This continuing “Guest Series” is being authored by Terry Ott and will delve into the Canadian Football League and the issues revolving around it and brain injury. His process began nearly a year ago, but Mr. Ott picked up some steam with the release of“League of Denial”. He has since found himself running into dead-ends and basically being ostracized for taking a journalistic angle on this as it pertains to the CFL. We are thankful that we can provide a space for his writings and only hope that someone who is reading this can further his cause. You can read PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE and PART 3 HERE and PART 4 HERE and PART 5 HERE and PART 6 HERE.
It has been my pleasure to post the stylings of Mr. Ott over the past few weeks. The guy has worked hard on this basically “paying it forward” so perhaps one person will run with the information. I admire his spirit and “sticktoitivness”, thank you, Terry!
AND IN THE END…THE CULTURE MUST CHANGE AND/OR THE FALL OF THE FOOTBALL EMPIRE
“In this sort of feminized atmosphere we exist today guys who are masculine and muscular…kind of old-fashioned guys run some risks.” -Brit Hume, Jan. 13, 2014
You know, I don’t really care much for the brand of “news” that FOX espouses and yet this is the second, and last time I will quote from it.
Because what Brit Hume recently said deserves to be discussed. Even though his comments may be a mile wide and only an inch deep and were not referring to the “manly” sport of football, they may in fact strike to the heart of the civil war now going on in pigskin circles regarding concussions and brain injury.
On one side of the debate are what the League of Denial authors rightly called the deniers, and the other side would seem to be the whistle-blowers. The deniers see the whistle-blowers as silly sissy Marry la-la’s trying to wreck football and the whistle-blowers see the deniers as Neanderthal numbskulls, old-fashioned guys well past their sell date.
Perhaps these are the risks that can befall the old guard, the deniers. That of being accused of being out of touch, thick, ignorant of the facts, or worse.
But does that make the whistle-blowers, those alleged soft, girly man, nanny-state purveyors “feminized”?
Well, if it means caring about football and employing common sense in a brutal arena, then sign me up for NOW, now, man.
Because pro football as we now know it is in danger-yes, real danger.
Danger of being law-suited and legislated out of acceptable existence.
And, as I have previously pointed out, shutting up about it is just plain dumb and ensures football will be KIA.
The lawyers smell money – that’s real money – and the government will most assuredly act, and maybe even in a Draconian fashion, if pro football does not get its brain injury prevention and after care act together very soon.
The NFL and their broadcast partners are joined at the hip. For the most part, this ain’t good because neither hand wants to nip the other. And this may be a stretch but, if the networks were also named in lawsuits in that the plaintiffs may argue the broadcasters were de facto complicit in televising negligence by transmitting it for profit-the Jan. 19 Denver/New England playoff drew50% of all TVs on at the time - then, well, you can see where some of all that dough might end up. Again, litigious speculation, but…also BIG-time bucks.
For instance, in the NFC play-off game between Seattle and New Orleans, color commentator Troy Aikman, who was concussed so badly in a 1994 playoff game that he hardly recalled the Super Bowl he played in a week later, said that a penalty to a New Orleans player who clearly struck a Seattle receiver in the head, snapping it back, was a “bad call” and a later penalty for an admittedly marginal head-butt was “ridiculous.”
In the NFC championship game, Aikman again criticized a penalty that was called for a pretty obvious shoulder to head hit. I don’t get it, especially from someone like Troy who had his own brain shaken, and most likely stirred in his great Hall of Fame career.
And in an interview with 60 Minutes Sports last year with the NFL’s director of officiating about the new rule preventing running backs and defenders from leading/finishing a run with their helmets, a curious comment was made.
In response to the interviewer’s somewhat jocular challenge that fans would see the new rule as for sucks, and those paying wanted to see “Adrian Peterson knock someone into next week,” the director replied that fans would “still be able to see Adrian Peterson knock someone into next week,” it would just be done, I guess, a little less brutally. Ah, that’s a little less brutal. Getting “knocked into next week” sounds a lot like a brain injury to me, no mater how the words or terminology is parsed.
Sure, one could see the above as a (feminine?) patty-cake, ticky-tack interpretation and it was just macho talk, etc. Yet that is exactly what I am talking about when I say the culture has to change.
Could not Adrian just make a fine run and be expertly tackled, instead of “knocking someone into next week”?
Do the fans really want or need to see scrambled, damaged brains? Are there not enough already?
Or, how about when last year Larry King interviewed the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen and asked about the concussion crisis.
Immediately, Eisen looked uncomfortable and while he tried to buck up and say the NFL Network did not shy from the issue, he also said that he would not be having a League of Denial round table discussion “any time soon.” Ah, your witness, counselor.
And with a federal judge recently saying that the $900 million settlement previously reached between the NFL and 18,000 former players is not nearly enough,well,you get the idea. After all, the very notion that up to 18,000 potential claimants could be serviced with health care over a term of 65(!) years, which the original deal provided for, could be filed under the heading, not bloody likely.
Then, NFL commissioner “Jolly” Roger Goodell appeared on CBS This Morning on Jan. 23 claiming new technology may soon be able to diagnose concussion “within 10 minutes” and made a claim, prefaced by “there’s a lot misinformation out there,” that a new study shows NFL players live on average 3 years longer and in better health and quality of life than comparable non-playing males.
Goodell did not cite the authors of the study, but it will certainly be news to many, and most likely accompanied with an arched eye-brow. And, disappointingly, no mention was made of new, better, safer helmet technology nor was there news of faster, non-autopsy diagnosis of CTE. He, the $30 million dollar a year non-profit (not kidding, it’s a tax dodge set up in ’66) man also delicately tap-danced around the recent federal court-ordered review of last year’s now contested concussion settlement with the league. Sort of a Roger the Dodger pre Super Bowl Spandau ballet. I know this much is true?
Yet, getting back to football, during that Seattle/New Orleans playoff game, I was struck by the amazing grandeur of it all. The huge, space-ship-like stadium, the insanely loud crowd, the wicked weather of whipping rain and dark clouds, the excitement, energy, tension, and chaos was near Biblical, and awe-inspiring.
Football is a superb game and fabulous event.
But, here’s the deal: do we want it played by world-class athletes entitled to the very best in protection and due care, or do we just want grand circuses and brutish gladiators who are basically expendable? The Commish Goodell is making rather grandiose new promises, but shall we see the actual result(s)?
And as for the CFL and my dealing with their various band of brothers tentacles, it has been one very long frustrating year for me in that I could get few serious questions answered.
If the NFL had to be legally hog-tied and congressed and publicly shamed kicking and screaming into the 21st century, the CFL would seem to be stuck in a gilded age of near Alfred E. Newman,”what, me worry?” mentality and practice.
After some miscommunication and Internet bureaucratic bungling, former CFL player and Grey Cup winner Bob McKeown who devised the much bandied CBC Head Games doc engaged me in a 45 minute private wide-ranging debate on the concussion issue and the future of the CFL. That was about 43 minutes more than I got from any other Canadian media mandarin. For a big-time media guy, Bob is no phoney wanker. In fact, I think he really cares.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record became the only newspaper in Canada to take a story from me on this series, featuring former CFL player Phil Colwell and Andrew Bucholtz of Yahoo Canada’s 55 Yard Line Blog has indicated he would report at the end of this series. (Your move, ANDY55.)
But the apparent soft-soaping and/or questioning of the prevalence and cause of CTE in former CFL players by those working with some assistance from the league is troubling to say the least and the current CFL concussion protocol is a distant second to that of the NFL’s even though the head of the CFLPA told me earlier that the CFL took its lead from NFL innovations. But if even remotely true, at this juncture, it appears the CFL has got a lot of catching up to do.
That possible NFL settlement re-adjustment morphing into billions has got to send shivers through the so far not-so-sturdy spines of the CFL hierarchy.There’s surely a train at the end of that lighted tunnel, fellas.
The CFL faces a new collective bargaining agreement this year, and there’s that worrisome, real, possibility of a class-action lawsuit against the league on behalf of former players and the Tator/BU group cat-fight over what is and isn’t CTE continues to boggle the minds of many.
And as I have whined before, and despite the exceptions above, the media is pretty much MIA up here on the CFL concussion issue, and just the fact the you are reading this on an American site should tell you all you need to know about how things are done in the true north, not so true on the facts, strong and free.
When I first started this investigation, now a year on, I was told by an insider that the CFL et al would just count on me giving up and going away. Well, to those folks, I say after a few more paragraphs, you won’t have Ott to kick around anymore.
Yet in the end, it will be the league and their minnow minions’ collective Pontius Pilate act that helps to hurt the game, perhaps severely, and I’m happy to say that in my 51st year as a fan, my conscience is clear.
Finally, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to The Concussion Blog founder Dustin Fink, who gave my thoughts a world-wide-web audience and was always encouraging and helpful. In an Internet full of fools and scoundrels, he is truly a shining light for good and I’m sure will do more of it at the Super Bowl week Concussion Summit.
And when Dustin could have backed away from the conscientiousness of some of my posts, he had no fear.
So, as it has been near 40 years since that well-known football fan and contentious guy himself, Richard Nixon, bade his goodby, I’d like to close with these borrowed words:
Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.