The NFL is Out of Control and Football is Failing

New Orleans       There is no danger whatsoever that anyone will start calling American football the “beautiful game,” which is sometimes the expression used internationally for what the world sees as football, which we call soccer.  Football is earning the moniker of the “deadly” game for its institutionalized violence, mayhem, maiming, racism, and more.

I was bumped up to first-class flying home recently.  My seatmate on this leg was an orthopedic surgeon who over the last fifteen years had built the sports medicine center at a big local hospital chain that served all of the southern Louisiana sports world except for one university.  Would he let his son play football?  Heck, no!  He was going west next year on a soccer scholarship.  Did all of these helmet changes by the NFL make the game any safer for the players?  Heck, no, he answered!  What did he think about paying players?  The good doctor thought that universities and the pros should guarantee lifetime healthcare coverage to any athlete playing football at any level.  Why?  Because, all of them are going to need it.  He tells others his views on the sidelines.  I didn’t ask his name, and he didn’t ask mine, but we both knew we had played high school football, loved the game, and in my case, I had torn ligaments and cartilage in my left knee and a Vietnam war exemption to prove it.   Youth participation in football has now gone down an average of 10%, and sometimes more, even in Southern states where the sport has long been king.

If this wasn’t enough, the National Football League, despite being an economic powerhouse worth billions, continues to shoot itself in the foot and everywhere else.  A player for the Cleveland Browns has been indefinitely suspended for ripping a Steeler quarterback’s helmet off and hitting him in the head with it.  Assault with a deadly weapon and an arrest will not be forthcoming, because there is a legal assumption that when players take the field that they have agreed to an implicit sanctioning of violence.  Cam Newton, a former MVP in the league who led his team to the Super Bowl not so long ago and quarterbacked his college team to the national championship, has been out hurt for most of two years and could be gone.  Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts quit after eight years because he didn’t think he should continue dealing with injuries.  The list is endless, and no one seems to learn anything.

When the NFL takes its head out of the sand, it specializes in farce.  The Commissioner after two years of piddling and more recently being prodded by Jay-Z, who shamed himself by throwing Colin Kaepernick under the bus so that his company could make a marketing deal with the NFL, gave him four days’ notice for a special workout in Atlanta where all teams were invited.  The NFL’s hand seems to have been forced when two teams asked them whether or not it was OK to give him a workout, implicitly confirming the common knowledge that he has been blackballed for his on-field protests against racism and police violence.  The farce includes the fact that many teams wouldn’t be able to get their general managers or head coaches to Atlanta on such quick notice for the Saturday before their own game days.  Count on the hater-baiter Dallas owner, Jerry Jones, to pop off about not sending anyone, and then, obviously under pressure by the league, have to get somebody there with a Cowboys’ t-shirt to up the number of participating squads.  No one should be holding their breath waiting for a contract offer for Kaepernick, nor is there any indication that he would stop his protest.

Typical of everything about football’s leadership at the professional level or the semi-pro NCAA level, no problem is ever confronted and solved whether about health, violence, or certainly race.  The standard football playbook for dealing with all of this is just to push the problems further on down the field.  The final signal call will be when they also kill the sport.

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Irish Travelers

Travellers are stereotyped as criminals and are seen as untrustworthy, a protest outside the Dáil over Traveller accommodation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

New Orleans  So, some interesting things about Ireland for my father and others.  Seems the sun is a rare occasion in the western part of the country, though it was beautiful every day we were there.  Yes, we were glad to bring it along!  Seems Guinness is a mandatory drink, and that there are arguments from pub to pub and from place to place on where it tastes the best.  There is an Irish breakfast as opposed to a standard English breakfast, but the only difference we noticed was a pancake came with the package in Dublin.

At our first meeting with tenant activists in Limerick, one woman identified herself as an “Irish traveler.”  Leaving the meeting, I asked her to explain Irish travelers to me, which she graciously did, and it was a fascinating education.  Quickly, it became evident that they were a discriminated against minority in Ireland and England as well.  They were known for their trailers.  When I later asked about the new Galway Housing Support Group’s banner that included a car trailer as well as house, that was part of their expression of solidarity.  Having been immersed in discussions with Roma and their issues and fight against discrimination, I asked if they were related, and she answered that they were separate genetically, though because of their high mobility, they were lumped together, and of course the discrimination was similar.

Some research on the web helped fill in some of the gaps, though many questions are unanswered about the history of travelers.  Genetic testing seems to have established that they are a distinct Irish ethnic group, and the arguments start from there.  The history of their discrimination though can be dated almost one-thousand years, possibly to when landholding became institutionalized, and they were forced off the land and plied a trade in metalwork.  Most speak English, but there are also separate dialects.  In the 1960’s many were still using horse drawn, wooden barrel covered wagons, and there were proposals to force them into something approaching reservations which had been tried in the Netherlands.  Home schooling, early mortality rates for elderly and infants, and similar issues are residues of their second-class status.

Irish travelers were finally recognized as a distinct minority fairly recently.  Census figures indicate that there are more than 30,000 in Ireland and 10,000 in England.  Estimates put travelers as high as 40,000 in the United States, dating likely to the 1860 potato famine and its forced migration.  According to Wikipedia:

The largest and most affluent population of about 2,500 lives in Murphy Village, outside of the town of North Augusta, South Carolina.[55] Other communities exist in Memphis, Tennessee, Hernando, Mississippi, and near White Settlement, Texas, where the families stay in their homes during the winter, and leave during the summer, while smaller enclaves can be found across Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

With their status now more official in Ireland, the government provides a separate housing allowance for them in municipal budgets.  Activists we met with throughout our stay in the country reported that discrimination is still so keen in Ireland that municipalities have been turning large portions of the housing subsidy back to the government rather than embracing their traveler population.

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Please enjoy Lula Wiles’s “Nashville Man”

And “Burning” by Maggie Rogers

Thanks to KABF.

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