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Saturday, October 26, 2013

League of Denial

Jim McMahon can't remember where is.

Ricky Watters memory is slipping, causing arguments at home.

Kevin Turner, Watters lead blocker and fullback, has ALS.  He's 44 years old.

John Mackey lived his last years in an assisted living center, addled and on disability.

These stories and more like them are getting more attention because of the book and the PBS Frontline documentary "League of Denial".  Grantland wrote an honest article about what will become a problem for the NFL, if left unchecked and handled in the same 'protect the shield' mentality that has been the method thus far.   I first heard of "League of Denial" from a snippet of an interview on Mike Francesa's radio show on WFAN.  The NFL had just settled a class action suit involving scores of former NFL players for $765 million - the majority of which will go to disabled players.

The PBS special is worth watching.  The analysis of player's brains, the scientific process uncovering CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is riveting.  What's more incredible is the NFL's dogged stance of not allowing the findings through its media filters.  You will watch a clinic on leverage - the moneyed behemoth and massively powerful NFL blocking, denying, obfuscating and altering information to delay, deny and hide information that could hurt, or possibly devastate its bottom line.

One wonders if the NFL had simply, in the 1990's, paid restitution to disable players and required players to sign a "play at your own risk" contract.  It would have been a public relations nightmare - for about 6 months.  Then the sports obsessed and intellectually limited average fan (apologies to HL Mencken) would have forgotten about the whole thing and continued to spend money on the NFL product.

Instead, the NFL opted to hide and then deny scientifically sound findings, and now they have a problem.  Eventually, the NFL will be fine, as America is sports crazy and the NFL rakes in billions in profit - it is too powerful to be down too long.  There is a quote, however, that could create a bigger problem than anything else for the NFL.  In the documentary, one of the NFL officials is quoted as saying "if 10 percent of the mothers of America are against football, we're finished."  Ironically, this rings true - it is the concerned mothers of America who could do more damage to soon to be $25 billion dollar industry than anything else.


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