Remember: all compassion is cold-hearted labor strategy.

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m really really tired of brain stuff dominating the football news but there’s no good reason for it to stop: one of the ideals a modern society is that we don’t approve of people knowingly killing themselves as a form of entertainment. That doesn’t mean it should be the only item discussed. So allow your fearless correspondent to the country of Depraved and Addled-Minded Conspiracies put in his two bits:

As previously documented, the NFL has had full knowledge of the way their product was bashing brains, and yet up to this point they’ve remained relatively inactive. So what’s managed to goad the boss-men to action? We can toss out any sort of compassion or human emotion as a reasonable explanation– these guys have employed some of the most morally vacant athletes in history and failed to bat an eye. No, these men, like most, only have compassion for their bank statements and their power.

So if we turn to those things we find a very convenient reason for the sudden action of the NFL: the upcoming CBA. While the fatuous majority have bought the idea that labor unions and labor strikes are un-American, the few times where labor has had success against management is when they are able to show horrendous work conditions. For our first 150 years as a nation, kids worked our most vile and violent jobs and the calls for reform were rare. It was only at the turn of the century with the advent of photography and faster communication that the public decided that 5 year olds in coal mines and mangled 10 year olds weren’t The American Way. It seems that Joe Q. Freedom has very little sympathy with wage issues but can pour it on for physical safety.

So the exploiters over in Goodell’s camp, who up to this point felt confident that their position was strong for the Upcoming Ruckus, rightly see this as a serious threat to their plans. They’ve always had the successful move of Pointing Out The Players Are Super Rich (ignoring their own super-super-richness). But there’s something unspoken in the American ethic that says that only a certain level of violence is acceptable in the workplace and from-the-neck paralysis and early death go beyond those levels. Owners’ Main Argumentative Card? Gone.

And with the lockout screaming towards us faster than most feel comfortable admitting, the owners’ are trying to get back on the Moral High Horse by acting tough, even against the players’ wishes. Don’t worry, the outraged first responses of Rodney Harrison, Steve Young, and Matt Millen will be duly smoothed down by the league and its corporate toadies in Bristol and at 30 Rock. Soon they’ll be spewing that the penalties are necessary for the players’ own good and that this is keeping with the league’s history of moral rectitude. I say to hell with that, to hell with letting the owners regain any of the moral righteousness that they stole in the first place. They’re cretins, never forget this. Dave got it right when he said that these acts of violence weren’t just tolerated by the owners, they were celebrated. The owners are trying to pull a quick one, yet again, and tell us that this isn’t The Pride Of The League that they’ve been selling to us, it’s a National Scourge that needs to be eradicated. Don’t let them.

The Flock And The Truth

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve had it with the shock and outrage. Anyone and I mean anyone who’s worked a locker room or a sideline or an interview with an athlete knows that the stain of Mammon covers all of collegiate sports. I know a former D-I lacrosse player who can fill an afternoon with stories of free housing or cheap prices for new cars or readily accessible drugs. When I was in Ann Arbor I saw a senior wide receiver driving around in a Bentley. These aren’t surprising to anyone who’s ever had the sense to pay attention to the parts of sports that aren’t on a TV or on a field, yet now I’m seeing and hearing pundits across the U.S. feigning surprise and disappointment at the allegations of this Josh Luchs article in Sports Illustrated. Don’t lie to yourself: each and every person in Bristol knows about runners and paid college athletes and can probably give you 10-20 stories each. Every columnist who’s covered a college football team has interacted with some impropriety.

As to why they are feigning such hollow and nannyish behavior, the explanation is simple: they, or more likely their superiors, have determined where their dollar lies: in the fat, soft hands of Daft Coaches From The Sofa and Seers of Sportsradio Callers. The men and women who, apart from their shallow and soon-to-be-outsourced retail jobs, have nothing more exciting to look forward to in their lives than shoving their wrongly-derived opinions down the throat of a stranger who didn’t ask for it. Whether it be at a barbecue, the local dive, or into the phone and over the local airwaves, these people continue to incorrectly remember the past and spew idiocies about the present. They also apparently have the absorbative powers to soak the complete truth from an event in only 19 minutes of SportsCenter while waiting for JiffyLube to finish their oil change. These are the people who want the world they way they think it is, not the way it really is. It is to these people that ESPN, Fox Sports, and every radio station in this country are enslaved, are pitching to advertisers as their flock. They need to cultivate these viewers, keep them sated.

And this flock needs their gladiators clean cut, respectful, and right out of the J. Edgar Hoover-era, dammit. What happened to the Golden Boys of football, they ask, ignoring the original Golden Boy’s profligate gambling. They don’t make ‘em like Joe Montana, callers cry, glossing over the fact every Favorite Athlete of the post-Jordan era is as carefully planned and inhuman as Guy Fieri or a BP ad and therefore we all know jack-shit about Joe Montana. That at every time in history one would discover athletes soaked in debauchery and crime and money is lost on these sniveling bystanders who leap to moralizing like dogs to vomit. Rather than admit to their own impotence and deformities these men and women would rather stay blissfully in the Land Of If I Were Him. If I Were Him I’d just be happy to get an education. If I Were Him I’d have the moral strength to reject gifts of thousands of dollars. If I Were Him I’d have played for love. If I Were Him I’d realize I was in the toy department of life.

What’s lost on the flock is that there’s big money in toys. Millions of dollars flow into the pockets of colleges and athletic departments every month because of these toys. And these toys aren’t inanimate pawns but human beings with their own interests, desires, and needs. And the chasm between what these people earn for the schools and what they receive (including the stuff under the table) goes into the realm of usury.

Some of these players, due to their exhausting physical schedule, burn through their monthly food stipend in less than 3 weeks and have to spend the last week scrimping by or going hungry. Other athletes come from streets and homes where hunger was a constant. And while it’s okay for a school to crack down on the street vendor’s $1,000-a-year t-shirt operation so as to protect the school’s $100,000,000-a-year income stream, for an athlete who generates that same $100,000,000 to accept $2,500 to help keep a roof over his mother’s head or god forbid have a little fun is an outrage to the flock.

I love my Michigan Wolverines, and I love my university. But if you think you can convince me that Chris Webber gettin’ dollar hurt my education, or if the university deciding to pay 85 players $100,000 a year affects the education of the other 39,000 students, move along. Denard Robinson has already generated millions of dollars this year and I think it’s dirty and vile not to pay him.

And so the news cycle will go: Herbstreit will drool his sports-department-friendly patter, Fowler will furrow his brow distorting his magnificent hairline, Corso will continue to ride his dementia and warm up his death rattle, and Desmond will continue to have tie knots wider than his mouth. Stewart Mandel will either say something everyone knew or something no one cares about, depending on how Northwestern plays on Saturday. Bob Ley will waste a Wednesday afternoon on the topic, on my TV in a box between two other boxes filled with fat people’s faces. A few columnists will make some cries of the need to find the “true villains” in this story, and local radio will either decry their own school’s missteps or crow about their rivals corruption. Mel Kiper will slink off to his cave until February and hopes that no one will remember this even happening. And then basketball season will start and hey the Vikings are 1-4 and everyone will miss the point: today in college football is a Gilded Age, a time where extreme wealth was held by a small few and power ensured it stayed that way. The rebellions and reform that followed the Gilded Age might be next for the NCAA and they might be due. In fact, if someone’s gotta spare torch, count me in.

NFLPA Machinations At Green Bay and Welcoming the Lockout

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Hadn’t heard about this until today:

The NFLPA leader was in Green Bay at a tailgate style luncheon with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, where the two asked fans to support the players as a showdown looms between the owners and the NFLPA.  Smith referred to a recent report in the Sports Business Journal that said the NFL is requesting that banks who lend money to teams extend the grace periods for loan defaults through the end next season should a lockout occur.  Smith said that move, in conjunction with language in NFL television contracts calling for partial payment to the league even if there is no football, indicates to him that owners are serious about a labor stoppage.

DeMaurice Smith is not a fool. He knows that, at least in the US, the overwhelming attitude of the fan is “screw organized labor, let’s see some sport!” Any and every labor stoppage has seen the fan (often fomented by management-fueled media) near-unanimously hold the players in contempt. So he’s doing the savvy thing and starting to get the players and personalities interacting with fans, reminding the average consumer that any lockout will come from team owners holding out for more money. I don’t think he’s being aggressive enough: the NFL has some entertaining players who have Twitter accounts and TV shows that could do a lot to say: you know and like me, so trust me when I say that the NFLPA is right in the CBA discussions. Leverage the social medias, I say!

Also in the story is news that the Packers have given Aaron Rodgers, their rep, authority to decertify the NFLPA if need be. Decertification, if it happens, opens up the players to sue the NFL over anti-trust, an act that no owner wants to see. We’ll see how this turns out, but from this viewer’s angle, it seems all but assured that there ain’t gonna be no NFL next year.

And, frankly, I think this is a good thing. American athletes have had a long tradition of the worst union leadership of any profession. Donald Fehr, Billy Hunter, Gene Upshaw: all of them incompetent and weak. DeMaurice Smith appears to be intelligent and aggressive. He’s going to present the first threat to all US sports of a strong and successful and (hopefully) unified athletes. In what might be a first, Smith’s been telling players to put away some of their money for the lockout, a wise move. The average player’s sense of the arrangement is vastly improved from the previous generation. Instead of having a compromised class traitor like Upshaw leading the way, the NFLPA has a former U.S. Attorney who teaches classes on trial advocacy.

And furthermore, the owners’ cry of poverty is one of the bullshittiest sounds in Bullshitburg. All the teams are making money. Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in the late 80’s for less than $100m and their now valued at over $1.8 billion. My Packers’ total assets have doubled in the past decade, check their own statements. Hell, their revenue from NFL properties multiplied by a factor of 10 over those 10 years, from $4m to $45m. The Packers, by dint of their arrangement (publicly owned) are forced to show their books. Every other team? Mum. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but until the owners are willing to have third-party assessment of their numbers the line remains: every owner in the NFL is making huge amounts of money off the blood, sweat and brain injuries of its players, and the NFLPA has the right to stand up for itself and refuse to be bullied around.

So count at least one fan who is happy to see the players grow some spine. I want my football, of course, but I also want justice.

College Football Players As Mythical Hindu Weapons and Warriors

October 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

In today’s world of our athletes as gods (for what are gods other than things we can’t fully grasp?) it’s important that the fans have all appropriate deities and myths at their disposal for proper comparisons. Here’s a few you probably didn’t know about, but feel free to research for future use.

I grew up like many of you, certain that the coolest war stories were either of the Audie Murphy/WWII strain or perhaps the mythologies of Hellenic or Norse traditions. Boy were we wrong. If you want epic levels of bloodshed, divine intervention, grand prose, and pure destruction, look no further than the Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata or the stories from the Ramayana, some of the most important texts in Hinduism. Tales of a single man killing 100,000 people in a day? Not a problem. The gods telling the warriors to sack up and fight? Of course. Priest-eating Giants? How many would you like?

Really, you should give the stuff a look some time. Yeah, they’re vegetarians and a bunch of them are tech support people today, but you only have to look back 60 years to the Gurkhas to see that the Hindu culture has a long tradition of straight wrecking shit.

This year in college football has eerie echoes to the myths and traditions of the Kurukshetra War, not primarily in personage but in weaponry. See if you notice the similarities.

Narayanastra

Lord Vishnu’s personal firearm, the Narayanastra, was a weapon that fired millions of arrows at it’s enemy upon command. It inspired the strongest of fears in the target, even unto the point of hoping for the target’s own demise. Furthermore, the narayanastra increases in intensity the more you resist. The only way to defeat it is to utterly submit to the narayanastra and only then will the arrows missiles turn away. I heard rumor of a narayanastra appearing in northwestern Arkansas…

A million arrows. And interceptions towards Alabama.

Sudarshana Chakra

A spinning disk of serrated edges, Sudarshana Chakra is the Gods’ Choice in execution weaponry. In the Mahabharat we see that for Vishnu, when he needs a decapitation, he thinks of Sudarshana Chakra, the chakra for all your fool-killin’ needs. It is rumored to have 10 million spikes and multiple rows, something so violent that it cut up a goddess into 52 pieces.

...and send the remains to the four winds as a warning.

Pashupatastra

I’ll let Wikipedia run this one:

“Pashupatastra is the irresistible and most destructive personal weapon of discharged by the mind, the eyes, words, or a bow. Never to be used against lesser enemies or by lesser warriors, the Pashupata is capable of destroying creation and vanquishing all beings.”

Clearly uninformed about protocol, RichRod’s had no problem using his against lesser enemies so far:

You thought I was exaggerating about a "human weapon".

Kumbhakarna

A giant who seemed to have a friendly nature but who killed hundreds people with every step he took and ate priests just because he could, Kumbhakarna was forced to sleep for 6 months at a time just to keep everyone else safe. Presented without comment from Butch Davis.

Pour one out for the sleeping giant.

Brahmastra

Like many other weapons of Hindu lore, this one is also touted as unstoppable. Lord Brahma bequeathes the weapon to a person and gives the recipient a word or phrase to use to unleash it. The phrase is often unknown to everyone but the recipient, and he meditates upon the phrase to call the Brahmastra to his side for help. Here’s the kicker (again a Wikipedia summary):

“The weapon also causes severe environmental damage. The land where the weapon is used becomes barren for eons and all life in and around that area ceases to exist. Women and men become infertile. There is severe decrease in rainfall and the land develops cracks like in a drought.”

Yeah, I thought so too:

"Each day death strikes, and we live as if though we were immortal. This is the greatest wonder."

A Nonsense Story of Daniel And The Colorado Men

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ed.– A few years ago I found this small book stuffed in a decaying wooden box in the back of a train station in Leadville, CO. It was nestled amongst a bunch of original AT&T stock certificates and a cracked and dirty pair of eyeglasses. Most the pages were filled with illegible script and stains of tobacco and what looks to be opium. No name on the front. I was rereading the book and was struck by the timeliness of this little story. Enjoy at your peril.–

Once a man named Daniel thought it would be quite fun for him to lead a group of younger men from Colorado in a game of American football. The first order of business, then, would be for Daniel to teach these men the rules of the game. Daniel couldn’t teach the game, though, because he had forgotten everything, including how to form words and sentences. When he wanted to say “run down the field” he’d instead say “herf pollysmith tennis wick!” At first the men were confused, but all problems evaporated when they were persuaded by Daniel’s earnestness and they too forgot everything.

Now on the same non-plane, everyone quickly improved. The linemen were shrinking, the wide receivers got slower, and the quarterbacks had all blinded each other as sign of friendship. Daniel was proud of the men and expressed it to them by giving them extra laudanum in their Gate-o-rade. He also thought they were finally good enough to play someone from another place, so he sent out, to all the corners of the earth, manila envelopes full of dirt and fingernails and live mice as a sign of the Colorado men’s  preparedness. No one knew what these envelopes meant and so Daniel remained unanswered for three hundred years.

One day as the Colorado men were practicing their knee sprains they heard a strange noise beneath them. They realized it came from the other side of the world so they walked over to the other side and a strange sight met them. The Georgian football team was in full scrimmage. But the Colorado quarterbacks, who had regained partial sight because of the excellent work they put in in the faith-healings, were confused: this was football? Where is their maypole? And why are they running? Where are they running? Surely you can’t have a proper game without the kosher wine flasks! And who was going to play the mountain goat position? They don’t even have a mountain goat! The men turned to Daniel for leadership.

“Bawdy fruit spackle. Winchester.” He said sternly. This didn’t even have meaning in the land of nothing.

Their faith a little shaken but their loyalty intact, the men of Colorado challenged the Georgians to a game. All of the Georgians tittered (and there is nothing more terrifying than all Georgians tittering simultaneously), but accepted the challenge. For a referee both sides agreed the best choice was President William Howard Taft, because he had been a Supreme Court justice and was dead so he must know everything and would therefore know who was the better team.

The game was short and slow, as beauty was created with great ugliness. There were only three timeouts for seasonal harvests, with Colorado picking fresh apples and Georgia netting a school of smoking salmon. Colorado took the apples and made them into a cauliflower salad for the Georgians and the Georgians wove the smoking salmon into new uniforms for the Colorado men. In other words, everything was going according to Daniel’s plan.

In the last two minutes of the sixth 1st quarter, however, Georgia’s Washaun Ealey remembered he knew things and actually walked across the field into the end zone and William Howard Taft said he couldn’t be bothered to watch a football game, damn it, he was dead, which everyone took to mean he thought Georgia had won.

Daniel was heartbroken that his idea hadn’t turned out as well as he had hoped. He apologized to the Colorado men “Fopdoo peez vingle, twee chop. Ming vase.” The men saw his sadness and wanted to warm him up, so they gave him a blanket and then set him on fire so he’d be okay.

Daniel would probably have another idea tomorrow.

Where Will The Mike Leach Appear Next?

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

So we are 4 weeks into the college football season, which means that teams’ trends can and have been discovered and fates determined, all done with 100% certainty. Until next week. Then we’ll be certain.

The fan-bases of some schools have been satisfied with expected success (Ohio State, Oregon, Boise State), others giddy/cautious at the overachievement (Michigan, LSU), and furthermore teams have begun the despondent spiraling death march of the Early Season Loss (Georgia). Let’s go live to the chopper over South Bend:

In all of the froth and perfervid emotion of the moment, however, we seem to have lost sight of The Ultimate Question: Where in the world is Mike Leach going to land? Currently a commentator for CBS Sports (I have no visual proof of this, but the Internet assures me this is the case), once his lawsuit’s done you know he wants back in. So, where is our favorite Geronimo-enthusiast going to pitch his teepee? Where is Calico Mike going to harbor his ship? Surely this is the time for rash speculation!

Here are a couple of qualities I think we’ll need to keep in mind in our search for his next home:

A little cash. Mike Leach is an unemployed man, but shame on you if you thought that meant he is an unproud man. His previous salary was around $1.8m, and to think he’s going to wander into some higher learning establishment for peanuts, well let’s just say “HAHA GOOD ONE NEW MEXICO.

BCS Conference. A slight restatement of the previous quality, but it’s important to remember Leach is not gonna June Jones it and flee to the MAC, MWC, or Conference USA for straight $. Once you taste of the bowl committee’s honey, nothing ever else tastes as sweet. (Aside: I seriously considered adding “and not The Big East” to this one, but I could see Leach taking on the challenge of ruling that pile of fail just for research purposes.)

Tradition. I’ll grant you that if you go far enough back, every school has a tradition of winning (I mean, University of Chicago once had a quality squad. It’s true, look it up). But what we’ll be looking for is a school that has had some success in the past 3 decades and has fallen on harder times. 3 decades because that’s enough of a time period that the alumni and fans who remember victory are still alive and active. Memories, of course, are a perfect fuel for

Desperation. Rightly or wrongly, Mike Leach has a bit of a stain on his resume at the moment (the correct answer is “wrongly”) and it’s going to raise eyebrows at whatever place his name is mentioned. The perfect antidote to such eyebrow raising is of course panic and desperation. Or lack of shame. That would explain the New Mexico thing. Bonus point: if the school has made a recent hire and is increasingly worried that they biffed it, they too under the guise of Desperation might drop the last hire in the hopes that the program isn’t too scathed by the misstep. I am in no way talking about Cincinnati and Butch Jones.

So, with our boundaries and hurdles set, let’s begin the Great Hunt.

Big 12

Colorado – This is a damn strong start. A strong tradition of excellence (Nat’l Championship in the past 2 decades), a soon-to-be conference improvement, and a pissed off fanbase that has blown out it’s rage-o-meter a few years ago and now resides in Apathyville. Rumors ’round here in Denver almost had Dan Hawkins getting fired mid-year if he had lost to Hawaii. Former players, rich alumni, all are furious at the man and are drumming up a war fund to have him drummed outta town the day after they get demolished by Nebraska.

Texas Tech – I can dream that the world is just, right? I can dream that Tuberville will fall on his face in his first year and that Leach, who most TT fans would happily have back can waltz back to Lubbock the returning hero? No, this is never happening.

Big East

Cincinnati- OK, I lied: I was talking about Butch Jones and Cincinnati before. Yes, it is his first year at the school, and yes, for their fan-base to be desperate would first require Cincy to have fans, but still: it’s only a short drive down I-71 to Louisville, and Cincinnati can still smell the charred remains from the Kragthorpe-ocalypse in the air. And having Brian Kelly and being good, man, was awesome.

Pac-10

Washington State – Just seeing if you were paying attention. Notachance. The Boys of Pullman have a great thing going on in Nowhere, WA and are proud of their 3-4 wins/year grow operation. Mike Price’s success was an unfortunate mistake that the Cougars never plan on making again.

SEC

Georgia – I will freely admit to knowing roughly %.002 of the things about Georgia football that a T Kyle King or a Doug Gillett do. I will also freely admit that I am including UGA as a prospective Leach Landing because (1) I can sorta see this actually happening*, and (2) anyone who says that they aren’t titillated by the idea of Leach v. Urban/Leach v. Johnson/Leach v. Saban is a damn liar and shouldn’t be trusted with your kids.

*Willing to be proven totally wrong and smacked down for this. I have no opinion on Mark Richt, whether he should stay or go.

Big 10

Illinois – Another strong one. Big 10 dollars, a moribund team (we need to change the acutal term to Zookibund). As far as tradition: have you forgotten Kurt Kittner? Never forget Kurt Kittner. Why, if it weren’t for Rohan Davey, Ron Turner would still be riding the Illini Juggernaut to consecutive Big 10 titles! The problem more has to do with the dearth of Illini football fans. They’re a basketball school, no one can change that. You know who else is an Illini alum? Tim Brewster, which brings us to

Minnesota – oh, papa likes. New stadium that is currently full of some of the shittiest football this side of NAIA? Check. Recent memories of bowl games? Check* BCS? Check. Would anyone begrudge the Gophers, in the wake of Tim Brewster (no need to add ‘-calypse’ or ‘-gate-‘, for his name is synonymous with these things already), for them to take a flyer on Mike Leach. No, no one would. The guy’s won everywhere he’s been, he’d be given enough of a leash and peace-and-quiet to build up a program, and the upper-Midwestern passion for the game, which is fervent yet bound by chains of decorum and etiquette, is much more compatible with the Mad Scientist than the tribalistic voodoo-and-omerta-making tastes of Texans.

So my frontrunner for Leach is the frozen plains of the Great North. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get into vikings or Norse mythology or find a way for humanity to finally defeat Brett Favre!

* That might be the strongest damnation against Brewster: people are longing for Glen Mason! Somewhere right now Mason brain is sizzling with revenge-joy and schadenfreude. His mouth will translate that into him murmuring “win some, lose some” as he quietly stacks his wife’s doilies for her next coffee klatch.

Associated Press G8 Poll

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sportswriters’ Polls fit firmly within the tradition of America Doing Something Asinine But Stickin’ With It Because It’s Tradition. We all know that such paragons of intellect like Craig James* know jack shit about teams that haven’t been put directly in front of his eyes, but sure, his opinion can matter in determining the national champion because he’s a journalist AND ARE YOU QUESTIONING TRADITION DEAR SIR? GOOD DAY I SAID GOOD DAY TO YOU. (Fact: the only 3 AP voters who I trust to make sense are Chris Fowler, Andy Staples, and Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette who is included just because I really like his Twitter feed and Iowa is America and I love America).

*Until writing this post I had no idea that Craig James was an AP voter. Yes, that response of nausea you just had is totally normal.

But did you know that the AP has polls for other things? Besides sports? Me neither, at least not until I was leaked the latest AP rankings of the G8 nations by a disgruntled AP intern. He included the voters’ notes on the nations as well. “Ranked for what end?”, you might ask. By asking that question, however, you have already demonstrated a level of self-awareness and common sense that disqualifies you from becoming an AP voter. Behold, the results of the AP G8 poll.

1. Canada (47 first place votes) – Notes: “Pierre Trudeau always puts out a top quality nation. Whadya mean he’s been dead for a decade?”. “I’ll admit I haven’t been Yukon-way in awhile, but I was talking with Mitch Albom in the Coliseum press box last Rose Bowl and he said that he could see from Michigan that Canada was rumbling along nicely.” “The Canucks’ debt-to-GDP ratios would be the jealousy of every SEC school.”

2. Russia (12 first place votes, totally absent from NY Post writer’s ballot) – Notes: “Can’t forget the way they wiped the floor with Georgia back in 2008.” “Putin made a great choice in a successor with Medvedev.” “They have a chokehold on every pipeline, everywhere.” “VODKA!” “I get the feeling that they’d go anywhere and take on anyone to prove a point.”

3. Germany (3 first place votes) – “Woulda ranked them higher, but I had to take a point off for being led by a woman. Principles, guys, principles.” “Gotta think that this traditional power is finally back on the path to glory. Hopefully they’ll handle the success better this time.” “Plaschke’s a German name, ain’t it?” “Always acquit themselves on the biggest stages.”
4. United Kingdom – Notes: “Got some talent, but I’ve never seen a nation win with 2 Prime Ministers, but it’s always fun watching someone try.” “The intensity of their fans can’t be questioned.” “Are prone to the stray stumble against a lesser opponent, or have we all forgotten back in the 80’s with Falkland-Gate?” “Amazing to see the Constitutional Government Tree branch out to so many other squads, including the major players of the USA and Canada and to the burgeoning midmajor of Australia (can’t wait for them to take on the role of G8-Buster)”

5. Japan (2 first place votes) – Notes: “Their getting up there in years, but you just can’t teach game-time experience.” “Mariotti and Bayless always stop off in Tokyo for a day or two during their annual trips to Thailand. Only highest praise for ’em.” “The Japanese have a strong culture of success.” “Get the feeling that their really ‘all-in’ for the team.”

6. USA – Notes: “All the kids are crazy for the US, but they’re all sizzle and no steak.” “Given their resources, who couldn’t do what they do?” “It seems like New York City is like a 9th-year senior city.” “Been having some issues with compliance of late, gotta ding ’em for it.” “Still playing a white wide receiver in this day and age? Kinda weird.” “That being said, when these guys get motivated, WATCH OUT, wouldn’t want to face that thing in a dark place or desert.”

7. France – “Seen better times.” “A bunch of coaches have taken a shot at the job and failed. Maybe it’s more about the administration than the personnel.” “Gotta question their fans’ enthusiasm. More of a wine and cheese crowd than die-harders.” “If these jokers get a first-place vote, we all know it’s coming from Woody. Him and his thing for hairy women I guess.” “Seem far too content with their middling success to ever be a top-achiever.” “The Vanderbilt of the G8 in my book.”

8. Italy – “I haven’t really ever thought of bringing up relegation at the press conferences, but what’s it been, like 10 straight years of Italy as the doormat?” “It’s tough to see Berlusconi (shades of Schnellenberger in that man) floundering about with such sub-par personnel.” “They’re just asking for the death-penalty, corruption’s so rampant.” “Haven’t we been letting them coast on their past achievements of Pizza and Sophia Loren?” “Mariotti’s Italian, right? 8th place it is.”

The NFL and Brain Trauma and Suicides

September 21, 2010 § 5 Comments

Things need to be said before we all get on the same page, when people are only still learning about the problem. I’m not going to watch the very enablers hop in front of the reform parade. Names need to be named.

Today here in Denver we’re all trying to figure out what it means when a 23-year old kills himself. When the greatest wide receiver in South Carolina’s history, a father of a young son, decides thinks his answers and his peace can only come from a gunbarrel. The newspapers are still scrambling to get quotes of any meaning. Local radio is nigh unlistenable, jammed full with a bunch of callers slamming McKinley’s “selfish” decision and other ignorant shit in the the air. Steve Spurrier’s reaction probably summarizes it best:

“I can’t understand.” “It’s hard to believe.” First memories are not of the field, but of McKinley’s smile. And you shake your head.

Less than 24 hours before we learned the news of the suicide, at the half-time of the Sunday night Saints-Niners game, Bob Costas droned on NBC for 3-4 minutes about the super grave seriousness with which the NFL is addressing the issue of brain damage and football. He pointed out the Principled Stance and showed that since Jason Witten was kept off the field against his own wishes that the NFL had been, is, and will be at the forefront of player safety. As I was watching this happen on-screen two thoughts screamed into my mind, equally loud.

1. If the NFL is, during prime-time, parading out their aw-shucksiest spokesperson/Pravda-man to talk about brain damage, they are on the precipice, down to one or two bullets, one last day of rations. They are scared of what the public will find, because they know it’s ugly. Bob Costas’s visage is the Doomsday Clock at 11:59.

2. What total bullshit.

Here’s a league that has had years of doctors and players shouting from the rooftops “Football is ruining our brains and bodies!” and the league and coaches’ responses have been near-unanimous: suck it up, sissy. Be a man, play through the pain. You think you have it any harder than a Joe Greene or Jim Brown or Ray Nitschke or Other Player With Gnarled Hand and Gritty Snarl? NFL Films has had as much of a hand in brain damage in the U.S. as the unhelmeted bike rider.

Ted Johnson, with his speed addiction and blackouts. Troy Aikman with his double-digit list of concussions. Mike Webster’s homelessness. Andre Waters, another NFLer who ended it with a gun. Tom McHale with his drug addiction and demise. Chris Nowinski wrote a book about concussions back in 2004. You may not know who Dr. Bennett Omalu is, but the NFL has known for years. We don’t know what drove Kenny McKinley to kill himself, but if his depression was not football-induced his story would be the exception, not the rule.

And here are the two men I don’t want forgotten in the change, caught up in the wash: Ira Casson and David Viano.

The two doctors who managed for years to keep the “science” on the side of management, on the side of the owners. They provided the “research” that enabled coaches to thrown concussed players back into the mix, to give coaches the rationale to take years off of men’s lives. Though both men were forced off the NFL’s brain injury committee last year, their contributions to brain damage are already set in stone.

Those two gentlemen may have Kenny McKinley’s blood on their hands, they absolutely have Chris Henry’s.

As you said, Dr. Casson, when you had eleven cases of CTE in front of you:

Regarding the 11 deceased players whose brains were discovered to have damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy — whose only known cause is repeated blows to the head — Dr. Casson said those represented only “a small number of case reports of neuro-pathological abnormalities.”

And you, Dr. Viano:

Viano was targeted after a report he co-authored with Casson said “it might be safe” for high schools to follow the NFL’s practice of allowing players with concussions to return to the same game, the New York Times reported.

These men who took the oath to fight for health instead dissembled for the rich and powerful. Damn them both.

Long may we remember the men who’ve given their lives for our entertainment. But long may we also remember the men who pushed those men to their deaths.

Poetry for Jocks- William Carlos Williams

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I was taught that poetry was something that couldn’t happen twice and can’t be summarized. Y’know, like sports. I’m going to dust off my 20-30 (!) poetry anthologies and from time to time push poems from the academic and analytical into the form of athletics. Probably more to hope that I do the reverse and push sports, for most of us, into the poetic.

—–

The crowd at the ball game

BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them–

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius–

all to no end save beauty
the eternal–

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied–
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut–

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it–

The Jew gets it straight– it
is deadly, terrifying–

It is the Inquisition, the
Revolution

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them
idly–

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

—–

Germany Shows You How A Real Youth Program Works

August 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Bundesliga Talk has a post up to remind us how good Germany is at identifying and growing talent.

With players like Thomas Mueller, who walked away with the Golden Boot and Young Player of the Tournament awards, Mesut Ozil, who astounded crowds with his flair, creativity, and ability to create some thing out of nothing and Sami Khedira, who stepped up into Michael Ballack’s role and handled it with efficiency and style, you could say that Germany could be set for another golden age. What’s even more incredible, is that Bundesliga clubs are constantly churning out talented young players who could well go on to make an incredible impact on the national team in the future. While Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil and so many others will have shone so brightly in South Africa, a new generation is already coming through the system in Germany.

Yeah, yeah, Germany has so much talent that it’s practically giving top-league players away. We get it. That’s what you’d expect from a Bundesliga blog writ– DIEGO CONTENTO IS ELIGIBLE FOR GERMANY??? That’s just unfair. Germany is now on notice for the next 8 years as the Best Team In Europe.*

*Possible hyperbolic. But only a little if at all.

Here’s a list of a bunch of players, all German-eligible, 25 years old and younger:

  • Toni Kroos, 20, Bayern Munich
  • Felix Kroos, 18, Werder Bremen
  • Mario Gomez, 25, Bayern Munich
  • Diego Contento, 20, Bayern Munich
  • Dennis Diekmeier, 20, Hamburg
  • Jerome Boateng, 21, Manchester City
  • Holger Badstuber, 21, Bayern Munich
  • Per Mertesacker, 25, Werder Bremen
  • Sami Khedira, 23, Real Madrid
  • Mesut Ozil, 21, Real Madrid
  • Lukas Podolski, 25, Koln
  • Thomas Muller, 20, Bayern Munich

And Phillip Lahm and a few others are 26. Wow. Serious points go out to Beckenbauer, Klinsmann, and Loew for taking the time to design and the patience to install the youth system that is spitting these kinds of players out on a seemingly annual basis. If Brazil is great by an embarrassment of natural resources, Germany is great by excellence in design.