It’s heartbreaking to hear of NFL players who’ve fallen victim to CTE, an incurable brain disease, with running back legend Tony Dorsett being the latest and most famous to publicly admit as much. PBS recently published a documentary on the topic titled League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crises, a look at how the most powerful and lucrative sports industry in the world conceals information from its players regarding the longterm ramifications that playing football has on the human mind.
Being that ESPN, FOX and CBS each have a major stake in the NFL, you won’t hear a lot on the matter over the course of a typical telecast, or, really, ever. If a receiver gets drilled in the head by a safety after attempting to make a catch over the middle, the play-by-play man might say “I hope he’s okay,” but it won’t stop the producer from showing the replay seven or eight times; if a quarterback gets popped at his blind side by a defensive end who outweighs him by a hundred pounds, “That was a brutal hit,” and then the replay will get celebrated coast-to-coast by legions of barbaric, blood-thirsty football enthusiasts, and I can’t exactly blame any of them. It’s tragically part of the game’s allure. It’s why people enjoy tuning in to NASCAR events: The awe of witnessing a car crash.
It’s just in our nature, I guess.
To protect the league’s image, yeah, they donate a shitload of money to various charities. They take pride in so many started from the bottom now we here-type biopics of players who came from the rural projects to get their degrees and produce long and successful professional careers — all because of football — and that’s all well and good. I don’t hate the NFL for that.
But what about the warriors who’ve provided so many of us with memories we’ll never forget, sacrificing their future health and psychological wellness, what about them? In a $9 billion annual industry such that the NFL is, why did it only take $765 million — a figure far less than the players’ original $2 billion asking price — to settle the recent concussion lawsuit? I don’t need to know. I really don’t. I’m just genuinely curious.
It makes me think about driving around, whether it’s within my city limits or elsewhere, seeing Vietnam veterans fitted in their tattered war jackets, holding up small cardboard signs desperately imploring people for money. It makes me wonder why they aren’t taken care of by the same corporation they literally put their life on the line to defend. It’s not the same, I know, but it’s the only thing I can reasonably compare to what the NFL is doing to its CTE victims.
I would say I don’t understand, only I do understand. I understand quite well, I would even say. There’s some joke about a millionaire asking their friend for a dollar, so they can buy a soda.
So the friend asks the millionaire, “C’mon, you’re rich, why don’t you just use one of your own dollar bills?”
And the millionaire responds, “That’s how you stay a millionaire.”
Yeah, me either. I wish I could remember how the joke went.
Anyway, that’s the idea: The way you stay in power is to have the most money; the way you have the most money is by retaining as much of it as you can, whether it’s the budget of the United States military or the National Football League; it doesn’t matter. Even if the players, or soldiers, are the ones defending the product, making it flourish, when they’re done there will be others to take their place, and supply and demand dictates those who were there before don’t mean anything anymore. Health be damned, you aren’t touching our fucking money.
And I get it, NFL players are compensated handsomely for the risks they are taking. I mean, sure, MLB and the NBA have such things as guaranteed contracts — something the NFL does not — but we’re talking about millions of dollars. That’s still a lot of money. As long as players aren’t doing anything incredibly stupid with it (which they often do, which I can’t blame them for), they should have enough money within a year or two in the league to last themselves an entire lifetime.
To that end, I can’t fault them for neglecting the future in favor what’s important to them at this exact moment. If I had the opportunity to play in the NFL and make a gargantuan shit ton of money, I’d be right there. I wouldn’t be thinking about 20 years down the road. I wouldn’t mind the prospect of not having a functional memory, of being violent with my wife and kids, of having suicidal tendencies and a bad case of dementia. As a young man, I wouldn’t care about any of that stuff. Because money! Instant gratification!
That would be well worth the risk. And that’s the problem most players currently face, which, whether they know it right now or not, they will know it someday. In that respect, I feel deeply sorry for them, and I wish something like the NFL that has brought me so much joy since I was a little boy, didn’t have so many strings attached to the players I’ve had such an intangibly beautiful relationship with.
* * * * * *
With all that said… my week 10 picks:
[All lines courtesy of bodog.eu as of 5:00 a.m. of 8 November, 2013.]
[Road teams in all caps.]
Titans (-13) over JAGUARS
Justin Blackmon is suspended presumably for smoking too much weed, so that’s one less weapon (also known as the only offensive weapon) Chad Henne has to pass to, and in a game where you’d figure the Jags would be in an early hole where there’s going to be a lot of garbage time passing taking place, that’s a problem. Actually, this entire season has been a problem for Jacksonville. There’s no reason to think they’ll get their first win on the road against an underrated Tennessee squad.
Packers (-1) over EAGLES
Nick Fowles had 7 touchdown passes last week! Chip Kelly’s offense is working now! Aaron Rodgers is injured! If there was a perfect recipe for the Eagles to steal a win in Green Bay, this would seem to be it. However, Philly still doesn’t have a defense, and Packer workhorse Eddie Lacey is a good bet to receive about 40 carries while singlehandedly chewing up 30 minutes worth of game clock. On paper, the Eagles couldn’t have asked for better timing to face Green Bay, but Mike McCarthy is too clever to let his team sink in this one, even if Seneca Wallace is quarterbacking.
Steelers (-3) over BILLS
Pittsburgh isn’t very good, but they aren’t as bad as they’ve played this season. This is going to be a tough one to watch, but I’m going with the home team. #analysis
Giants (-7.5) over RAIDERS
The NFC East sucks, and the 2-6 Giants are going to find a way to make the playoffs. There, I said it. Eli Manning takes a lot of shit for his loppy ass face and tendency to throw some severely idiotic passes at inopportune times, but this guy is what television pundits would classify as a “winner”. Dude knows what to do during winning time, and after an 0-6 start the Giants will manage to get themselves back to .500 before season’s end. The Oakland secondary shouldn’t present many problems to help New York get a game closer to that.
RAMS (+10) over Colts
The Colts are pretty stingy at home, and the Rams are not a very good football team. That would seem to make this pick fairly elementary, except it’s not. Indianapolis has a suspect run defense and I’m banking on St. Louis tailback Zac Stacy to shred them up a bit. That’s how the Rams stay in this game, though I doubt it will be enough to actually win it. Andrew Luck is better than that, but not 10 points better.
SEAHAWKS (-6) over Falcons
Last week in my truly shitty pick of the week, I thought Atlanta would be able to make a competitive game out of the Carolina Panthers. And it ended up 34-10, Cam Newton. The Falcons are terrible, and Seattle is one of the three-best teams in the NFL; unless they are bored, they should win this one comfortably.
BENGALS (-1) over Ravens
Cincinnati is out for blood after last Thursday’s 22-20 overtime debacle in Miami, and it helps that the Ravens just aren’t that hot in 2013. Super Bowl hangover? Who knows. But they lost to the fucking Browns last week. The Browns.
LIONS (pick ’em) over Bears
Honestly, I don’t care who wins this game. I just wanna see points. Lots of points. And pick ’em games! This one should be fun to watch, and not just because Reggie Bush is one of my fantasy team running backs.
49ers (-6) over PANTHERS
Vegas is getting cheeky giving 6 points to the Panthers. For San Francisco to cover the spread they’ll need to win by at least a touchdown, and in a game that should be relatively low scoring, that is a big IF. Still, this has been a mild fairytale season for Carolina, and I’m betting their luck starts to fade against a team of the 49ers’ caliber.
Cardinals (pick ’em) over TEXANS
I feel like Houston could not have played any better against the Colts last week than they did, in a game they should have won. I’m expecting a let down of sorts, and without a healthy Arian Foster it’s going to take Case Keenum to pass over one of the better secondaries in the NFL, and I can’t see it happening.
BRONCOS (-7) over Chargers
I’m intrigued by this matchup, and heavily. There aren’t many offenses in the NFL who can keep up with Denver, but if I had to venture I would say Phillip Rivers can do it. A Bronco loss would give my beloved Chiefs a two-game advantage in the loss column in the chase for home field advantage during the AFC playoffs, something I want desperately. But then there’s the other side of the coin, where this game could be over by halftime. And only one of these teams is capable of doing such.
COWBOYS (+7) over Saints
Seven points is too many to give an offense as good as the Cowboys. The Saints are damn good, and they should be pissed following last weekend’s quagmire against the Jets, so that’s good. Though, Tony Romo usually finds a way to get up for these primetime affairs, so points. They’re gonna happen.
Bucs (+3) over DOLPHINS
This Richie Incognito vs. Jonathan Martin steel cage match is getting pretty ridiculous. Mainly, I’m just tired of hearing about it. My instinct tells me the Dolphin players are tired of hearing about it as well, but in this game I’m picking Tampa Bay strictly because of the distraction. And with said distraction, I’m thinking it will either result in a Tampa blowout or a Miami blowout; it’s polar. In that sense, it’s basically a coin flip, and yes, it should be one of the lesser Monday Night matchups in recent memory. But thanks to ESPN, we’ll have them pimping the Incognito/Martin drama to satiate America’s appetite for reckless, unnecessary bullshit narrative.
Last week’s record: 5-7
Overall record: 10-14