“Football combines two of the worst things in American life.
It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
― George F Will
Brains are a mystery. Mysteries within mysteries. It reveals its secrets slowly and after great effort. But there are natural experiments that allow us to comparatively easily peel back one or two layers of this exceptionally exquisite enigma.
One natural experiment is the cumulative effect of extreme brain trauma on its health and performance. These trauma events can come from a variety of causes. Some are accidental; some are on purpose. For me it was mostly from surviving two very violent car crashes.
Although the first crash was arguably more violent (see Driving Alive), it was the second that “did me in.” That one was just over three years ago.
Here is an update. I still get brain “phenomena.” It is very confusing to suddenly get zaps and swirls and illogically migrating headaches. They come and go without warning; some appear sharply and cruelly. Some fade in and fade out. I rather prefer the “faders”, but I have no control.
Sometimes I just don’t feel human. At those times I don’t want to be around people (not the usual extrovert Joe), and I don’t want to be around Joe, myself. I smile when I should look contemplative, and scowl when I am happy or content.
Sometimes I wonder why I’m even alive. I know that’s not logical; but that’s just how it works.
I cannot possibly imagine the consequences of additional brain shakes.
Well, actually I can. We are seeing the consequences in Football. The effects on middle-aged (or younger) men who have withstood multiple brain shakes is staggering.
Love or hate George Will, but he writes thoughtfully and (usually) readably about a wide array of topics. Last weekend he wrote a column about football and its long term effect on players’ brains. It’s not pretty. Granted, Will has obviously and openly favored baseball over football for quite a while (see quote).
Still, he speaks truth.
From 1900 to 1905 some five dozen young men died — mostly on the field and 19 in 1905 alone — while playing football.  A national outcry induced none other than President Theodore Roosevelt to call the governing bodies and prominent leaders of the sport together to, literally, save the game.
The result was some of the changes that make it a more exciting game today.
Today, September 5, 2017, we celebrate the 111th anniversary of the first forward pass. Accomplished by St Louis University, when playing Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Back in the day when scores were often in the single digits, St Louis played a much more wide-open style, and ran up an 11-0 record that year, cumulatively outscoring their opponents 407–11. [This at a time when touchdowns only tallied 5 points].
Another major rules change: 10 yards were required to make a first down. Previously it had been 5.
The game changed; the uproar faded a bit — although some fatalities continued, albeit at a lower rate. Yes, they added pads and helmets. But arguably the most important changes, cited above, opened the game to make it much more exciting.
Football MUST adjust to the revelations that repeated head knocks literally ruins brains — and lives. We cannot have men checking out on their families, friends and their own lives at middle age, or younger. Followers of Colorado University football should also hearken to the warning of the early demise of one of their greatest players, and Heisman Trophy winner, Rashaan Salaam.
History shows that intelligent changes can make the game both safer AND more exciting.
Wishing you spiritual and mental peace,
Joe Girard © 2017
 death count 1900-5: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/May-2012/A-Brief-History-of-Football-Head-Injuries-and-a-Look-Towards-the-Future/