Tag Archives: football

No Cure for Football Fever

New Orleans     My football career is long over and gone.  I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t love the game.  Truth to tell, I did.  I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t dangerous.  It was.  It is.  I know.  I was hurt, blew out my left knee, as they say.  I know better now.  The NFL and NCAA are irresponsible, money grubbers, and just bad actors when it comes to their players and pretty much society as a whole.  But, truth to tell, living in a football city and a football state, home of the fantastic New Orleans Saints and now the champion LSU Tigers, I have to say, there’s no cure for football fever.

Reports from Baton Rouge in our local papers claim that the economy there has showed an upturn because of excitement and enthusiasm for the LSU team and its unbeaten season.

The Airbnbs’ down the street from our house were all filled up for the first time since the houses were constructed.  There was an LSU banner hanging over the fence, so not much doubt what those half-dozen guys were all about.

The front page of the Times-Picayune / New Orleans Advocate had a giant headline, larger than one you would find if we had declared war saying, “TOP CATS.”  You get it, right?  Both teams called their mascots tigers.

And, believe me, LSU is a sorry second around here to the vaunted, long suffering but finally Super Bowl champs, New Orleans Saints.  Twelve months a year, you can see people wearing Saints swag.  You would lose money betting me that there isn’t someone on every plane landing in New Orleans that is not wearing some kind of Saints paraphernalia.

The local paper in a shocking exercise of rebellion had the chutzpah to compare the academic and state support of the University of Clemson in South Carolina to the flagship campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  LSU was sadly lacking, because it has essentially been defunded by the state during the years of Republican misrule by Brown graduate and Rhodes Scholar Bobby Jindal.

In fact, it’s hard not to admit that one reason the whole population of the city and state succumb to football fever may be because it is one area where we are finally winning.  The Saints are often near the best.  LSU now for a moment is the best.  On every other kind of index and comparison, we battle valiantly for the bottom of the pack in health, education, crime, jobs, income, etc, etc, with Mississippi or Arkansas or some other woebegone area.  A recent piece in the New York Times claimed that youth football participation is down in the south.  No doubt, but don’t ask anyone in these states if the SEC isn’t the strongest conference in the country!

Football is something we can be proud of.  Often, there’s not much else.

I even watched three quarters of the BCS Championships until I was confident the victory was reasonably in hand.  Truth to tell as well, I still love the game.  These are my people on game day, and I’m also proud to be among them when they have a smile on their face and a swagger in their walk, because those can be rare days as well.

We are the champions!  Of something!!

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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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