Monday, December 17, 2012

Dodgy Moves

Before I begin, I would like to thank you for your continual support and views despite my lack of posting. This was a piece done for my school newspaper The Blueprint

   On December 11, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers ruined Major League Baseball. The ownership’s free spending attitude and overall disdain for homegrown talent has dramatically changed baseball’s landscape from one of patience, persistence, and, save for a few teams, frugality, to one where the teams who have money dominate the ones who do not. When the storied franchise signed right hander Zack Greinke to a six year deal worth nearly $150,000,000, it dramatically increased the already inflated value of good pitching to a record high. 

     From a business perspective, such a move is crucial to establishing credibility to an ownership group lacking experience. Signing Greinke gives the impression that the team now has two top of the rotation starters, the other being Clayton Kershaw, and will generate more revenue for a team in dire need of it. While the Dodgers shocked the league by accepting the brunt of some of the most disgusting contracts in baseball history in a trade with the Red Sox, giving such a large contract to such an average player signified the final blow to the baseball establishment. Maybe I’m overreacting. It’s a distinct possibility when sports are involved. The Dodgers merely took advantage of their large market surroundings and played to their strength-money, and to an extent that’s true, but the team’s blatant disregard for the salary cap and ensuing luxury tax sent a message-that mere fines are no deterrent, and championships can and will be bought in the near future, and that parity as we know it is dead. Baseball doesn’t need any more organizations like the Yankees. It needs more like the Reds, Cardinals, and Athletics, teams that actually have a budget. 

     Only from a performance perspective does this deal show signs of backfiring. Besides the inevitable issue of a decline in production towards the end of the deal, Greinke will get paid $26,000,000 at age 34, it is important to note that he is hardly better than Homer Bailey. The man is talented, no doubt, but statistically, he is only slightly above average. His career ERA is 3.77, far from meriting title of ‘ace,’ or a contract worth five times the GDP of Tuvalu. He also only wins three more games, on average, than a league average, replacement level player, making his very expensive impact negligible. While Greinke had an exceptional season in 2009 that won him the AL Cy Young award, his performance as of late has shown such a feat to be unrepeatable. Furthermore, his off the field issues may prevent the right hander from having any productive years at all. He has been diagnosed with severe Social Anxiety Disorder, and putting him in the spot light of Los Angeles is unfortunately a disaster waiting to happen.  

     Greinke’s contract exposes a growing problem in baseball. The decision to sign a league average pitcher to the richest contract at his position in history is absurd in principle, but in terms of simple economics, justifiable. There is always a large demand for quality pitching, but this year, there were very few pitchers who fit the profile. High scarcity and even higher demand makes for dramatically inflated prices, regardless of how much the item in question, in this case starting pitching, is actually worth. The fact that the Dodgers were willing to put themselves far into the luxury tax to have an average pitcher creates a bubble that will never burst-just get bigger, unless something is done to change it. Maybe I’m overreacting. But I do not find it fair. Something has to be done, one option being a ‘harder’ salary cap and a more harsh system of fines and draft pick compensations. However, December 11, 2012 will forever be known as the day that the Los Angeles Dodgers ruined baseball.  

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Game of Politics

     Throughout this election season, we have seen too many endorsements by celebrities in an attempt to bring the brains and/or beauty to the candidate’s ticket, using fame rather than facts for political gain. But who brings the brawn to the ticket? Whose endorsement will, in all honesty, draw men to a ticket? Athletes may let their play do the talking; however, they are often unafraid to voice their opinions with their money and platforms.

     Recently, two of the most influential people in the NFL, Broncos Vice President and legendary quarterback John Elway and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson have come out in support of Mitt Romney, both donating to his cause. Romney, interestingly, is named after a 1920s football player, perhaps that is why he has a lead over Barack Obama in NFL-related fundraising and donations! Among NFL owners, the Republican challenger and his party receive roughly 58% of all NFL political donations, most of it coming from Houston Texans owner Robert McNair Sr., the aforementioned Johnson, and the Chargers’ Alex Spanos. Among supporters of the President is Steelers Owner Dan Rooney. Rooney was actually an ardent conservative, until he, true to devious Steelers form, was offered a position as the Ambassador to Ireland-suddenly prompting a massive, Romney-esque, shift across the political spectrum. Among players however, it is important to note that the incumbent has an advantage. Despite that, many of the most talented players in the league have come out to support the GOP. Quarterback Tom Brady is believed to sympathize with the political right, and his rival, Peyton Manning, has actually donated to Republicans running for office in the past and may continue to do so. However, while the GOP, true to the stereotype, receives most of their football donations from the uber-rich, the sport leans right nonetheless.
     The NBA, on the other hand, leans farther right than any other major sports league in the United States of America. Barack Obama, who has been known to play basketball with NBA players on a court in the White House, reaps the benefit of the donations from the likes of future Hall of Famers LeBron James and Chris Paul; even playing with James midway through his term. The president also has supporters in the NBA’s administration, with commissioner David Stern among his biggest donators. Stern, despite his far-left beliefs, was surprisingly tough against the union during last year’s labor negotiations, and made waves intervening into the trade market in a way some may say Obama has with the private sector, striking down a trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers. Obama even attended some of the US Olympic team’s games. However, among the owners, the Republican Party has received the lion’s share of contributions, though the total amount is dramatically smaller than the NFL’s. Mark Cuban, never a stranger to controversy, commented that the US was better off than it was four years ago and voted for the President in 2008, despite his admiration for conservative hero Ayn Rand. 
     Major League Baseball, like the NFL, leans to the right of the political spectrum. While both candidates are fans of their hometown teams, the Obama prefers the White Sox, and Romney the Red Sox, the bulk of funds the two receive are from other organizations. The Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Reds, Braves, and Tigers are all among most generous to politicians, and they all give at least 75% of their total donations to Republicans. Teams like the Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics embody the GOP ideals of doing more with less and efficiency as well. Taking low-cost yet effective teams to the playoffs despite claims of claims that ‘you didn’t build that,’ the Cardinals and Athletics give 98% and 74% of all donations to Republicans respectively. It is also interesting to note that the teams that lean right are also the teams that go deep in the playoffs, while the teams on the left, get knocked out early. 

     This election is likely to be the closest in decades. In a nation where conformity is key, one man’s, or woman’s, endorsement may be the key to victory. Neither candidate is a stranger to athletics; Romney ran the 2002 Winter Olympics and, true to form, turned a deficit into a surplus, and even held a football game between his staff and media reporters, while the President plays basketball with supporters and was photographed holding a baseball bat while talking to members of the Turkish Government. Romney heads into November 6, 2012 with the support from the NFL and MLB, and fittingly, the PGA, a league in which personal responsibility and honesty are key. Obama is popular among the ranks of the NBA, and even a Chicago ping-pong company. This election will be a turning point for the nation, and athletes are among the most popular and scrutinized supporters, but ultimately, their vote is no more important than anyone else’s, and we can only hope that they, and the citizens of the United States of America make the right choice this year.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hating Howard

     Dwight Howard has been one of my favorite players for a while now. After being drafted first overall immediately after high school in 2003, he was tasked with saving the Orlando Magic franchise, which had lost All-Star and face of the franchise Tracy McGrady. Howard rose to the occasion, becoming the first rookie player drafted from high school to play in all 82 regular season games, and averaged a promising 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. He led his team to the NBA finals in 2009, though the Magic ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. Howard was depicted as a man on a mission, deadset on bringing a title to the team that took a chance on a kid from Georgia rather than draft the junior from UConn, Emeka Okafor, all the while making the world his personal playground through his sense of humor and Superman semantics. Unfortunately, it's all crashing down. The image of a fun-loving fan-favorite is all but a distant memory after nearly a year of trade demands and horrible morale, and I am fed up with Dwight Howard. Done. Forget it. He's a jerk, in fact, I'd go as far as putting him in the same category as LeBron James, if not worse. At least The Decision was quick. Howard's back and forth attitude in regards to the team for which he will play is appalling, and he doesn't seem to care. The center had the Magic front office in the palm of his hand. Dwight wants the talented but admittedly annoying coach Stan Van Gundy fired, done. Dwight wants general manager Otis Smith fired, done again. The only thing the Magic haven't done is get him a trade.

     The All-Star is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer by the numbers, and he is capable of putting a team on his back and taking them to the Finals, making him one of, if not the most valuable player available on the trading block in the last five years. He has stated his desire to play in a big market, as most NBA players do, but has limited his choices to only one team, the Brooklyn Nets. The Magic's new GM is more than happy to comply with Howard's demands, as would anyone in his situation, and has looked to trade with multiple teams. While the Lakers have been in talks for nearly a year, and the Nets have offered injury prone center Brooke Lopez and three first round picks, no deal has been reached at the time of this writing. I would honestly send him to basketball purgatory- a team stuck in rebuilding mode- like the horrible Charlotte Bobcats. There, he would be the only player worth watching, and all the attention would be him, and in the end, that's all he wanted and more. I would send him to California, not to the Lakers or Clippers, but Golden State, another team stuck in rebuilding mode and seemingly a million years away from contending.

     In conclusion, Dwight Howard used to be one of my favorite players, but only now has his selfish, greedy, and ultimately narcissistic personality come to light. His self-inflicted suffering is not only the worst depiction of an unhappy athlete in recent memory, but also an accurate description of what professional athletics is coming to. Holdouts, opt outs, and escalators are ruining the games we love. Gone are the days of playing out your contract and showing up for practice day in, day out, and not complaining. Howard and his peers play games for millions, yet they demand more payment for winning the genetic lottery. Gone are the days of sports being sports. Gone are the days I care about athletes claiming to be underpaid. Gone are the days I care.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

A Pointless Lance

     Cancer. We have all been affected by it in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be through the loss of a loved one as I have, or through the suffering of those inflicted by it, cancer is by far the most researched and prominent disease in our world today. Because of the press and the stories about our own unbearable pain, organizations like the Susan G. Komen and others have poured billions of dollars into research for cures. Celebrities aren't afraid to voice their support either, as stars ranging from actress Christina Applegate to Sharon Osbourne have supported cancer organizations. None the stars however, are as active in campaigning or as polarizing as cyclist Lance Armstrong.

     Armstrong has been the guiding light for cycling for years. Who would be a better representative than a man who only has one testicle? While I say that in jest, Armstrong's story was the perfect one for his sport. The man had testicular cancer that spread to his brain and lungs and still won seven Tours de France. He was Tim Tebow, at least in a come-backy way, before Tebow was even a time of day. The man even appeared on popular children's show Arthur as a character named Vance Legstrong, inspiring a young child to do his best and to have confidence. The man is a good person. At least I hope he is.

     Armstrong has been a leading supporter of cancer research, as was stated above, and has even considered a career in politics to support his cause,, though he ultimately sided against it, fearing, and rightly so, that if he campaigned and was elected as a member of a certain party, he would alienate members of the other, effectively slashing support he would have had as a lobbyist, which he and his Livestrong organization act as. He helped with a proposal, which the state of California is in the process of approving, that would put a $1 tax on tobacco products, the proceeds going towards cancer research, effectively cutting risks for lung cancer while helping find ways to cure the others. His impact on cancer is not what has been questioned as of late, as his record of charitable actions is undeniable. The issue, at least to most of the mainstream media, is that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

     I really don't know if Armstrong did performance-enhancing drugs, nor do I care. All I know is that he never failed a test, and that the allegations against him are from disgruntled teammates and very elaborate as well. That's all that anyone can prove beyond a reasonable doubt as of now. I know what Livestrong has done for the world, and I would still support him if he was proven to to use drugs. What Lance Armstrong has done for cancer patients and the entire world far outweighs any sort of bad. He instilled hope into the hearts of millions. He took cancer, looked it straight in the eye, and gave it a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the groin. The greatness he achieved made me believe I could do anything if I put my mind to it, just like Armstrong did. I looked to him for inspiration when I tore my labrums in both of my hips. Well, ripped is an understatement...think shredded, as I couldn't kick a soccer ball without screaming, but I digress. Armstrong's contributions to the medical field and to cycling are undeniable. Hell, if he asked me ten years ago to help him dope to win,  I probably would have done so for the sake of those bed-ridden through the atrocities of cancer like my uncle was. That's not being selfish, that's being selfless. If Armstrong saved one life a day juicing, the whole universe would support him. He has.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Love of Country?

     The Olympics have always taken my breath away. I remember watching US swimmer Michael Phelps win a record eight gold medals in one year. I remember watching Jamaica's Usain Bolt utterly destroy the competition, winning the race in style while beating his chest, though it cost him an even lower world-record time. I remember watching dreams come true, and I fear all of that may be coming to an end.  I am worried that the Olympics, arguably the one pure form of competition left and where athletes compete for love of country, not for money, will become akin to what people are trying to make college athletics-a moneygrab for it's competitors and nothing more. I fear that those who do compete for the love of the game are few and far between, and most likely do not come from the United States of America.

     When Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat came out and said that he wants to be paid for his time on the Olympic Basketball team, I immediately asked myself, "Why?". Wade already has his millions, and I assume he loves his country, so why would he want to demand payment for something millions of people would do for free? He's greedy. It's a natural instinct to want to be fairly compensated, I get that, and I understand where Wade is coming from in regards to his desire to receive payments, or at least a percentage of the profits from every jersey bearing his name, but why? Because the Olympics are becoming the world's biggest advertisement for an athlete's talents and endorsement opportunities. Get on the podium, get your millions in watch deals. It's simple really. I'm fine with that. Companies need a face to be competitive, whether it be a gorgeous supermodel  or a talented athlete, and the Olympics give an athlete a stage to audition on. But in their heart, the Olympians know that the hopes of a nation rest on their shoulders. They compete for the love of the game, not for money. At least they're supposed to. Wade's comment sounded eerily similar to the argument made by proponents of paying college athletes. People go to college to prepare themselves for the rest of their lives, and play sports because they can, not to play sports then drop in on a few classes. Collegiate athletes will tell you that they play to win a championship, not for payment. The same goes for some professionals, who stay with one team their entire careers for the love of the game, even though they could move to more marketable teams. Therefore, if one college can offer more money to a player than another university could, the player would almost always go to the school offering more money. The same concept applies to the Olympics. If John Doe is theoretically able to compete for three different countries, then he will most likely compete for the nation offering the most money to compete, not necessarily for medals as is custom now, putting smaller, less developed nations at a disadvantage, sucking the soul out of the games in a ruthless monetization of citizenship.

     The real issue, at least for me, is where is the love of the country? The Olympics are the embodiment of nationalism, or heroism, of athletic immortality. There is no drive to compete if one knows they will get paid regardless. The only incentive someone should need for competing in the Olympics is knowing they are going to battle for their country in a (mostly) bloodless war for dominance. Do you think the Miracle on Ice would have happened if there was no drive to compete? The ragtag team beat the Soviet Union for a reason--that they were representing the free world-- and they knew it. They accomplished the impossible, but they had to continue competing. Would there have been a drive in the gold medal match against Finland if they received their compensation beforehand? I'm not sure, but it's a valid question. The true beauty of the Olympics lies in an athlete's desire to perform for his country without getting paid for simply showing up.  Why even have a competition between nations if it is simply another way for athletes to make money, not to represent their love of their country? The moment Olympians start getting paid will be the moment it will lose it's soul.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Philosophical Differences

     In politics it has been shown that different philosophies can work. The same has been proven in baseball. In America's favorite pastime, there are those who desire to win now, and those who desire to win later. Believers in the former are usually marketable high-rollers, winning by using their unparallelled assets to simply outspend the competition. Those following the latter are usually small market teams possessing a smart front office and a revolutionary way of looking at free agents. They also keep talent in the organization by good drafting. When the Yankees reload, the Cincinnati Reds refill.

     Teams with higher salaries are usually the teams with the rings. That is undeniable. As mentioned above, they can simply outspend the competition. While the strategy of going out and signing high-profile free agents is exciting, it is very difficult to keep doing. The signings have to work well, for if they do not, then the team loses and attendance sinks, therefore limiting profits and eliminating the possibility to give a competitive offer or provide a stable, winning environment. However, the few teams that use said philosophy are very good at it. The New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox built up a strong core with players they developed in-house, then reaped the benefits and using the newfound cash to buy championships. The Yankees had their "Core Four" in Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Petite. They won A LOT with them. This enabled them to trade for, and later resign Alex Rodriguez to one of the largest contracts in baseball history. After first baseman Jason Giambi left in free agency, rather than using one of their developed and relatively cheap Triple-A prospects, the signed Mark Teixeira to a very large contract. A similar situation developed when catcher Jorge Posada began faltering behind the plate. Rather than use talented Jesus Montero, who was traded to the Seattle Mariners during spring training, they went out and got Russel Martin. On opening day, only three of the Yankees starters came from their farm system. A similar scenario has shown itself in Boston. Behind Theo Epstein, the Red Sox were very good at evaluating talent. They were also good at offering big contracts, as shown by their recent signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and again in 2007, and both of those teams' key players were acquired through trades and free agency. The Philadelphia Phillies are no different. They exploded on to the MLB scene in 2008 by beating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series and returning the following season, albeit losing to the New York Yankees. The front office proceeded to open up the checkbook, trading for expensive but talented veterans like pitcher Roy Halladay, and signing Cliff Lee. While they may have developed players like the injury prone Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the impact of what they have done in free agency and trades far outweighs the impact of developed players.

     The other side of the spending spectrum contains winners as well. Penny-pinchers like the Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds and, to an extent, the Texas Rangers are perennial "Next Year Is The Year" teams, as their star prospects always seem to take longer to get to the big leagues than necessary. The Rays were, and still are contenders with a very low salary. They developed talented players like third baseman Evan Longoria, and outfielders B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, and still managed to win games, even if they were in the same divisions as the aforementioned Yankees and Red Sox. They have faith in their general managers and in their ability to draft well. These teams are often very efficient with costs and players. When players become stars on cost-effective teams, they either have become attached to the area, like Reds first baseman Joey Votto, or leave for bigger markets, like Crawford, but that is an obvious risk with prospects, as they can quickly become expensive luxuries and sign elsewhere, whereas a free agent is a known value and is signed to a longer deal that is generally more team-friendly in the long run, for a prospect's price goes up when an older free agent's goes down. The Cincinnati Reds, like the Rays, have consistently had one of the lower payrolls in Major League Baseball. They traded big stars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, who was developed in the system, for prospects, to make room for players they drafted. Griffey Jr. made room for slugging outfielder Jay Bruce, who was drafted and developed in the Reds farm system. Then, Joey Votto, was drafted, signed, and resigned to be a career Cincinnati Red. On opening day, five of the nine starting players were drafted by the Reds. When these prospects become too expensive, as Bruce and pitcher Johnny Cueto might, there will be others waiting at the doorstep to step up. A similar situation unfolded in Texas, as the Rangers lost one of the most popular players in baseball, pitcher C.J Wilson to the Angels. Wilson was brought up by the Rangers, as were potential-laden players like Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus. Wilson's free agency was a hot topic, as he was very expensive but not necessarily worth the money he was demanding, so those who wanted to win now campaigned for a new deal, while others realized that a prospect like Feliz could fill the void without much of a drop in performance, if at all.

     Different teams have different philosophies. The big spenders have to win now, and their method of acquiring players or filling needs reflects that attitude. Rather than wait for prospects, teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies attack the free agent market with reckless abandon, while other teams like the Rays, Reds, and Rangers are more patient and fill their needs with players they drafted and nurtured. Both philosophies have a proven track record, as every team mentioned, save the Reds, though they may get there soon, has been to the World Series in the last five years, regardless of whether or not they got there with players they bought. Some teams choose to spend; others have to to maintain a steady fanbase and revenue source. Some teams choose to stick with their own players; others have to due to a lack of resources. The only question is, which do you prefer?

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Brain Drain: The Concussion Problem in the NFL

      February 17, 2011, April 19, 2012, May 2, 2012, are all dates that will live on forever. Why? They are all the dates of NFL player suicides. Dave Duerson, a safety for the infamous Chicago Bears defense of the 1980s commit suicide on February 17 of last year. Ray Easterling, also a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left us on April 19th, and yesterday, legendary linebacker Junior Seau died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. All of them played in the NFL, all of them were reported to suffer concussions, but that was before anyone really knew what a concussion actually was or what the terrifying repercussions may be. Now, we know that a concussion occurs when the brain itself slams into the skull, often causing severe headaches and nausea. However, when concussions go unnoticed and continue to occur, life-threatening damage can result. Players, especially at high-impact positions like corner, running back, linebacker, defensive and offensive line, and wide receiver, have complained of bodily harm after retiring since the game's conception. Football is a violent game, as we all know. However, they didn't realize that their brains were slowly being destroyed. NFL players have higher rates of suicide--six times the national average to be specific--Alzheimers, and even depression. Some have lost complete bodily function, like Eric LeGrand, a defensive lineman who, in symbolic gesture, was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After suffering a debilitating spinal chord injury, many doctors said he would be forced to live off a respirator and be paralyzed for the rest of his life. This is just the beginning of an issue that is just now coming to life. 

     Before one can fully understand the problem concussions actually are, it is necessary for a brief overview of what being concussed actually means. The simple definition mentioned above is sufficient for a non-football concussion. In the NFL, a defensive back like Duerson or Easterling can tackle a player with over 1,600lbs. of force, and a linebacker like Seau could hit even harder. Keep in mind a Smart Car weights 1,609lbs. These guys hit each other with the force of a small car, yet the NFL doesn't think concussions could cause dangerous side-effects. An insurance company pays better than the NFL. That's saying something. A concussion occurs much more often then players themselves think. Let's assume a 6'3, 250lb linebacker who runs a 4.6 forty yard dash hits a player with the force of 2,000lbs. The running back, like the linebacker, is running at full speed. A collision occurs. The both players go from full-speed to full-stop. Their helmets protect their skulls, but it only hurts their brains, as the brain continues moving even after the head stops, causing a concussion. The force necessary to cause a concussion gets progressively less as each one occurs, though the severity of the consequences increase exponentially. The linebacker walks off the field for a few plays, while the running back only feels dazed and gets back in the huddle. The running back knows his time in the league will most likely end by his thirtieth birthday, and he needs to support his family. He has to go back in the game, thus he puts his career, and his life on the line. There's clearly a problem, and only recently has the NFL decided to make a change for the better.

     Dave Duerson was a safety and defensive back for the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants. He was an All-American at Notre Dame, and a Super Bowl champion with the Bears. He had the record for most sacks by a defensive back with seven until it was broken by the Cardinals' Adrian Wilson. As a pass-rusher along with being a defensive enforcer in the secondary, he supposedly had multiple concussions in his career, though they were, at the time, considered "getting your bell rung" and nothing more. At the time, a player would have his teammates help him up and stagger back to the huddle. Duerson was one of those players. He loved the game. He was a warrior. He got back into the huddle...a lot. After retiring in 1993, his condition quickly deteriorated. According to his son and ex-wife, he had trouble spelling words, suffered from Alzheimers, dementia, and had a terrible short-term memory. In the years leading up to his death, he was accused of many "spur of the moment" crimes, such as battery or domestic abuse, most likely because he could no longer make decisions without seriously contemplating his options for a substantial amout of time. One doctor who analyzed his brain was surprised Duerson was even capable of WALKING. In his final act, he shot himself in the chest to save his brain and left the note shown above. He knew something was wrong, and he decided to make a change for the better by donating his brain to science. Duerson's brain was shown to have a protein deficiency known as CTE caused by significant, and most importantly repeated, brain trauma. His brain was literally being destroyed bit by bit. His family has received nothing. All because the NFL refused to acknowledge football played a factor.

     Ray Easterling, also a safety, was a player for the Atlanta Falcons. A defensive captain, he was a key player for a team that had arguably the best defensive season of all time. With a tough defense, players get competitive. There's nothing worse for a man's brain than to put him in front of millions of people and surround him with twenty-one other testosterone-fueled men. He tries to get the knockout, the highlight hit, the devastating tackle that knocks out the star offensive player. That's exactly what happened with the Falcons. After retiring, his body was destroyed. He had over twenty orthopedic surgeries, and was, like Duerson, was diagnosed with dementia. In an interview with Fox Sports Network, his wife Mary Ann, said:

“He had been feeling more and more pain. He felt like his brain was falling off. He was losing control. He couldn’t remember things from five minutes ago. It was frightening, especially somebody who had all the plays memorized as a player when he stepped on the field.”

     Easterling commit suicide, like Duerson, by shooting himself in the chest to preserve his brain for study. His brain was also found to contain tau, a key sign for the existence of CTE. Easterling, like Duerson, was a part of a lawsuit suing the NFL over, according to Easterling's lawyer:

"Continuously and vehemently denied that it knew, should have known or believed that there is any relationship between NFL players suffering concussions while playing . . . and long-term problems such as headaches, dizziness, dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease that many retired players have experienced."

     Junior Seau was a Hall of Fame linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. He hit with a ferocity only seen in gladiatorial death matches. He was a warrior. He never went on the disabled list for a concussion, though, according to his ex-wife, he suffered many of the symptoms. He was depressed, hard to believe for such an upbeat man, and had the symptoms of CTE that afflicted Duerson and Easterling. He was accused of battery, a sign of a heightened sense of aggression that has been linked to brain damage and a possible lack of decision making ability.  He too shot himself in the chest to save his brain for testing. It doesn't do Seau justice to simply say he played with the joy of a boy but the intensity and heart of a man, it doesn't do him justice to write a few paragraphs, let alone a few sentences. It doesn't do Junior Seau justice to leave his family unpaid for something football caused.

     Only recently has the National Football League taken a stand against concussions and overly violent play. Commissioner Roger Goodell has become one of, if not the most, controversial commissioners in all of professional sports. He made it clear in late 2010 that concussions were a problem and harsh penalties would be brought upon those who refused to follow the new, safer rules. Some have lauded this stance, while others claim this is just the beginning of a gradual shift to the NFFL, the National Flag-Football League, where nobody can tackle anyone. They fear the "Glory Days" in which the Bears could literally break the backs of their opponents and the Purple People Eaters could probably get away with actually eating their offensive victims. These people fail to realize the days of vicious defense and ruthless hits are over. The very hits we used to celebrate are now the same hits we fear may contribute to an terrible, life-threatening injury and eventually a violence-filled life after football riddled with bouts of depression, dementia, and possibly suicide. A change has to be made. Now.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stoopidity: The Redskins

     As evidenced by the title, this is yet another addition to the unending Stoopidity series. This time, however, it is perpetrator is NOT a member of the Miami Dolphins organization. Can you believe it? I sure can't! The organization committing the unforgivable crime this time is from the the......Washington Redskins. The Redskins made waves by trading up in the NFL Draft with the St. Louis Rams in order to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. That's all well and good, and I still think that RG3 may end up having the better career than the first overall pick and fellow quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. Griffin, as of now, has the better supporting cast of the two, and Mike Shanahan has a history of developing legendary quarterbacks like Steve Young and Joe Montana. Again, that's not the problem.

     They did the unspeakable, the horrible, the most mindless and brainless thing any team can do besides trading for Tim Tebow. In short, they drafted a second quarterback...early. The unfortunate victims of this crime against the Church of Common Sense are the two quarterbacks drafted, the aforementioned Robert Griffin III, and the other guy, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins. Cousins was rated by many experts a second round pick, some even going as far as saying a team could pick him late in the first. He fell to the fourth round, as many of the teams needing a quarterback or at least wanting one, like the Dolphins, Browns, and Broncos (Peyton Manning is the ultimate tutor for his own successor) addressed the issue early. This is where the headscratching begins. Why would the Redskins even think of drafting another quarterback when they already locked up the position for the next five to ten years? To make matters worse, why would Mike Shanahan even think about drafting another signal caller, even if he was supposedly "too good to pass up," as Shanahan supposedly said. If Cousins was really that good, the Redskins could have traded the pick to an interested party and focus on getting some help for that God-forsaken defense! In the end, this only damages the careers of both players involved, for Griffin has to deal with the threat of a very talented backup, and if he so much as blows a few games we know the impatient home crowd will cry for Cousins, and Cousins, will waste away as a backup and occasional starter when he could be setting the league on fire. If this is some sick and twisted way to light a fire under the already driven and determined Griffin, it clearly has backfired.

     This move does absolutely nothing for the Washington Redskins. Nothing. The only thing they accomplished with their picking of Kirk Cousins was show that they lack the faith, and frankly the guts, to get behind the man charged with saving the franchise. There's clearly a problem with whoever is running the show in Washington. I mean, they threw $100,000,000 at Albert Haynseworth, so that in of itself tells you the front office brass isn't that smart to begin with. Now, we know they aren't even brave or faithful in their own decisions.

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