Tag Archives: Football

Brains

“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).

Good Brain Bad Brain — This combination of photos provided by Boston University shows sections from a normal brain, top, and from the brain of former University of Texas football player Greg Ploetz, bottom, in stage IV of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (Ann Mckee, Md/ASSOCIATED PRESS) <Credit given; please don’t sue me>

 

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.  [1] 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

 

Footnote

[1] 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/

Modest Proposals for American Football and Elections

Somethings need to change.  And I’m not shy about making some suggestions from an “originalist” point of view.

American football and American elections are dying. Let’s make some changes.

Football first.  The games are too darned long. And unnecessarily violent.

Does anyone remember why there is a two-minute warning?  Well I’m old enough to remember that the remaining time shown on the stadium clock was unofficial.  It was just the best guess of a skilled guy up in the booth.  Imagine the home team driving for a winning score with 30 seconds left.  They could try for a field goal, or try to get a little closer and score a touchdown.  And then — shockingly and suddenly — the head referee blows his whistle and announces the game is over. They never got a chance to do either one.  The game — just — ended. Because the time on the stadium clock was unofficial.

The two-minute warning was just that: a warning.  The stadium clock might show 1:32, or 2:32, left in the game.  But no worries, the head referee would stop the game, walk over to each head coach, and announce that there was precisely two minutes remaining. Plan accordingly. Then the game would resume.

Now, decades later, the two minute warning is just a chance to sell more commercial time.  It’s a waste of fans’ time. And a free time out for the team that should probably lose anyhow.

More wastes of time.  TV timeouts.  Team A scores a touchdown.  What happens? TV timeout. Then there is a kickoff.  What happens after the kickoff (which is usually a boring touchback) … another TV timeout.  That’s about 5 minutes of wasted time for a score.

Plus, most punts are followed by several minutes of TV timeouts.  Yes, TV and commercials pay those insanely stupidly high salaries.  I guess that’s why there’s Tivo; to tolerate those 4 hour games.

If you’ve ever been at a football game, you’ll notice all these awkward moments when the teams are just standing around for several minutes.  What’s up? They are waiting for the TV commercials to end. That’s one of the main reasons real Football fans (read: soccer) just don’t “get” American Football.  All that standing around time; all those commercials.

I have more ideas, but will stop with this.  Who really cares if the receiver gets two feet in-bounds? That concern leads to more replay reviews, which can take several minutes a piece.  Go with one foot, like college.  It leads to more scoring, more offense and a faster clock.  That’s what fans want anyhow.

Here’s another one, but not so much about wasted time.  When a player commits a personal foul he should get red-carded, like in soccer.  Then his team must play with only 10 players (or less if more players commit such an egregious foul). Ok, maybe it’s like hockey and it’s only for two or five minutes.

Dead ball personal fouls completely mess me up.  Apologies to non-football people, but consider the following situations.  Team A punts to Team B, who returns the ball a few yards after a tackle. It’s first and 10.  After the play is over, a player from Team B commits a flagrant personal foul for a 15-yard penalty.  Why is it not then first and 25 when the offense comes on?  Nope, first and 10.

Also I’ve seen where team B’s offense converts a first down, and then there’s a dead ball personal foul.  The ball is moved back 15 yards, but it’s first and 10.  Why?  Penalize the malicious penalty. The current process is going way too easy on violence.

Politics and elections have gotten way too divisive.  Yet, the electorate has told us something. Mrs Clinton received 48% of the popular vote; Mr Trump 46%.  We are divided.

Yet Mr Trump won 58% of the electoral votes.

The problem is not the Electoral College system, per se, but the way most states choose to allot their Electoral College votes: winner take all.  Even if the winner gets less than 50%!  For example, in my home state of Colorado, Mrs Clinton took 48% of the popular vote, Mr Trump only about 43%. And yet Mrs Clinton was awarded ALL 9 Electoral Votes (although at least one “faithless” EC voter from Colorado tried to cast votes for someone other than Clinton; and were thrown out by the Colorado Secretary of State).

As Electoral College voters are not permitted to vote their conscience in most states, and the division of votes in most states clearly does NOT reflect the balanced concern of the voters, I make the following suggestion.

Simply: award each states’ Electoral College votes according to how that state votes on a pro rated percentage basis. Assigning only whole numbers of votes, and using the Girard-system, this past US presidential election would have ended up: Mrs Clinton, 261 votes.  Mr Trump 261 votes.  The remainder would have gone to Gary Johnson (14), Jill Stein (1) and Even McMullin (1).

For example: Instead of ALL California’s 55 votes going to Clinton, Trump would’ve gotten 18; Gary Johnson 2; and Jill Stein 1. Further, amazingly, in Wyoming Clinton would’ve gotten 1 vote, and another 3 in Alabama and 7 in Georgia.

In such a situation where no candidate receives a clear majority (270 required out of 538 total) the House of Representatives must decide among the top 3.  Almost certainly they would have eventually chosen Trump. But he would’ve had to negotiate with the likes of Paul Ryan, and he certainly would have been much less of a braggart about his “electoral landslide.” (In the final actual tally, Trump had 304, and Mrs Clinton 227.  There were 7 “faithless electors”; 2 fled Trump, and 5 left Clinton).

Speaking of the House of Representatives, I have one final modest proposal for these bi-annual elections as well.  We all know that many Congressional Districts are highly gerrymandered by political parties to give themselves as many seats in congress as possible. And we know that many Representatives have been in their seats for decades.

Here is my proposal. It has two parts.  First, award a state’s seats proportionally.  Suppose a state gets 10 Congressional Seats. Each party submits the name of 10 candidates.  There are no districts. There is no gerrymandering — at least for CD (Congressional District) seats. Award the seats just like for the presidential electors.

And here is the kicker.  Pick the “winning” names randomly from the original slate.

For example: In Colorado the seats would have been awarded 3 Democrat, 4 Republican and 0 Independent  (the same as the final turned out). Now the excitement starts: Have a lottery show!!  Pick the names from ping pong balls.  No more safe seats.  Even if your party wins 6 out of 7 seats, there is no guarantee that your #1 candidate gets picked. Eventually a de facto term limit kicks in.

Have fun with that.  And it’s all constitutional!!

The two-party system, with entrenched and loud-mouthed politicians, will certainly kill us.  I could at least have football as a distraction as we swirl down the toilet bowl, but they need to fix that too!

cheers

Joe Girard (c) 2017