Archive for December, 2013

Taking Down First Take: Jim Brown Really?

Taking Down First Take:  Jim Brown Really?


ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made it clear he was “deeply offended” by Jim Brown’s comment on TV that he would not have called Kobe Bryant and other top black athletes of today to the superstar group in the 60’s that listened to (and supported) Ali’s reasons about why he would not fight in Viet Nam.  Stephen A. Smith made it clear that he could not question the integrity or political opinions of the best living football player, Jim Brown, though he disagreed with what Jim Brown said.  In ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s opinion despite his brands Kobe would have showed.  Stephen A. Smith did make the point that it would be extremely risky for multimillionaire Kobe Bryant to speak out on anything political because of his brands.


Brown was never reluctant to speak out for social justice.  He put what was right before his career, before his “brand”.  Yet, Brown still is revered not just as a great football player but respected as a great man.


Brown pointed out that the group of athletes (and others) that came together in Cleveland Ohio to support Muhammad Ali  (Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mayor Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter and John Wooten) would not have included many of today’s top black athletes.  These people came together not to support a racial idea or for racial reasons, but to support Ali’s refusal to fight in Viet Nam.


Brown just stated the obvious.  Today’s black athletes represent major brands and the money they make from the brands is more important to them than social issues.  Michael Jordan is the king of the brands.  He even refused to support a democrat against noted racist Jesse Helms because:  “Republicans buy tennis shoes too.”


Four wars have gone down in the era of the Generation X athletes, the Michael Jordan era in the NBA, and I can’t remember one superstar speaking out against any of the wars.  Even though they are multimillionaires and in reality have nothing at risk because they and their family are financially set for generations they said nothing about the first and second gulf wars, the Afghanistan invasion and proposed 25 year occupation and the Drone War which is an unconstitutional and impeachable war waged largely in Yemen and other mid eastern countries.  Name one athlete who has uttered a word about this?  Or should a say tweeted?  They are a pathetic generation dedicated to themselves.


Two days later ESPN in defense of their brands which are the same that support the athletes did another hit piece on Jim Brown.  On the 30 for 30 show “Youngstown Boys” that profiled Maurice Clarett, the Ohio State star who faded away for incomprehensible reasons and never reached his potential as a runner, out of nowhere blamed Jim Brown’s statements about the racial prejudice behind the sordid affair, as the cause of Clarett’s fall from grace and the subsequent loss of his chance at a professional career.  This subtle dig at Brown furthered their agenda to promote today’s brand driven athletes over the political, economic and social justice fighters that were the generation behind them.  By lowering Brown’s status Jordan’s and Kobe’s multimillion dollar ads were wiped clean of the blemish of social irresponsibility and the stains of selfishness that these athlete’s embody.  As the two Americas grow further apart wealthy black athletes (who through their ability can make the leap from the impoverished, invisible part of America to the Goldman Sachs, Barack Obama and Corporate CEO America where you fly on private planes, land in private air terminals, travel by limousine and live in gated communities where never a discouraging word is heard) are now part of the establishment, the military industrial complex, the security state and have little use for the rest of the 99%.  Yes they need them to see their games, and buy their crappy 400 dollar tennis shoes, but speak out for higher taxes, a better schools system, health care for all, a higher minimum wage, never gonna happen.  Very few people can make the leap from poverty to the ruling class like black athletes.  Social climbing in America has stopped.  It is virtually impossible to move up in class.  In the 60’s that leap did not blind them to reality, today with the death of the fairness act and very little actual news anywhere, opinions taking the place of facts and little to no liberal voices on the public stage, it is very easy to hide and “protect my brands” as so many do.  Pathetic.  Also I want to point out that these athletes gathered to support opposition to the Viet Nam war.  The media has done a great job of painting Martin Luther King as a Black rights activist.  Most people today would have no clue that he connected the dots and opposed the Viet Nam war for the same reasons that he fought for social justice.  Today’s superstars probably don’t even know their is a relationship between the two issues.  So good job Stephen A. Smith your brands are safe.


Take Down, Rethinking First Take: Football Helmets and Concussions

Taking Down First Take:  Football Helmets and Concussions

20 years ago I saw Webster Slaughter run out-of-bounds.  He was a small wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns.  A defensive back hit him out-of-bounds by diving at him.  He just caught the edge of his elbow with the crown of his helmet.  The play was over yet Slaughter received a season ending injury.  Slaughter had his arm broken as a result of the impact of the hard helmet on his elbow.

Immediately I asked myself why football helmets were made of hard plastic?  Other than looking good, it made no sense.  Hard plastic makes costly injuries inevitable.  Had the helmet been padded on the outside it would not have caused the injury.

The hard helmets caused savvy coaches to teach defensive players to tackle by placing their helmet on the ball.  Since heads tend to be inside helmets, what these coaches were saying was use your head like battering ram to dislodge the ball and bring down the ball carrier.  Once you get the idea to use your head as a battering ram don’t concussions become inevitable?

Skip Bayless remarked that football players know what they are getting into.  So they should not be compensated for their injuries.  That was the implication of his thought.  His view is that the players prior to the studies on football and concussions deserve compensation but not the current players.  This is actually contrary to law.  Football players are employees and subject to the Worker’s Compensation laws in the state that they play football in.  Of course the owner’s are quite willing to out source the costs of managing chronic degenerative brain diseases to either their insurance companies, the player’s union, the families or the states.  However, the law says they are responsible.

According to the law they are completely, that is 100%, responsible for the costs of treatment and disability caused by injuries in their work place.  The football field is where these guys work.  Any injuries are fully compensated by law.  Both disability and treatment are covered.  It is the law Skip.  If the NFL has deceived them they can file law suits for further damages.  The NFL has an obligation to make the work place safe.

So an important question is how these injuries can be prevented.  Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, first a few sensible rules would decrease the amount and severity of head injuries.  Then studying the issue with money supplied by the NFL and major colleges would examine the nature of the injuries, how many blows to the head a brain can take before it shows signs of damage and how much rest is needed when mild to moderate concussions occur.

Then the engineering of the helmet must change.  Helmets are designed to protect the skull.  This is well and good, but the brain is a much more sensitive organ than the bone of the skull.  For those that might not know, the brain floats in a closed bowl (the skull) filled with a fluid.  It moves independently of the skull.  Concussions occur from the counter coup phenomena in football like in whiplash.  The brain has momentum, the skull stops, the brain bangs into one side of the skull and then bounces into the opposite side.  Thus both sides of the brain receive injuries.

Just looking at the helmet I am guessing that 2 inches of padding on the top with a hard surface underneath that disperses force throughout the helmet would be a start.  Shoe companies and car companies have spent lots of time looking at how to disperse stress from impact.  Their technology applied to the helmet with further research might provide a much safer piece of equipment.

Putting the skull in a kind suspension that created a cushion of air or fluid between the hard surface and the skull also seems logical.  This would mirror the construction of the skull and brain.

Obviously this is an area that can be studied and certainly the football teams of major universities generate enough cash to fund lots of research.

The two points I am making here is that first Skip is wrong about players “knowing what they are getting into” and second the current helmet technology is totally inadequate and can be improved.

A few sensible rule changes would be:  no tackling by putting the head on the ball, thus this would end the battering of runners by the defense trying to force a fumble.  Fumbles should only occur in the open field or during the initial hit.  Holding the runner up while other players batter him to force of fumble just encourages injuries, is very boring and cheapens the game.

Current helmets do not prevent concussions.  That seems to be the consensus of researchers.  However, that is because they are designed wrong.  Work on football helmets will benefit bicycling and other sports.  It seems like an idea waiting to hatch.  Finally how about putting sensors inside the helmet to measure the forces involved?  It is not that hard.