Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Book Compares NFL Players to Strippers

Yesterday in the newspaper opinion section, Rick Maese, a sports writer for The Washington Post, provided an analysis of two books on experiences in the National Football League (NFL).  The two books are: “Collision Low Crossers,” Nicholas Dawidoff and former tight end Nate Jackson, who looks back on his six-year career in “Slow Getting Up.”  I’ll let you read the reviews to get the gist of his review.

Most interesting to me is that despite 500 pages, Dawidoff provides little insight into the sport’s locker room and its culture. Yet, we learn something we know already, that room is Y-chromosome world with few social boundaries, where teasing is a principle of communication. This kind of humor and teasing comes across in Jackson’s book. It’s a place where one ponders the on-demand adult movies available in hotels and daydream about Playboy models. The reviewer bemoans the lack of substantive discussion Jackson offers regarding the bullying or the use of stimulants and other illegal drugs to maintain one’s career. Maese does mention that Jackson likens being a football player to being a stripper:

“Both strippers and professional athletes live on the fringes of a society that judges them for their profession, based solely on stereotypes. These stereotypes are nearly impenetrable. Both stripper and athlete stand alone behind them, and often find solace with those who know what it’s like to be there.”

Maese found the comparison intriguing and wished the book had more of this kind of thought and insight. I agree that this is intriguing but don’t necessarily accept the comparison. First, I question whether being in a life of the NFL is on the fringes of society. Really, when most men in the game have homes with nuclear families to return to during the season and afterwards as well. Can the same be said of the majority of strippers? I used to live with two women who danced and they were always hoping to find some man who would take them away from the business. Would any NFL player feel that way?

While a stereotype might be guiding the way people view both professions, is the stereotype of the NFL player, such as the dumb jock, that much different than the stereotype of a basketball player, or  a baseball player. Isn’t there a lot of camaraderie that exists among athletes from different sports. They have their pro-am golf events among other places to play and exult with one another.  Does the stripper have a similar situation? I think she and the hes that perform, stand more alone and isolated.

I do agree that the “real person” behind the player or stripper many not be seen. I also see a comparison that Jackson does not mention, that each has a short-term career, that their careers are based upon physical fitness and performance of physical tasks that become harder as one ages. Both are pieces of meat, and are in such specialized professions that it cam be hard to adjust to a different work experience.

Indeed, as one ages, it is quite likely that the owners of the team or the clubs and bars, may find it easy to replace the player or the stripper. It’s then that I see the most potent similarity to their situations. Both will lose the bonding in their single-sex world; in the locker rooms, or back stage. They feel cast off and lose the strong sense of inclusion in a team/group and the identity that goes with their profession: football player and stripper. That loss is what Jackson identifies and observes is a powerful feeling to lose that disturbs many retired players.

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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.