Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Warrior Myth

We've been totally socked in here for a week with North Dakota temperatures and ice on the uphill side of the drive way. I'm going to the store in a few minutes, first time out since the snow. It's been an interesting week for news and sports, with the remarkable Michael Wolff book exploding into the news about the same moment as the NFL Wildcard Week and last night the College Championship in Division I, between two SEC teams who were ranked in the top five for the whole season, and provided a great ending to the drama that is the football season, even ending in overtime, which is as complex an idea at the college level as the NASCAR system of choosing a season champion. Every fall I try to avert my eyes, but, dammit, football is an engaging sport when it's well played and well coached.

Perhaps it's a lesson the the human trait that captures us all: denial. One way or the other, we all practice denial, over and over. Denial is the sort-of answer to another feature of being human: seeing the future. The cats and dogs, pigs and cattle, do not see the future. They live bravely. Bravery is in some ways easier when practiced in ignorance. The rubber is hitting the road when it comes to dangerous and permanent brain injuries and the game of football. The denial skills are also being honed.

On Sunday the Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton, an incredibly athletic and talented quarterback, was hit in the head on a forceful tackle near the end of the game. He was for a time unable to stand, and then had to return to his knees as he tried to make his way to the sidelines. Once on the bench, he was evaluated and deemed still able to play. In the interim the Panther backup make a rather pathetic effort to run one play. It was obvious that if Newton could not return the Panthers would almost certainly lose. In the end they lost anyway.

I watch the sports talk shows. Michael Wilbon, on his half hour with Tony Kornheiser, argued that the NFL could not allow an injury situation such as Newton's to determine the outcome of the game. The problem was that the athletes were basically warriors. If they could stand and make their way back to the field, that's what they would do. That's what they wanted to do. As is actually known as a fact, most athletes will lie to doctors, telling them that they are ok and capable of returning to play, even when the facts are different, or even if as is the case with brain injuries, a person cannot actually know, at the time of the injury, whether they can or should return to the fray.

So here's a story: https://thinkprogress.org/ncaa-concussion-lawsuit-c0e543a0636c/

There was another game during the Wildcard weekend, Buffalo versus Jacksonville. Both teams were inept. Very close to the end, the Buffalo quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, was knocked out on the field. After several minutes he was assisted to the sidelines, and did not return. The Bills lost.

The only remarks I have heard about this game was that it was the worst of the four games. Neither quarterback was capable, neither could complete many passes, neither team could score. The final score was Jacksonville's one touchdown, the winning score. Taylor never completed a touchdown all day. No one that I heard ever even reported on Taylor's injuries. Perhaps since he was inept, the injuries didn't matter enough to make the news.

There used to be a sociological thesis that we developed sports to help avoid war.

Have you noticed how many ads involve actors with prosthetic legs since the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. It's almost like there's this fresh new group of Americans who have this neat, unique feature, a prosthetic leg. It might even help them run better.

Maybe Wilbon should be more consistent. So what if you have a broken leg. Get the fuck out there, soldier.

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