PBS – “League of Denial”
Brett Favre said this week that he is suffering memory loss. He was sacked in the NFL a record 525 times. Brett Favre has now become the most high-profile football player to put the spotlight on head injuries in the NFL.
I love football. I have played it, coached it, and now broadcast it. I venture to guess that I have sat in the booth to broadcast over 1,000 football games. I still love the big play, the good block, the perfect pass and catch, and the big hit. I must admit, however, that I was shocked watching League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis on PBS Frontline several weeks ago. The hits that are shown are eye-popping. The medical descriptions and the traumatic effects are devastating. And the reaction by the NFL to the players of the past who have suffered both physically and mentally from these collisions is close to being “criminal”.
The documentary focuses on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from head injuries in NFL players. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has been diagnosed in former players, who have developed dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which research suggests is the result of constant hits to the head. Research is now being conducted on current, active players.
A great deal of criticism is levied at the NFL in this documentary for their denial of the issue and even covering up and controlling the research. The suicide death of Owen Thomas, graduate of Parkland High School and University of Pennsylvania student, is discussed in depth as a warning of the dangers of the game even for younger players. He was only 21 years old.
Former and active NFL players have weighed in on the program:
Here is a small sampling:
• Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints:
“I think certainly there were mistakes made in the past in regards to what people knew or how it was handled. But as we think about moving forward here, and especially when we talk about youth sports, there are protocols that need to be in place and that need to be followed to a T because obviously it’s very serious stuff.”
• Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers:
“I will not be watching. I know the risks that I take when I step on the field. I’m risking future health, future physical health and future mental health. I understand that.”
• Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, 1989-2000:
“I do not have a son. If I had a son, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage him from playing football, but I don’t know that I would encourage him to play either. I don’t know what the data show, but I haven’t sensed there’s been a reduction in head injuries. With that in mind, that’s concerning. As long as we’re having contact and as long as there are collisions, there’s going to be head injuries.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he does not plan to watch the program and that the NFL just settled a $765 million lawsuit over this issue with past players. Part of the settlement, however, kept some information from getting out to the public.
There is no question that the documentary will make any fan think about their allegiance to the game. It will certainly make a parent think twice about encouraging their son(s) to play. Take a look at the program and come to your own conclusions.
ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. In case you missed it, Lafayette freshman quarterback Drew Reed started his first collegiate game ever on Saturday at Holy Cross. He completed 21 of 22 passes (the last 20 in a row) for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns. He became the first freshman to win the Patriot League Offensive Player of the week award and the first to win both the Offensive Player and Rookie of the week awards concurrently. He also won the College Football Performance Award FCS National Player of the Week. His passing efficiency rating was 278.5, the second-highest single-game mark recorded this year. In his two appearances this year, he has more touchdowns (7) than incompletions (6).
2. No touchdowns by the offense again this week for the Eagles. There does not seem to be any fix for this mess either. Oakland up next in Oakland. Ugly!!
By the way, I saw the Eagles offense at its most bizarre when we traveled to Princeton to do the Lafayette game. The Tigers run Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense with no huddle, hurry-up, multiple formations, and wild personnel. On the first play of the game there was a center and one lineman on each side of him. The others were over five yards away AND there were THREE quarterbacks in the game! They do a great job of communicating the plays to the players. Only players who get admitted to Princeton would comprehend this offense. Princeton beat previously undefeated Harvard this past weekend 51-48 in triple overtime. That offense is still working.
3. If you really want to learn some of the intricacies of football, visit Inside The Huddle on www.goleopards.com . Mike Joseph does a great job explaining various aspects of the game.
4. This is the last week of the high school football regular season. League and conference champions will be crowned after this weekend and then the attention turns to Districts. Right now East Stroudsburg South is the #1 seed in AAAA; Southern Lehigh in AAA; Pine Grove in AA; Williams Valley in A. Don’t be shocked if none of the top seeds win the District title. Stay tuned.
5. RCN TV will broadcast Emmaus at Parkland Live on Friday night at 7:00 PM. Mike Joseph and I will call the game. Parkland is tied with Whitehall for first place in the LVC. Whitehall has what looks like an easy matchup with Northampton this week.
NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (11-2: Last week; 78-42 overall 65%)