Football’s Brain Drain: The Rest of the Story

It’s time to Break It Down!

A couple of years ago, in November, the movie Concussion debuted. The film told a story, based on groundbreaking research, on a disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or more familiarly, CTE. The picture is a biographical sports drama film directed and written by Peter Landesman, based on the exposé “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, published in 2009 by GQ magazine. Will Smith portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who fought against the National Football League, which was trying to suppress his research on what in 2002, the time frame in which the movie was set, was a little known disease.

That was then. Today, much more is known about the deadly disease, though still, not nearly enough. As a result of continually emerging data, which can only be accessed through autopsying deceased subjects, a number of pro football players have donated their brains to science in support of continuing efforts to learn more about how the disease works, and to promote more effective strategies, methods, and techniques to combat the debilitating, and ultimately deadly consequences of CTE.

Yesterday, Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp indicated via video on The Players’ Tribune that he plans to donate his brain to science in order to aid the research. He spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl, and ended his playing days with the Oakland Raiders.

Sapp, a 13-year NFL pro said an email he received from former running back Fred Willis, and his own experience with cognitive issues were key factors in leading to his decision. He said he wanted to leave the game better than he found it, and he noted further:

“I’ve also started to feel the effects of the hits that I took in my career. My memory ain’t what it used to be. And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg. So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in—to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.”

Sapp also referenced another Hall of Fame defender, Nick Buoniconti, a former New England Patriot and Miami Dolphin. Nick was a key player on the Dolphins’ historic 1972 undefeated Season. In May, Buoniconti told S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated that he “feels like a child” because of his cognitive issues. According to that story, Buoniconti’s Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans (a nuclear medicine functional imaging technique), were consistent with Parkinsonian Syndrome and CTE.

According to an ESPN.com report this past April, William Weinbaum and Steve Delsohn wrote that Boston University researcher, Dr. Ann McKee, examined the brains of 48 former NFL players. Of those, 47 of the brains showed signs of CTE. In a September 2015 study, researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University said they found CTE in 87 of the 91 brains they had studied belonging to former NFL players.

Sapp had a number of other reflections, including:

  • “We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game, There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids from the school, or whatever it may be.”
  • “You try to [say], ‘All right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep — maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank,’ or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that it’s my brain, that I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.”
  • “It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”
  • “I used to call myself an elephant in the room. Never forget anything. Man I wake up now and be like, ‘OK, what are we doing? Let me get the phone.”’
  • “And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better.”

Sapp suggested that improvements should begin at the youth level by eliminating tackling until players get to high school. It’s a start. Needless to say, football, which has been elevated to America’s game, is a contact sport. Fans and players alike frequently view any effort to make the game more humane, more civilized, or just plain more safe, with a jaundiced eye. It’s fair to say, extraordinary steps may be required to save the game from itself. I think Mr. Sapp has the right idea. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of the game. But I’m sure that’s redundant. That’s beside the point. For now, let’s focus on today’s post, “Football’s Brain Drain: The Rest of the Story!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concussion_(2015_film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positron_emission_tomography

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2716796-warren-sapp-to-donate-brain-to-cte-concussion-research

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Sapp

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/19688877/warren-sapp-says-donate-brain-research

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2017/06/20/warren-sapp-donating-brain-research-concussions-cte/413206001/

http://www.latimes.com/sports/nfl/la-sp-warren-sapp-donate-brain-20170620-story.html

https://sports.yahoo.com/warren-sapp-opens-will-donate-brain-concussion-research-221641202.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Buoniconti

Cavs-Warriors III: Golden State Takes the Rubber Match

It’s time to Break It Down!

On Monday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors played the last meaningful NBA Basketball game until November. I’m already ensconced deeply in the throes of withdrawal. To commemorate the passing of the hoops torch, so to speak, I’m writing a post about this year’s NBA Finals.

The Warriors clenched the best-of-7 series in 5 games, winning by a margin of 4 games to 1. For hoops aficionados, this year’s NBA Playoffs was a relatively uninspiring affair. The early rounds were rife with high scoring games and series sweeps. The one remaining hope for many of us who live and breathe the game was for Cavs-Warriors III to save us; to salvage an otherwise ignominious representation of the highest level of the game we have come to know by the familiar branding label, “The NBA – It’s FANtastic!”

To be perfectly candid, there was more than a less than stellar Playoffs coming between the NBA and a large segment of its loyal fandom. On July 4, 2016, Kevin Durant jumped the proverbial ship, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the newly Runner-up Golden State Warriors. Now if you don’t follow the League, that move may sound like merely the latest pro basketball personnel transaction. But oh no! The resident hoops community was hyperactively astir because the reputed second best player on the planet signed a contract with the team that won a record setting 73 games during the regular season.

This development was especially worrisome for at least three groups of people.

  1. Those persons obsessed with the competitive balance of the league, and who therefore believe KD forever and irrevocably altered the ability of any team to compete with this iteration of the Warriors
  2. Those individuals who think KD was a wuss for signing with a team that had just beaten his team the month before, and therefore exhibited no competitive spirit.
  3. Cavs’ fans

During the regular season, Durant, who missed 20 games due to injury was monitored and evaluated based upon numerous metrics, including, in some circles, as much for what his subtraction from the Thunder meant to them, as what his addition meant to the Warriors. Back in OKC, Russell Westbrook, Durant’s former sidekick, was left to manage both his feelings, as well as the fortunes of a team suddenly without, arguably, the second best player in the league, and ascending. Meanwhile, out in Oakland, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, in conjunction with Coach Steve Kerr set about figuring out the substantial challenge of integrating the force that is Durant into the Warrior’s already successful orbit, without mucking up either team chemistry, or player egos, either or both of which can be fragile commodities.

The Warriors, who won 73 games a year ago, fell off their stratospheric pace, yet still managed to win 67 games, good for most in the league during the regular season. Keep in mind; they accomplished this with KD missing nearly a quarter of the season. Then during the playoffs, to add an element of intrigue, they made a record-setting 15-0 playoff run, while their coach missed 10 games, leaving coaching duties to Assistant Mike Brown, who coached LeBron in Cleveland, before a brief stint with the Lakers. Brown was 10-0. The 15-0 start by the Warriors included 3 series sweeps in the tough Western Conference, plus pushing the Cavs to a brink of elimination 0-3 in the Finals.

If you know anything about sports fans, you understand fan loyalty is an inexplicable intrinsic concept. That is to say, fans will support their team under the direst of circumstances. For example, no NBA team has ever rebounded from an 0-3 deficit to win a 7-game (4 wins) series. Yet, there were Cleveland fans who at least gave voice to the sentiment that, after the Cavs won, albeit convincingly, game 4 at home, their beloved Cavs could actually make a different kind of history by coming all the way back and winning the Finals. Having beaten the Warriors last year, after having trailed 0-2, and then 1-3, in addition to having LeBron James, the game’s current best player, many fans in the Land believed the Cavs had spooked the Warriors in Game 4, and would finish the job.

As a Laker fan, I have had little to cheer about in years. As a hoops fan in general, and an NBA fan in particular, I was drawn to the many intense debates centered around LeBron’s relative greatness, vs. KD’s relative hypocrisy (he once panned the idea of creating super teams after LeBron’s “Decision” to leave Cleveland). The debates are fun, especially if you are not vested in who wins or who loses a game or series. As a 40-year resident of Charlotte, I do pull for the Hornets, and was an original Hornets’ season ticket holder. Partly because Dell Curry played for those Hornets, and partly because his son Steph grew up here, I pull for him to do well. I’m not a Warriors’ fan. However, as long as Dan Gilbert owns the Cavs, I can’t pull for them. If you don’t know the backstory, conduct a web search of Mr. Gilbert and LeBron. Finally, as NBA players go, Andrew Wiggins is my favorite player…just for the record.

Since the Hornets, Lakers, AW, and the T-Wolves weren’t in the playoffs, and the two teams remaining were the Cavs and Warriors, by the process of elimination, I pulled for Golden State. After about a quarter and a half of hotly contested play, the Warriors pulled ahead, and held off the Cavs for a 129-120 Title Clinching victory. This year’s series marked the first time in the history of the League the same two teams met in the Finals for three years in a row. Kevin Durant captured his first Title, averaged over 30 points a game, and won the series MVP. The Warriors avenged their collapse against the Cavs last year, and in doing so, expelled the demons, and expunged the stench of falling short after a storybook Regular Season, and a 3-1 Finals lead. All’s well that ends well. Of course, if you are a resident of Cavs’ World, all did not end well. Sorry, not sorry. “Cavs-Warriors Part III: Golden State Takes the Rubber Match!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/12/us/2017-nba-finals-game-5-cavaliers-warriors/index.html

https://sports.yahoo.com/news/kevin-durant-2017-nba-finals-mvp-040830107.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/06/13/the-golden-state-warriors-clinched-the-nba-championship-with-a-lineup-they-had-never-used-before/?utm_term=.d1515a4d14f5

https://sports.yahoo.com/warriors-game-5-win-wraps-highly-watched-nba-015346089–nba.html

http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2017/6/1/15721516/2017-nba-finals-cavs-warriors-schedule-scores-results?yptr=yahoo

http://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/warriors-unanimously-decline-white-house-visit-report/

http://www.rollingstone.com/sports/golden-state-warriors-win-2017-nba-championship-w487656

http://www.businessinsider.com/warriors-win-2017-championship-2017-6

http://nba.nbcsports.com/2017/06/13/destined-or-not-kevin-durant-needed-to-earn-hard-fought-game-5-warriors-win-nba-title/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/sports/golden-state-warriors-win-nba-championship.html?_r=0

Griffin vs. Nugent: Anatomy of a Threat

It’s time to Break It Down!

A week ago I spent several hours engaging a number of conservatives about what, at the time, was a fresh topic: Kathy Griffin’s depiction of a decapitated #45. At its best, it was a tasteless and over the top gesture; at its worst, it was a gruesome visual that led many conservatives to contend that it reflected an actual threat on #45’s life. I read that the FBI has committed to investigate the matter.

Having stipulated all of the above:

  1. I personally think Griffin went too far, and,
  2. I said that (more than once) in my encounter with several conservatives who revel in their full-throated support of the current President…and in their total and absolute disdain and rejection of his immediate predecessor (Barack Obama).

That is significant because, in engaging them, I asked did they not see the parallels between Griffin’s act and what President Obama faced during the entirety of his 8-year tenure in office? As an aside, numerous reports confirm that President Obama received more death threats than any President in history. By at least one account the number increased by 400 percent over the 3,000 or so per year that George W. Bush received, according to Ronald Kessler, author of, “In the President’s Secret Service.”

I am confident that most will not find it surprising, the gaggle of conservatives with whom I spoke felt Ms. Griffin’s action was not only reprehensible, but that nothing even remotely comparable happened to President Obama. They used a number of rationales to reach that conclusion, some of which I will address below.

At the outset, one individual said I could not cite a single example of anyone doing anything similar to Obama. Not one. The Tea Party immediately springs to my mind. Another accused me of bait and switch by even bringing it up. Then of course, they dared me to produce such an example. Having been around the block more than a time or two, I didn’t fall for the okey-doke. I noted that in my interactions with this group I was able to discern that all of the members were savvy enough to navigate the web and find numerous examples with just a few clicks.

At that point, the dimensions of the exercise changed. The response was altered to, not one single person with a significant social media presence had ever done such a thing. Joe Blow from Kokomo didn’t count. Say what? So I inquired what difference does a robust social media presence make?

The answer, I was told, was that because Ms. Griffin has more than a million Twitter followers, her message was spread instantly to a huge audience. Of course, it is worth noting that the four Presidents who have been killed while in office, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy, were all killed by a lone gunman. By the way, each was gunned down prior to the age of social media. Moreover, while its fodder for another post, it should also be added, the perpetrators killed each of them using a firearm.

I went on to observe that one key distinction was Ms. Griffin’s act drew condemnation from the left, not just the right, and she quickly apologized. The apology, they argued was weak, and insincere. By this time I was becoming more than a little aghast at the double standard consistently used by these exemplars of conservatism. Well, not really. I’m accustomed to it by now. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. I asked if that was the same reaction they had when candidate Trump apologized for having made a comment about grabbing women’s genitalia? I guess they had no answer for that one so at least two of them asked me if I had ever mad a lewd comment to a female or a male?

At this point, I felt turnabout was fair play. I labeled that diversionary tactic exactly what it was, bait and switch. I went on to add the question was unapt, since I was not a candidate for President. It was at this point, out of nowhere, one of them introduced the possibility that the folks threatening President Obama might have been joking. I opted not to take the easy way out, being as how Griffin is a comedian, and all. Instead, I stayed on topic, and kept the subject on my initial point about what Obama experienced. I said I never got the impression that Ted Nugent was joking (And by the way, he does have an appreciable social media footprint).

At this point, the response level got even more extreme in its ridiculousness. A respondent replied that Nugent was a “real conservative” who was angry with Obama (and Hillary) because he felt they’d committed treason by their actions related to Benghazi. OK, point-counterpoint; I asked if they were aware some Americans believe Mr. Trump is guilty of Treason (Russia, Russia, Russia)? Then things just went off the grid. A gentleman responded some Americans believe Martians walk among us. He went on to discuss the waste of taxpayers’ money on the countless investigations, when…wait for it…there is no crime. While it would have been easy enough to reply, “And some Americans think #45 is a good President.” But I didn’t. I kept Michelle’s “Go high” uppermost in mind as I continued to respond.

I noted that in this country, we have a system of protocols that provide a certain order and sequencing to things. In that light, first come the investigations, and then the conclusions follow. Not the other way around. Hence, it just might be appropriate to complete a few of these investigations before we conclude no crime was committed. As to the waste of taxpayers’ money, I do not remember any strong assertion from the admittedly fiscal restraint promoting Republicans that any Hillary Clinton investigations were a waste of money. Not once!

At this point, one of them attempted to double back and re-insert the question of whether I had ever made lewd comments to a woman. Now I felt they not only had no pertinent answers, but that they had also reached the end of their collective hyper creative imaginations. Tempting, as it was to go rogue or break western, I restrained the urge. I noted that I would simply not dignify their efforts to malign my character. And, as a visitor to their social media space, I would certainly never deign to do such a thing to any of them.

All things considered, it was an interesting encounter. These are just the CliffNotes. It was also another not so subtle reminder of that deep and wide ideological chasm I reference frequently. The right, from #45 to Mr. Nugent, to folks I encounter from time to time on the WorldWideWeb seem not only unalterably opposed, but also physically incapable of issuing a simple apology or conceding an otherwise plain to see (by anyone outside #45’s supporters, surrogates, and spinners) reasonable point.

My own view is that in the strictest sense Nugent’s speech was hateful, but did not comprise a direct threat. Similarly, I find that no matter how tasteless Griffin’s depiction was, it was not a threat to #45. I fully expect the Secret Service, even #45’s Secret Service, to arrive at the same conclusion they did with Nugent. Stupid? Yes. Physically threatening? No. Having said that, I do believe the left is at a strategic disadvantage when it comes to these matters. The right is ruthless and relentless. It’s what they expect from each other, and they reward commitment to the cause. The left, not so much.

The right has devised a convenient response for may of #45’s more outré actions. They have drawn a peculiar line in the sand. On one side there is criminal behavior; on the other side political acts. According to them, none of the regime’s bizarre and otherwise inexplicable actions are illegal. They are merely politics. Right wing zealot style. Buckle up; it’s going to be a long and circuitous ride.

Nugent’s pearls of wisdom include but are not limited to:

  • “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their (the Obama administration’s) heads off in November”
  • “If Barack Obama becomes the next president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
  • “Harry Reid, Obama, and Hillary Clinton should be tried for treason and hung.”
  • Our unholy rotten soulless criminal America destroying government killed 4 Americans in Benghazi. Period! What sort of chimpass punk would deny security, turn down 61 requests for security, then tell US forces to STAND DOWN when they were ready to kickass on the allapukes and save American lives! Obama & Clinton, that’s who. They should be tried for treason & hung. Our entire fkdup gvt must be cleansed asap”
  • “Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.”

Mitt Romney thought so much of him (Nugent), he sought (received and accepted) his endorsement. When asked about Nugent’s comments, Romney would only say in a written statement released by his communications team:

  • “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.” – Andrea Saul, Romney Campaign Spokesperson

Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, was a bit more effusive. He put it this way, when he tweeted:

  • “Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today. Ted Nugent? How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on Team Mitt!”

At the time, Nugent was somewhat more subdued, when he tweeted:

  • “after a long heart&soul conversation with MittRomney today I concluded this goodman will properly represent we the people & I endorse him”

And then there was #45, who, of course on Twitter, said this:

  • Ted Nugent was obviously using a figure of speech, unfortunate as it was. It just shows the anger people have towards @BarackObama.”

#45 would double down on his comments by inviting Nugent to the White House. It should come as no surprise his thoughts about Griffin were substantially different. About her, he tweeted:

  • Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

There is a case study begging to be done on the nuanced matters tied to these two incidents. It’s apparent that TrumpWorld readily sees some kind of universal anger towards President Obama that, in their view, simply does not exist in the bitterness directed toward #45. The reasons for that, they say, are just products of liberals in general, Democrats in particular, and of course, the main stream and fake news media (which includes just about every media outlet not named Fox, or not based in Russia). More important, he was rightfully empathetic toward his son Barron, stemming from Griffin’s depiction, yet found no such insight into the feelings of Malia and Sasha, tied to Nugent’s despicable rants. Surprising? No, not really. When taken altogether, you have the necessary framework for, “Griffin vs. Nugent: Anatomy of a Threat!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Griffin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Nugent

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/5967942/Barack-Obama-faces-30-death-threats-a-day-stretching-US-Secret-Service.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/25/1164628/–President-Barack-Obama-Is-the-Most-Threatened-President-In-History

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSYZgnNxn80

http://pamelageller.com/2017/05/comedian-kathy-griffin-holds-bloody-head-decapitated-trump.html/

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/kathy-griffin-sparks-outrage-decapitated-trump-head-photo-article-1.3207184

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/5/31/1667521/-Regarding-the-decapitated-Trump-Photo

http://www.politicususa.com/2014/10/14/nra-board-member-ted-nugent-calls-assassination-president-obama.html

https://thedailybanter.com/2014/10/ted-nugents-illiterate-death-threat-against-obama/

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/04/quote-of-the-day-ted-nugent-threatens-barack-obama/256025/

http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/21/opinion/obeidallah-ted-nugent-free-speech/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIc1SV2Fn-s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-2o1HFiFVI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVTS8nDWZrw

https://www.yahoo.com/news/ted-nugent-condemns-kathy-griffin-211604060.html