I read an ESPN piece a couple of days ago—I lost the link—evaluating the factors that have led to the large (and expensive ) drop in the NFL’s television ratings.. It wasn’t just the gratuitous, half-baked protests during the National Anthem, the author explained. No, it was also injuries, too many mid-week games, too many bad games, viewers “cutting the cord” and leaving cable, and other factors.
Oddly, the fact that it is increasingly clear that the NFL makes its money by maiming and killing young men never made it onto the list. Maybe that’s right; maybe football fans don’t care that the heroes they cheer today will be drooling, tortured, burdens on their families in their 50s and 60s, if not sooner. Hey, they get good money to have their brains pureed, right?
If this is true, then my headline is incomplete. The NFL and its fans are pretty close to evil.
A recent scandal showed us just how cynical the league’s claims that it was addressing its concussion and CTE problems.
Tom Savage, the Houston Texans quarterback, took a violent hit from Elvis Dumervil of the 49ers ia a December 10 game. Savage rolled onto his back and lifted up his hands, which could be seen trembling, as if he were being electrocuted, a textbook indication of a likely concussion. He went to the sidelines but re-entered the game for the next series. He then left the game again and has not played since.
Some protocols on concussions the NFL has! Remember, this occurred after the news about CTE, the crippling brain disease afflicting 99% of football players p whose brains have been examined, has gotten progressively more frightening. The NFL initially denied the problem, stonewalled, and now is apparently faking concern.
The NFL announced it will not discipline the Texans for their negligent handing of Savage’s head injury. That’s odd, don’t you think, if this is something the league cares about? If a team will send a player back out onto the field after he shows those symptoms, what other players with less visible signs of concussions have been sent back out to get disabled? My guess is countless players, and in every game.
Hey, they get good money to have their brains pureed, right?
The union is complicit in this too. “The parties have both concluded that while the medical staff followed the protocol, the outcome was unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the protocol are necessary,” players’ association said in a joint statement statement with management.
The statement also said that the slow-motion video of Savage, which tipped off viewers that Savage had been badly hurt, “was not broadcast until after the doctors had begun the sideline evaluation and thus was not seen by the medical staff prior to the evaluation.” Ah! TV viewers say that Savage was head-damaged, but the experts on the field missed it somehow,
They wanted to miss it. The NFL wants this whole issue to go away, like the IQ points of its veterans after one too many hits.
Now that their protocols have been exposed as a joke, the NFL says a new system will be put in place. An independent consultant at the league office will watching game feeds. That consultant “will contact the team medical staff on the sideline should they observe any signs or symptoms warranting further evaluation.” Translation: An NFL employee will alert teams that the audience at home could see that a player had been injured, so they better play it straight.
The league says it will also formally list “fencing responses,” such as trembling exhibited Savage, as a sign of potential concussion. Players who display it “shall be removed from play and may not return to the game.” Players stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand after contact will also be evaluated.
Do you see the obvious problem with this? The cause of CTE is the concussions themselves. Once a player’s hands are trembling, or he is falling over, the damage is done. Keeping NFL players from brain damage requires that the game not subject them to serious concussions on a regular basis, and pro football has no intention of doing that.
The NFL is willing to keep crippling its players for profit, because a majority of fans don’t care if they are crippled, and will buy products and spend money to keep crippling them.
I’ll end by quoting what I wrote on this topic in 2014. After all, nothing has really changed:
Congress and regulators don’t have the guts to make football acceptably safe, and the NFL is happy to keep destroying its players brains as long as it is obscenely profitable to do so. Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators, meanwhile, use their considerable influence to mock and block any efforts to acknowledge that what is happening on gridirons is a serious problem, calling criticism and calls for reform part of a feminist-driven, progressive war on football. Because it’s a guy thing, you know.…
Football fans like watching athletes get hit, hard, including in the head. We now know, as we once did not, that helmets don’t protect the brain enough, and may even make some injuries worse. Taking away head trauma changes football into something else, something that won’t make nearly as much money for owners, beer sellers, fantasy football entrepreneurs, TV executives, sponsors and merchandisers. Changing football at the college level won’t be permitted by the fat-cat alums who live vicariously though their alma mater’s touchdowns, lord knows why. Maybe if mothers stand up to Homer Simpson dads and refuse to allow their sons—and maybe daughters—to be fed into football’s maw, channeling them instead into some of the many sports that don’t leave its competitors drooling at 45, there won’t be enough players to keep the game cruising profitably.
I doubt it.