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Saturday, May 05, 2012

THE NFL, JUNIOR SEAU, AND MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL


(left)  Junior Seau while playing for the New England Patriots

Junior Seau was one of my favorite players in the NFL for many years.   Recently, he was found dead in his apartment from an apparent suicide.  It seemed unlikely that at age 43, Seau would commit suicide but some feel that concussions received during his playing years could have been a factor since they are thought to induce negative reactions like mood swings.

Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson is another NFL guy who committed suicide last year at age 51.  He left a note saying he wanted his brain studied to try to find out the relationship of head injuries that may bring on suicide.   Seau’s family has also donated his brain for the same purpose.  Both Duerson and Seau died from gunshot wounds to the chest.

Now, more than 1,000 players are suing the NFL claiming that they were never given enough protection to stave off concussion injuries.

With the NFL cruising in high gear from high TV ratings of their Sunday slate of games in the afternoon and evening, what effect will this action have?  Let’s not forget the NFL Network and the everlasting Monday Night Football on ESPN.  The latter has been a winner since 1970.

Take a moment and think of the latter statement:  Monday Night Football has been on TV since 1970!  Who would think a pro football game being broadcast on Monday in prime time on a major network (ABC) would last 42 years?

A lot of its success was due to some good games and especially to the three man announcing crew of Keith Jackson (replaced after one season by Frank Gifford), former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback “Dandy Don” Meredith, and the irrepressible Howard Cosell.

It didn’t hurt that the 1970s produced a lot of great football especially from the Miami Dolphins who still are the only NFL team to play a season undefeated (1972), and the Pittsburgh Steelers with Terry Bradshaw and company who dominated the Super Bowl in that era.

Gifford was basically a vanilla referee during the broadcasts of MNF while the constant interaction of country boy former player Meredith and the stuffy, conceited, New Yorker Cosell made for great broadcasting.  On one occasion Cosell droned on about a coach "eschewing the field goal."  It was an attempt to show off his expansive vocabulary as "Howad" was prone to do, so Dandy Don intoned: "S-what Howard?"

In one MNF game in Miami, an obviously inebriated fan ran across the field during a time out prompting Cosell to go on one of his long rants. After five minutes or so, Dandy Don had apparently had enough responding: "Maybe the bathroom lines were too long on his side of the stadium, Howard."  It was great theater and the fans loved it for the four years it ran before changes started happening with the cast. 

That was then and now is now.  The days of Cosell calling a black player a “little monkey” are long gone.  Today, the question is whether the league is in big trouble with lawsuits occurring over injuries, bounties being offered by coaches to players to incur REALLY dangerous injuries, and changes in the game that would soften it and perhaps lose fans who have always enjoyed the hard hitting.

(left to right)  Don Meredith, Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford

Already, kickoffs have been pushed to the 35 yard line to reduce returns.  Now, there is a possibility that kickoffs may be eliminated.  Does that mean that punts will also be eliminated?  Are the players  too big and too fast?  Are they just softer than in the “old days?”  Are their gripes legitimate?

There will be a settlement of some kind but I don’t know how the fans will react.  Meanwhile, I think I will sit back, close my eyes, sip a beer, and remember the good old days of Meredith and Cosell bickering in their mustard colored ABC blazers while Terry Bradshaw threw long bombs to Lynn Swann. 

44 comments:

mike slater said...

A sad story to be sure. You're right the players today are much bigger and faster. Back in the 40's and 50's linemen might weigh 200 lbs. Today most weigh well over 300 lbs.

midnightsstaff said...

The game is officially dead now, there is absolutely no way to make the sport as safe as a chess match, head, knee, back injuries, gouged eyes, bitten extremities and probably the worst indignity... utter humiliation have been part of the game since before baseball turned into a complete bore.
Hockey is gone too, this nonsense of trying to make something as dangerous as bull riding polite and mannerly just cannot survive the PC police.
And make no mistake this is no different than getting dodgeball banned at most elementary schools, it's a long fought war with American culture that is at stake.

Junior's case is sad, nobody could share his demons evidently so he dealt with it the way he understood, it must be hell living with a brain that just doesn't work right as many suggest that I should have personal knowledge of.
But I have to wonder how much was due to injury and how much due to waking up to a world that in one day you are relegated into having no purpose to life as he saw it?

Lots of people have difficulty dealing with sudden irrelevance and you must remember this is a very exclusive group, their friends treat them differently- they no longer get the fawning press hanging on their every word, doors that were opened all their life are now closed and forever.
And to be fair, you need to ask yourself is his story all that much more depressing that the one of Mercury Morris? or Frank O'Hara going on and on about how Joe Paterno was a saint?

sam said...

Also, most are more muscular, faster, and stronger-through-better-training.
And, the move toward "hit-him-to-hurt-him" style of football (which has been going on for at least the past 20 years) has changed the game from one of "skill" to one of "kill" so to speak. Few players of the past 20 - 30 years are "retired"...too many are out on debilitating injuries which cut short their careers. Even players like Favre and Manning were finally beaten into submitting to retirement with serious injuries and "game-caused" health problems.
(just my 3-cents worth, since I stopped watching pro "sports" about 20 years ago since I dont consider deliberate attempts to "kill" the opponent a sport. Pro basketball is played more like earlier football than basketball, for instance)
sam

Jim McAllister said...

From Uremus, 5-5

I was both shocked and saddened...he was one of my all-time favorites. He is but one in a string of similar sad elements of the pro-game.

Steve/DG said...

I was a little shocked hearing about this, esp how generous he's been to everyone else. Maybe he couldn't take being out of the game anymore.

I also read he's the second NFL player to commit suicide like this recently. Most gun suicides are to the head, but he chose to the chest... maybe so they can find some concussion long term injuries?

If so, that would be the last great thing of sacrifice he's given to his teammates.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I remember when running backs like ElRoy Hirsch weighed about 180. If there was ever a 300 pound guy on the field, he was usually some fat guy who couldn't move. Remember Sherman Plunkett?

The guys that weigh 300 today are fast and agile. I would hate to face them with a kickoff!

Jim McAllister said...

Middy,

It seems like Seau could have had a coaching job somewhere. He was a great linebacker and could have probably hooked on somewhere. I wonder what his financial situation was? He was an outgoing guy; maybe he could have got a job in the booth on some network.

After Duerson's situation, I wonder if the same thing plagued Seau. It's odd that he shot himself in the chest as Duerson did.

You make a good point. This will hurt football. They already have so many rules against rough play I wonder if they are fitting the guys for skirts yet.

Jim McAllister said...

Sam,

I've heard several ex NFL guys talk about the arthritis and various injuries they received from their playing days that they will have forever. With the conditioning of today's big guys they are destructive out there and then we have a coach who issues bounties with instructions to kill.

Conversely, if the game softens too much, they will lose their fans. It's a real rock and a hard place situation. If they eliminate kickoffs they will lose me for sure. They basically did it last year any way with the kickoff line being the 35.

Rick Kepple said...

The best money in football is in coaching or management. Fewer health problems too.

Jim McAllister said...

Steve,

The guy was always a great interview.

He retired in 2006 for 4 days before signing with New England. He probably really missed the game and had to get back.

Either he couldn't cope with retirement or concussions took their toll like they probably did with Duerson.

Very sad, indeed.

Jim McAllister said...

From Rick, 5-5

The best money in football is in coaching or management. Fewer health problems too.

Jim McAllister said...

From Dr. John, 5-5

I enjoyed your blog today. That is great work. I read them all

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Doc!

Rick Kepple, bored today said...

The future of football is grim. ESPN did a story on a study of football injuries across the board and even in children's leagues and it head injuries are just as severe, young or adult. A glance through human history proves we are a warlike species and we love these contests. Moreover, we love the action and we adore winners! That's why I'm not popular and you guys are; it's really the money, these days, that is the trophy. Let's put cameras with Wall Street and film them with hookers, cocaine, losing millions in minutes or making billions in seconds! No head injuries and people get to learn how Wall Street REALLY works! It's the cocaine that makes winning and losing fun and maybe it will put the kick back in Coke products! Yes, I know. I see the worst in humanity, but that's only because we are such a violent species. They could just put cameras on the helmets of soldiers and turn war into reality TV!

Rick Kepple, said...

Nilla Wafers for everyone! BTW, I had a dream that long ago, I was a roadie for a band, but was told to go home. Amnesia can be a good thing to forget painful memories. Funny how life works out though. Let me tell ya, there is nothing like sitting in the media box during a ball game and writing about the action! That's why I liked freelance writing; the challenge. I've always loved the world of music, but too many painful memories. But sports reporting has a lot of jargon and fans know it better than I do! I just have little interest in the world of fame and fortune since I was thrown away a long time ago. I'd rather write about ordinary people doing mundane things in a pasture where the game is called Time Out to wipe the cow manure off the ball.

Jim McAllister said...

From Joe Finnerty, 5-5

The TV broadcasters you mentioned were memorable, and were instrumental in making pro football so appealing. As to the future of the NFL, one can only speculate.

While all the facts are not yet known, it seems reasonable to believe that many football players are suffering the ill effects of concussions they incurred while playing. I urge Congress to pass a law prohibiting anyone who ever played tackle football from running for elected office. It might spare us from having the likes of Gerald Ford become our president in the future. While they are at it, they should pass a law prohibiting ”tackle”, allowing only “touch” or “tag” instead. That way, even little chubby guys like me might still be on the field, competing at a high level.

Men who play Australian football or English rugby, full contact sports, wear no protective headgear. Do they suffer concussions at the same or greater rate than those who play American football, I wonder?

Soccer moms worried that their kids would suffer brain damage as a result of frequently “heading” the ball. I don’t know if professional players suffer ill effects after years of using their bare noggins for this purpose.

No sport is safe. I’ve been hit by a golf ball, struck by a tennis racket, swept out to sea on a rip tide, hit by a car while playing street hockey, and fell off a pony . . . while riding a carousel. Danger is everywhere.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

Cocaine huh? I have always heard so much about it ("riding on an airline made of snow" and Eric Clapton's "If you want to get down; down on the ground, cocaine"). It must be a great high until it ruins one's life.

I guess I will stick to swilling Coronas to get my highs. Headache the next day, but then its over. It's a lot cheaper too. Just picked up a 12 pack for $9.99, much cheaper than the blow but a hell of a lot more than $1 I used to pay in 1968 for a 6 pack of Budweiser.

Jim McAllister said...

Joe,

Gifford, Meredith, and Cosell were quite a trio although anyone could have played Gifford's role as the vanilla referee.

Cosell was an arrogant bastard but I always liked him and his brusque attitude. A lot of women were even hooked on MNF in those days.

After 4 years, they pretty much broke it up and it was never the same. Guys like OJ joined the cast and the quality went down. It's hard to replace great chemistry with new chemistry. In later years Al Michaels and Coach Madden did a great job. Madden was the best, I sure muss him.

Rugby amazes me that more people aren't killed playing it. As you say, no headgear, plus they wear shorts and the action is full bore constant. Australian Rules Football is the same way.

It sounds like you've had your share of mishaps and here you are at 85 sharp as a tack, eating cheeseburgers and fries, and one of the best amateur writers I have known. My hat is always off to you!

Rick Kepple said...

Jim, if you like big cigars, you'd love my next photographs that I'm going to upload to Hit House Recording on Facebook tomorrow. Guitarist with a big cigar and smoke trail rising up. A band was recording at Dell Mack's home studio on Saturday. The artists have played globally and locally. I talked to the keyboardist and he doesn't mind photos of his handicap. I was honest; I'm going to exploit you, I said, and he has no problem with it.

Rick Kepple said...

No one thought that was amusing? I suppose I could tell you my story again about sitting in the press box at a ball game. I said to the guy next to me that I felt so intimidated being up there for the first time, so someone bought me a beer. That's the secret to good sports editing; beer.

CJinPhoenix said...

If this keeps up, one of these days our society is going to have us all moving in shock-proof plastic balls kinda like gerbils ... Then imagine everybody's amazement when it is discovered that having absolutely nothing to do -- no excitement, no challenges, no manual labor ... -- will turn a brain to mush faster than repeated concussions. Fortunately, I do not think this country will last that long.

Rick Kepple said...

CJinPhoenix conjures up thoughts of new kinds of bullying. Kids rolling to school in their shock-proof plastic balls that prevent the person within from any and all harm. And to prove it, bullies push balls off cliffs to watch them bounce.

Rick Kepple, trained by y'all said...

I have a female martial arts friend and a film maker and I introduced them saying that she could be a female Chuck Norris. Now I understand that I might be doing some writing for her now. This PR consulting for free is seriously getting my name out there! Locally and globally! Everyone could use a publicist! Jim, I could be the publicist for sports stars! I could get into games for free! Heck I don't pay for games or concerts! I never stay and I have assistants too! Soon, I hope to be chillin' on a beach and telling writers and photographers that they're doing a good job.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

Ah, yes. Nothing like a good cigar.

As Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) famously wrote so many years ago:

"A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke."

I'd like to see those photos but I don't do Facebook.

Jim McAllister said...

CJ,

I think football is in big trouble over the concussion thing and coaches ordering bounties on players using the term "kill."

We never use to hear so much about concussions in the old days of the NFL when running backs weight 180 and lineman about 200.

Today, these guys doing the tackling weigh a lot more and a run a lot faster so when they hit someone like a quarterback or running back, concussions are almost unavoidable.

Already, the league is trying to do stuff that will ruin the essence of the game but slow concussions. I don't think the fans will stand for those changes.

Middy think soccer will be taking over for football. He may be right but there would have to be changes to whet the American appetite for such a boring game.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

This bullying thing seems prevalent today but I remember bullies when I was in school.

With today's coddled kids, this is a big deal. In my youth, parents never worried about bullies; they told the kids to stand up to them and they usually did.

Bullies weren't that tough; they just needed to be exposed and were.

Rick Kepple said...

With today's bullies, they can be filmed on a cellphone and uploaded to Youtube resulting in lawsuits and sometimes convictions. Most of the time, some school employee is at fault of neglect, but the law prohibits their intervention. I have a friend preparing to put her daughter in high school and a cop is stationed there in that tiny educational center for security to curb the bullying and prevent gunmen from attacking the place. The dogs are sometimes brought through the school too on a random basis. They're cutting music programs, but putting kids on more medication resulting in more violence, but maybe it's just a coincidence. Why can't the school invest in electric guitars and why can't guitar makers give them to schools? Or are kids not important to the music industry?

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

No question about it. Privacy of any kind is non-existent today in the world of iPhones and YouTube.

In my youth, if kids had enough guts, they would challenge bullies and were encouraged to do so. It was remarkable how effective that was as bullies were just punks trying to act tough but when challenged, folded like a paper cup.

Of course they were some who really were tough but usually it was a facade.

I went 1st to 3rd grade at a tough school in the Walnut Hills section of Cincinnati and saw quite a few hellatious fights between grade school kids after school during that time. I usually took an alternative way home.

I agree on guitars. It's a great instrument and I regret that I never learned it in my youth. I would encourage all kids to learn it.

DarkerShadeofBlue said...

OMG.....you called Soccer,the true "foot" ball, boring? Have you ever watched a Manchester United game? It is the most popular sport in the world! And.......since the US has some of the BEST athletes in the world....we could/will DOMINATE if/when it finally takes off here. As it stands now.....we just can't seem to persuade the best coaches to move to the US. And.....we don't have high enough quality soccer training camps/programs for the youth, like the other soccer loving countries.

midnightsstaff said...

I really doubt soccer will replace American style football in any of our lifetimes, but I gotta admit that football hooligans in England make our RaiderNationCritters look like a group of Sunday school teachers by comparison- they actually kill each other instead of just threatening to.

I think the national sport of tribal inspired rioting will replace football instead, it seems we have some primordial instincts that create these urges or something - and Detroit is the new leader in that regards.

Football like all team sports can teach many good things, it teaches reward for hard work, the thrill of victory, good sportsmanship for the most who don't win, in short a lot of good human values are instilled each year.
Most of the adults realize that there is nothing of worth that is entirely safe or without risk - as usual it will be those in society that want any risk to life eliminated that will ruin it for everyone else.

I feel exactly the same Blue does on Soccer about Hockey as a sport, amazingly we have one of the four teams left in contention with home ice advantage for the world championship tourney right here in the valley of the sun and the local paper is treating it like the opening of a new car dealership.
I consider hockey as the premiere sport above all else but not everyone shares my opinion except Jim when he has been drinking and those pesky snowbirds that are finally leaving in droves.
not Jim leaving... the snowbirds.

Jim McAllister said...

Blue,

It sounds like I struck a nerve! LOL I'm glad to hear you enjoy sports though.

I've followed sports all my life and as hard as I have tried I just can't get into outdoor soccer.

I say "outdoor" because I used to love the Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1980s and was a proud season ticket hold of the Kansas City Comets in that league.

The game was a hybrid and I'm sure was denounced by the purists as it was played on a hockey rink with Astroturf. However, the games in KC were always sellouts and were REALLY exciting with scores like 10-8.

As far as the outdoor game, I guess I am a typical American. Watching guys run around a gigantic field all night to see a 1-0 game settled by a shootout in overtime just doesn't do it for me.

They ought to make the field smaller and have dasher boards on the sidelines so the ball doesn't go out of bounds every two minutes.

At this moment you are probably shaking your head in disgust at my lame suggestions! LOL

How did you get an interest in soccer? Most women are not too familiar with it. I applaud you for it.

Jim McAllister said...

Middy,

What would sports be without drinking? LOL

When Barb and I went to the indoor soccer games in KC in the 80s, I used to put away about a 55 gallon drum of Budweiser during an evening. Before games we would eat at the Golden Ox next to the stockyards then walk over to Kemper Arena. Those were wild games; very exciting.

Barb and I are really into hockey as you are with that 4-1 route of the Predators. Who would have thought it could happen? Plus, with St. Louis out of the way and the next series against the Kings, we have a shot at all the marbles. That home ice is also a sweet deal.

We shall see.

midnightsstaff said...

I tried to learn to enjoy soccer figuring how much different than hockey can it be?
Lots..

I don't personally know any man who speaks English that will watch a soccer match.. I would just as soon watch dogs fight over a leg bone, but I understand we now need to become more like Europe and South America to appease those who really hate this nation, so I am pretty much resigned to manly sports being PC'd out of the culture... proof can be found in how many third graders know how to play dodge ball?-
I used to play stickum in the fourth grade with my pocket knife I took to school every damn day I attended.
Later on in High School I normally had either a shotgun in the trunk for hunting after school or a handgun in the glovebox..
Pete McMahon the campus security officer, boys counselor and my next door neighbor knew about it, no one gave a damn except when my hair got on my ears or neck or if I wore a Coors t-shirt to school on Fridays.
and this was a California school.

The PC nags have already polluted the minds of the youngest of society.. death will just have to clean up the rest.

Rick Kepple said...

Sports is merely for social interaction and clearly defined winning or losing. It's a tribal thing. People grunting, spitting, burping and farting, and laughing about it. I think if I had a choice between buying a concert ticket for $45 or a football game for $15, for the same seats, I'd buy the music DVD, skip the concert and go see the ball game. The monopoly of music is dead and anyone can be a rock star these days! Not so in ball games. And if it rains, the band won't play outside and they don't give refunds. If a ball game gets rained on, they might still play! I just don't go to concerts unless I'm there to photograph them. I might go to a ball game just for the experience and it's a better deal too! I like writing about music and I love playing it, but there's too many snobs in mainstream music. Those people would leave you bleeding in a ditch and step on you to keep from getting their shoes wet. Ball players are just like us and would help a fella up.

Humble Rick Kepple said...

I was told to get an agent, because my fame is growing as a writer. I have no clue why people like my writing. I attribute it to that rock star in the 80's giving me advice, my mom's wishes for my life, lots of good tutors and mentors and mostly God. Plus my dad making me write and condense a 100 words down to the smallest degree and still remaining descriptive. I was told that I'm quoted on TV news now! Yep. I've been offered my own newspaper column, but I want to see if I can remain in music, but politics is calling. I was added to a group for independence in Missouri and also added to a talk show. People share my thoughts. Talk radio and I agree on conservative issues. "Rick Kepple said, ...." Dell Mack's recording studio is getting a lot busier since I've been writing for him! Dems want my help, GOP wants my advice. People are starting to act weird around me. Like I'm a celebrity. Raspberries are ripening a month early Jim! I picked two yesterday! The June strawberries are ready. I really wish the guy with the million dollar PR writing deal hurries up and gets here. I've got my assistant picked out, but don't know who I want as an agent. I sure ain't getting Liz Rosenberg as my publicist! I'd prefer someone who can write more than one sentence. I need someone as good or better than me. Is that even possible?

Rick Kepple, cooker man said...

I just checked Facebook and I've been tasked with more writing this summer re: documentaries being done in the Ozarks. For these moments, I go for a gimp around the farm to think. This is all stuff that I've been trying to put together with my writing and it's finally going somewhere. Everyone wants me to write about them and it's taken a while to rebuild my career. Maybe those football players need rockstars to mentor them, or perhaps Junior should have pretended to be friends with a music star. The shrinks say that I saved my own life and now I am rebuilding my writing career even better than before! The fried tators need turning ...

Rick Kepple, flattered said...

Yep, it appears that I'm the lead researcher for a film documentary of select people in the Ozarks! Very cool!

Rick Kepple, PR consultant said...

I think I'll just tell any newspaper that they can get Jim McAllister to do columns for them. By columns, they mean blogs. Jim should focus on small town newspapers, submit the blog everywhere and make them generic enough for everyone. Middy would make a great conservative blogger with some GOP online publication. Blue could do something on personal security in grocery stores. In the old days, grocery trade publications paid the BIG BUCKS for monthly stories. Budweiser's got one, everyone's got their own magazine, unless the economy forced it gone, but these days, they're ALL looking for first class writing. Eventually, they'll pay money. I've been writing for free since the morphine wore off in public relations and my work is known clear to Australia now! Good, honest writers is what people want. No matter how harsh it is, people want the truth. A good comment on a TV or national publication site is pure GOLD in free advertising! It took me a while to figure out the way things work now since I quit in 04, but it's coming along.

Jim McAllister said...

Middy,

You're right, PC is destroying this country and it starts with things like kids being prohibited from playing dodgeball because it is too violent and one of the little darlings may be hurt physically and emotionally.

The same goes for tag as it is killer of their self esteem, the poor things! As if real life won't have any effect on their self esteem!

Check out my blog from 5 years ago about this:
http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blog/Jim8413/6174

What a joke!

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

With the newspaper business declining, they love to have citizen writers like me do columns because our price is right: $0.

Would you believe that when I was a community columnist for the Republic in 2005 they gave me $50 per column!

That ended when the blogging craze took hold and they found we would work for free.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

It sounds like your writing career is starting to boom. Congrats! Send us copies of some of your tear sheets.

DarkerShadeofBlue said...

No nerve struck about soccer. I just don't understand why Americans find it boring. I really don't like watching any sport on TV. I prefer watching games in person and enjoyed going to my college football and basketball games the most. Getting snowed on while cheering on your team can be an experience to remember.

Anyway.....most soccer players aren't opposed to indoor soccer. I mean maybe on a professional level maybe, but a lot of soccer dads play both indoor and outdoor. Indoor helps with conditioning.

DarkerShadeofBlue said...

Oh.....and my significant other "speaks English" is of Irish heritage....and pays an outrageous monthly fee for DIRECTV.....so that he can watch his soccer live.

Jim McAllister said...

Blue,

You know how Americans are: they don't get a lot of enjoyment from subtlety like a soccer game that winds up 1-0 in a shootout. They want scoring and lots of it.

Another reason for soccer's problem to gain fans here is that baseball, football, and basketball are pure American and haVE BEEN HERE FOREVER AND GAINED THEIR FANS. iT'S HARD FOR A NEW SPORT TO BREAK THROUGH. lcROSSE AND rUGBY HAVE FOUND THAT OUT. (sorry about the caps!)

I loved indoor soccer and many of the pros were outdoor guys too. I have heartd of those local indoor leagues. That's a good thing and probably a good way to stay in shape.

Is your Irishman the same "hunny" you have mentioned over the years? I think you said once that he worked produce with you at Fry's.