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October 15, 2013 at 6:50 AM
I watched the Frontline documentary, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis,” with mixed emotions.
Certainly the behavior of the National Football League toward its players – its employees – was arrogant, despicable, even vulgar.
The league, and the owners and teams it represents, spent years and years denying the occupational health hazards suffered by players. The NFL acted in the same highly calculated and obtuse manner as the tobacco industry: “A problem, what problem? Oh, those things are not about us. And I’m sorry, what do you mean again?”
The documentary focuses on Pittsburgh Steelers legend Mike Webster. The beloved center on Super Bowl teams died at age 50, two years after retiring. He was diagnosed with brain damage in 1999. He had been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1997.
Webster spent 17 years being slammed into by opponents, and 17 years slamming into others. The tragic toll on his body and mind was terrible. The surprise might be he lasted so many seasons. The failure of the league to acknowledge the hazards and help protect its players is a lethal puzzle. The devastating cumulative effect had to be confronted.
Check out this 2006 report in Slate by Daniel Engber on where the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had been on professional football.
Where I had trouble making the leap was to assume that football and all contact sports are suspect way, way down into the amateur levels. Terrible things happen. Indeed the Dalai Lama could slip and fall on his way to a peace conference.
Injuries happen in all sports, and that means constant vigilance. Protecting young players – all athletes – has lots of elements: skills and techniques, fitness and conditioning, equipment, officiating, and, I would argue, a sense of honor – a coach-enforced ethic of no cheap shots.
Should kids play sports? Yes, of course. Including football. No sport is without risks. Softball, soccer, cross-country, volleyball and others invite all manner of sprains, injuries, dodgy knees and bruising contact. I think players deflecting a soccer ball on the fly with their heads is crazy.
No competitive sport is safe or easy. Take a step back, mom and dad. Kids quickly decide how much of the wear and tear they are willing to endure to earn a uniform.
I played sports through elementary and high school: Little League baseball, Goldenball basketball, Pop Warner football; high school football, basketball and track. Even college rugby. It was a great experience, give or take a broken arm, a concussion and lots of losing teams.
Professional football markets its violence. Well, whatever sells, I guess. How it treats its players is another matter. The NFL behaves as if it does know the smug, eternal truth about willing, eager athletes: there are always more where they came from.
August 13, 2013 at 11:45 AM
This Seattle Times news account of state Sen. Ed Murray’s marriage last Saturday to his long-time partner Michael Shiosaki warmed a lot of hearts, including mine. Murray, a Seattle Democrat, fought well over a decade to convince a majority of his fellow lawmakers to support legalizing same-sex marriage. Patience pays off. The two wed exactly 22 years from the day they met during a hike to Mount Rainier.
The political wedding of the season happened just a few days before the highly anticipated documentary film “The Campaign” is scheduled to screen Thursday at SIFF Uptown in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. KCTS 9 will broadcast the film next Sunday at 11pm. Here’s a preview:
Aw, that’s right. Four years before Washington state voters made history by becoming one of the first electorates in the union to affirm marriage equality, there was the 2008 campaign in California for and against Proposition 8, a measure by same-sex marriage opponents to define marriage in that state’s constitution as a union between one man and one woman. Two lower courts ruled the amendment was unconstitutional before the case reached the Supreme Court of the United States. Last June, the justices ruled they had no authority to decide on the case, thereby allowing California to resume same-sex marriages. (Read the Wikipedia explanation of this rather complex legal battle at this link.)
The stunning outcome of that election raised our collective consciousness and ignited a revolution (and lots of fundraising) in states outside California, including right here Washington. It forced a mainstream discussion about gay marriage not just as a social or political wedge problem but as an issue of human rights and personal freedom.
April 30, 2013 at 6:30 AM
Calls for comprehensive immigration reform center around the people who left other countries and made it here. But what of those who set out to come here but never made it?
Since 1998, more than 2,000 dead bodies have been found in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. They are the remains of migrants braving the desert’s hellish temperatures to cross into the U.S. Last night, PBS aired The Undocumented, a powerful documentary film that follows Marcos Hernandez as he searches for his father,Francisco, who vanished while walking through the Sonora.
The documentary’s power lies in gritty interviews, haunting music and spare narration. The dead lie unidentified in morgues but filmmaker Marco Williams makes sure they do not go unremarked upon.
In the U.S. the immigration debate takes on academic tones thick with numbers and legal statuses. (more…)