Sharman, died yesterday. The shooting guard for the champion Boston Celtics during the 1950s, After leaving the Celtics, Sharman went on to coach pro basketball in the American Basketball League started by Harlem Globetrotters leader, Abe Saperstein. Sharman won a championship in that league before moving on to the ABA. Finally, he became coach of the Celtics old nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers. The LA Lakers had never won an NBA championship until Sharman guided them to a win over the New York Knicks in 1971-72.

Bill Sharman

 

 

I discuss him in the book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball, because he started his career playing in Washington, DC for the Washington Capitols during 1950-51. If the team had been able to draw crowds to Uline Arena, Sharman might have made his pro career here in Washington.

The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC, Basketball flyer_rev

While the winning is a sign of a champion, the best story I’ve heard about Sharman appears in Earl Lloyd’s biography. Lloyd would be the first African-American player to play in the NBA for the Washington Capitols in 1950. Sharman befriended him and helped him during his time in Washington.

Adoption at Little Goblins

The Humane Society took over a small area near a large patch of pumpkins for an annual children’s costume walk in DC. The path for this Halloween event takes children and their parents down P Street to Logan Circle.

We had three dogs, a beagle mix, a poodle mix and a dachshund. They dressed in costume and greeted the kids.

Canine Captain America

 

 

Bones Dog

 

 

100_1878

District Development

A new proposal for the development of a historic treasure of the city is receiving a lot of attention recently. Uline Arena, built in 1941, has long been in poor condition, you can still see the bleachers in areas along with the broken glass and old press box and concession stand.

Uline was one of the first places in DC to become desegregated along a long fight by national and local community groups in 1948. It hosted some great boxing and wrestling matches and was the home of Washington’s first NBA team during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It hosted the city’s only American Basketball Association team during 1969-1970.

A new article on the development appears below:

Uline Arena, get ready for your next phase

RACHEL KAUFMAN | TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013
1964: The Beatles play the arena just two days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This ticket sold by Heritage Auctions in 2011 for $1500

1964: The Beatles play the arena just two days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This ticket sold by Heritage Auctions in 2011 for $1500

2008

COURTESY JOSH HOWELL
Uline Arena is making a comeback.Douglas Development, known in the Washington region for buying and holding onto properties for years, a few months ago began selective demolition at the site in preparation to turn the fabled arena, now a parking lot, into a 200,000-square-foot mixed-use property.

And fabled it was. It was built by ice supplier Miguel Uline to capitalize on the popularity of skating rinks in the 1940s, says historian Brett Abrams, author of “Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, DC.” But it also hosted the Beatles’ first U.S. concert ever, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, served as home court for the Washington Capitols, led by legendary coach Red Auerbach (and the team that drafted Earl Lloyd, the first African-American basketball player).

Pro boxers fought in the arena, some of the only events African-Americans were allowed to attend in the early years of the stadium. “Uline said, ‘Why should I be the pioneer? I’m a businessman,’” Abrams says. Eventually, after intense protests from the African-American community, the arena was integrated.

In the 70s, the arena hosted roller derby. In the ’80s, go-go bands rocked the house.

In the ’90s, it became a trash transfer station. Now, it’s a parking lot—ironic, Abrams says, because a 1970′s basketball team failed when it couldn’t attract crowds, partially due to a lack of parking.

That was the end of the arena’s legacy. But for a while, “It was Washington’s location,” Abrams says. “It allowed Washington entry into professional sports.”

In 2011, the coliseum became the venue for a theatre production called Swampoodle!, by contemporary Irish arts companies Solas Nua (based here) and The Performance Corporation (based outside Dublin). The play’s short run arguably did more to catapult the Uline Arena back into modern D.C.’s consciousness than much else.

It also exposed Washingtonians to a building many didn’t even realize was still standing. Swampoodle! actor Jason McCool perhaps said it best  on the play’s blog: “I believe the first three words I spoke in the place, even after having spent a week studying it, were ‘No. Effing. Way.’ (Seriously, folks, you have never been in a building like this. It’s like being in the Titanic without the danger of drowning.)”

Union Station, less than a mile away, reopened in 1988, and the NoMa metro station opened in 2004. The rapid development in the area has brought thousands of new residents and a stunning appreciation in property values for those lucky enough to have owned buildings.

Douglas Development has owned Uline since 2003, when city records show the company paid $6,000,000 for it. Representatives from the company did not return repeated requests to comment by press time, but according to the developer’s website, current plans call for the building to be renamed “The Coliseum” and include over 50,000 square feet of retail and 150,000 square feet of office space. There will be a 175-car parking garage. And the building will keep its iconic shape.

For historian Abrams, that’s enough. “I like the proposal,” he says. “It keeps some of the–if not literally the same material, it keeps some of the resonance of it.”

Below: see our photo gallery of Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum’s past, present, and future.
1941: Architect’s sketch of Uline Arena

1948: Picket signs protesting the segregation at Uline
1964: The Beatles play the arena just two days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This ticket sold by Heritage Auctions in 2011 for $1500
20082011: Solas Nua and The Performance Corporation put on Swampoodle! in the arenaPresent day: seen better daysFuture: The Coliseum will become offices and retail
Future: The Coliseum references the famed Beatles concert
Do you remember Uline in its glory days? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credits, in order: DCPL, Washingtoniana Division; Henderson Family Collection;Heritage Auctions; Josh Howell;Solas Nua; Jennifer Reid; Jennifer Reid; Douglas Development/Antunovich Associates; Douglas Development/Antunovich Associates.

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is a tech, business and science journalist passionate about her adopted hometown of Washington, D.C. She lives in Brookland.

 

National Football League Violence

Like several people I know, I taped the documentary on the NFL and its concussion issue that aired on PBS’s superior program Frontline. This excellent journalism made one think about the violence inherent in the sport, the issue of parenting and allowing your child to play a game that could not only harm his development but play a role in an early death. It also made me think about boxing and how many fighters knew what the sport was doing to their body and mind but they were poor and saw no better way out of their poverty.

One interesting take came from a long-time sportswriter:

For too long, sports journalists glossed over football’s violence. I was one of them.

John McDonnell/The Washington Post – Washington’s quarterback Robert Griffin III on the ground after getting a concussion in the 3rd quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field in October 2012.

By

Leonard Shapiro is a retired sportswriter, editor and columnist at The Washington Post.

Early in the 1977 NFL season, after Washington Redskins running back Bob Brunet suffered a serious neck contusion when the knee of Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Randy White hit him in the helmet, I visited him at Georgetown University Hospital.

Brunet, who grew up poor in Louisiana’s Cajun country, was playing at a time when the average NFL salary was about $55,000 a year. I asked him that evening if the hit, which could have left him permanently paralyzed — it did end his career — had in any way made him rethink his decision to play professional football.

Absolutely not, he said.“You’re damned right I’d do it all over again,” he told me at the time. “I was a poor kid from the backwoods of Louisiana, and now I’ve given my wife and kids security for the rest of their lives. I know I’m going to have problems from football. But I accept that. I have no regrets. None whatsoever.”The game had allowed him to graduate from Louisiana Tech, earn a good living and escape the destitution of his native Lafourche Parish. After football, he moved to Baton Rouge, opened a successful seafood restaurant — the Galley — and raised his family. Most former players I’ve spoken to over the years view their playing days in the same way.I covered the NFL over four decades dating back to 1972. Now semi-retired myself and five years removed from day-to-day football coverage, I have one main regret: not focusing more of my reporting and writing on the absolute brutality of the sport, particularly the painful post-football lives of so many players.

Instead, like many other sports journalists, I spent much of my career writing positive pieces about the league and its players — puffy features and breathless accounts of thrilling victories and agonizing defeats. I certainly covered my share of serious NFL warts: mounting injuries; the use of steroids and amphetamines; team doctors prescribing far too many painkilling pills and injections; the derogatory Redskins name; and, for many years, the dearth of African American quarterbacks, head coaches and ­front-office personnel. But until the past decade or so, most of us glossed over the brutality of the sport. Shame on us.

Some believe that a CBS documentary, “The Violent World of Sam Huff,” first aired in 1960, may have sparked the popularity of professional football. Huff was a celebrated New York Giants linebacker halfway through a Hall of Fame career at the time, and the documentary gave viewers an up-close look at the sound and fury of the pro game, using mini-microphones to pick up trash talk and the high-decibel thump of body against body, helmet against helmet.

Half a century later, a highlight-driven sports culture, fueled by ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and YouTube clips, has increased the emphasis on Big Hits — the wicked shots heard ’round the football world.

“I think that may have been true six to eight years ago,” ESPN coordinating producer Dwayne Bray said of this culture during a public forum in August on violence in the game. “I think we’ve been very restrained on the issue. If there are hard hits, we report the news. . . . I think even as the NFL and the parents are being educated, ESPN and other media entities are being educated.”

Surely sports television plays up the contact of the game. Certainly, the stations and the league are aware of the money that is tied to keeping the game entertaining and exciting to the most people that they can.

Adoption Event

 First dog I walked around the Washington Animal Rescue League adoption event today now has a wonderful owner. The second dog is this beautiful unique two year old Australian Shepard-Dutch Sheepdog mix.
This second dog that I spent most of my time with is a two-year-old Australian Shepard, Dutch Sheepdog mix named Dutchess of Cambridge is still available.
The Dutchess

What an amazing, alert, intelligent dog. We went running and she has such an amazing stride when we ran to get some exercise.

ESPN Forgets

Repost from Mike F.

 

ESPN’s feature of NBA players at Great Wall of China forgot Washington Bullets’ trip in 1979

October 17, 2013

I had to mention that ESPN’s piece on NBA players visiting the Great Wall of China failed to mention that the Washington Bullets were the first team to do so back in 1979, which was very significant at the time. If any other NBA team had been there, ESPN would have mentioned it. It’s a shame that they have forgotten the Washington Bullets.

Never been busier in my life but I felt I had to post this.

This was the Bullets second trip to a foreign country to play basketball. One year earlier, after winning the NBA Championship, the Bullets traveled to Israel. These trips appear in the book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball.

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