Tag: football

Football’s Racial & Economic Divide

As we celebrate the American pastime of Super Bowl Sunday, a public reckoning continues to eat away at the edges of the sport of football. More than enough studies have been published stating the real, long term issues from the physical nature of the sport – blows to the head, concussions, injury, and on and on. It has gotten to the point where school systems are discontinuing football programs and parents are refusing to let their sons play the game.

Research suggests that tackle football can cause long-term brain injury, and as a result, many parents are telling their kids they can’t play. In the 2017-18 school year, 6.6 percent fewer high-school athletes participated in 11-player tackle football than in the 2008-9 school year, “according to” the National Federation of State High School Associations.

ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC

What is more interesting is how decisions by school systems and parents against participating in the sport differs depending on the socio-economic profile of those stakeholders, as Alana Samuels profiled in a recent article in The Atlantic.

Yet not all parents are holding back their kids from tackle football at equal rates, which is creating a troubling racial divide. Kids in mostly white upper-income communities in the Northeast, Midwest, and West are leaving football for other sports such as lacrosse or baseball. But black kids in lower-income communities without a lot of other sports available are still flocking to football. In keeping with America’s general racial demographics, white boys continue to make up the majority of youth-tackle-football players, according to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. But proportionally, the scales appear to be shifting. A recent survey of 50,000 eighth-, tenth-, and 12th-grade students found that about 44 percent of black boys play tackle football, compared with 29 percent of white boys, as analyzed by the University of Michigan sociologist Philip Veliz. Football at the high-school level is growing in popularity in states with the highest shares of black people, while it’s declining in majority-white states.

ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC

In essence, the children that live in areas of the country that don’t have as many economic opportunities are looking to sports like football as a vehicle out of their situation, the very real and risky long term physical and health issues be damned. This sort of storyline is nothing radically new, as you will hear more than a few famous athletes that fit this profile talk about how their sport was a vehicle and an opportunity for a better life. The issue is that the chances of making it to the professional level are so small, and the risks of playing a sport like football are so so high. The effect that this sort of scenario has on the broader socio-economic dynamics is one that likely will not close the already growing differences. Now I’m not saying that football is the root cause of the economic disparity in this country. What I am saying is that in lower income areas of the country, where there is little to no opportunity for upward mobility, the already existing economic and social headwinds are accelerated further when such a high proportion of the youth in these areas have no other options other than to ignore the real, physical risks.

NFL Logos As European Football Logos

I love projects like this. A very cool exploration of logo design titled “Football As Football“, where some designers have styled several NFL logos as if they were European Football (soccer) clubs. A few for your viewing pleasure:

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 11.57.35 PM
New England Patriots

Yes, they even did a really nice job with the logo of the NY Jets

Source: Kottke

It’s Been A While

After a whopping 51 years in England’s lower football (soccer) division, Cardiff City has finally been promoted to England’s Premier League. Cardiff was a team that had deep financial issues not too long ago.

It is a remarkable accomplishment because the club was nearly bankrupt more than a year ago. In three of the last four seasons, Cardiff got tantalizingly close to promotion from the League Championship, only to fall short in the promotion playoffs. Those failures were called “doing the Cardiff. With Tuesday’s result, a point from a scoreless draw with Charlton Athletic, the club can bury the phrase and look forward to resuming the fierce Welsh derby with Swansea, which was promoted two years ago.

They are kind of like the Red Sox of the EPL.

via NYTimes.

NFL Overtime

Garrett Hartley of the NO Saints kicking winning FG in 2010 NFC Championship

I don’t understand why the NFL can’t get their act together when it comes to Overtime rules during the regular season. I mean, the way the have it now just doesn’t pass the VP of Common Sense or “grandmother” rule (i.e. If you explained this to your grandmother, would she get it?).

Today, the NFL leaders voted to adopt the current Playoff OT rules for all regular season games which are:

An overtime in the regular season now will end on a team’s first possession only if it scores a touchdown or the defense forces a safety. If the team kicks a field goal on its first possession, the opposing team also will get a possession. If it also kicks a field goal, the extra period continues.

As it stands, the Playoff OT rules are just insanely silly – its kinda sorta sudden death – if you score a TD you win right then and there, but it is not sudden death if you score a field goal. These rule changes were made 2 years ago after the New Orleans Saints did what several other teams have done and won the coin toss, marched down the field, and kicked a field goal. Only difference was that their drive won them the NFC Championship instead of giving a random 5-6 team a .500 record.

To me, the way the NBA handles Overtime is the way to go, and in many ways the NFL is a similar ebb-and-flow type of sport with multiple ways to score points. The way the NBA does it is it has a 5 minute extra period – whoever has more points at the end wins. If it is still tied, they play another 5 minutes and so on until a team wins.

I’ve never played football, so I fully admit I don’t know the subtle nuances of these elements of the game. However, from watching the sport for years, it seems to me that teams would still demonstrate a sense of urgency and high levels of game strategy in approaching a full 5 minute extra session compared to the “if/than” option that they just voted to go with. The amount of elapsed “real” time that a full 5 minute session would take wouldn’t be that much different than what we see in today’s format. Having a full 5 minute extra period would give much more of an even balance of responsibilitiy to the offenses and defenses of both teams. And probably most importantly, it won’t force fans to go to the rule book when an overtime game happens to understand the nuances of the “your team didn’t win because the other team scored a TD in ‘Sudden Death Overtime’ after you scored first” scenario. At least by playing out a short, 5 minute extra period, the scenario is crystal clear. Keep on playing until whoever has the most points when the clock hits 0:00 wins.

Things are complex enough today. Do we really need this complexity in the already complex game of football?

The Day The Big East Died

This past weekend, it was announced that Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East conference and joining the ACC.

My Syracuse Orange(men) are now part of the ACC. That just sounds wrong.

I have taken a few days to let this sink in. And in those few days, I have rationalized that from a business, relevance, and survival perspective relative to the current state (fiasco) that is college athletics, I can understand and agree with the move. Yet from a historical and emotional perspective, they are ripping out their athletic heart and soul and as far as I can see, signaling an end to the Big East conference as we know it.

Above and beyond any school in the Big East conference, it could be argued that Syracuse put the conference on the map. No disrespect to Georgetown, Villanova, Pitt, St. John’s and others. But to a high school kid, the spectacle of a sold out Carrier Dome and Brent Musburger saying “You are looking live at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY where today the Syracuse Orangemen will be taking on [insert team here]…” was (and still is) breathtaking. It drove athletes from Southern California to play basketball in the Big East and Syracuse, NY. Think about that for a second.

But this move is not about basketball. Its about football, money, survival, and relevance. The Big East was a basketball conference that tried to become a football conference. In my mind, no matter how hard it tried, it could never get the same respect for football as it did for basketball. In football circles, it was always second tier to the SEC, SWC/Big 12, etc. even though it had a seat at the BCS table. And in the end, that perception/reality was what did the conference in. The Big East’s basketball roots and success did not mean a thing.

The irony about this whole situation is that now the ACC has 5 former Big East schools (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt) and from what I have heard, two more may be on the way. So as was very accurately Tweeted the other day by Pete Abraham (@peteabe) of the Boston Globe, the new look ACC may very well end up being structured as follows:

And at the end of the day, what will they have really accomplished? The 5 (and maybe 7) former Big East schools will get to play each other again, with a smattering of vapid games against Duke, Clemson and Florida State mixed in for good measure. But we will lose far more – we will lose the beauty of what made the Big East – rivalries with regional schools and programs like Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s. We will lose the ability for fans/students (oh, remember them?) to take reasonable weekend road trip to visit friends at a rival school and catch the game. We will lose the Big East Tournament in NYC – where alums from all over the Big East have gathered during a week in March for the past 25 years to enjoy a week of non stop, heart pounding, bragging rights basketball.

Yes, I understand the necessity to make this move. But the sports fan in me is not too excited about it.

Two Sport Star

It appears that Chad Johnson/Ochocinco is taking his skills to Kansas City for a tryout with Sporting KC of the MLS. This got me to thinking about an article from Bill Simmons at ESPN from a few years ago when he mused about a US sports bizarro world where our best athletes would be funneled towards soccer the way they are in European and South American countries. He imagined a scenario where Allen Iverson was playing soccer and claimed (not too far fetched, in my opinion) that Iverson could have been one of the greatest soccer players in the world:

By the way, I’ve been watching the World Cup for four weeks trying to decide which NBA players could have been dominant soccer players, eventually coming to three conclusions. First, Allen Iverson would have been the greatest soccer player ever — better than Pele, better than Ronaldo, better than everyone. I think this is indisputable, actually. Second, it’s a shame that someone like Chris Andersen couldn’t have been pushed toward soccer, because he would have been absolutely unstoppable soaring above the middle of the pack on corner kicks. And third, can you imagine anyone being a better goalie than Shawn Marion? It would be like having a 6-foot-9 human octopus in the net. How could anyone score on him? He’d have every inch of the goal covered. Just as a sports experiment, couldn’t we have someone teach Marion the rudimentary aspects of playing goal, then throw him in a couple of MLS games? Like you would turn the channel if this happened?

Maybe Chad Johnson’s foray into the MLS may prompt other athletes to take a second look at the “perfect game”.

Enough Already

I have a headache too, Brett

I used to like Brett Favre. But I am getting pretty tired of his annual “I’m going to ride out of retirement again on my white horse to save a franchise” charade. Once again, he’s talking to an NFL team about coming back for another season. Last year, he led the Jets to an implosion of mammoth proportions at the end of the season. And now, the Minnesota Vikings are talking to him about coming back….again.

Granted, the Vikings QB situation is a pretty sad state of affairs but did they not see what took place last year in the swamps of New Jersey? Not to mention that the Vikings are to the Packers what the Hatfields are to the McCoys. What in the name of Vince Lombardi is happening here? I guess Favre’s 15 seasons in Green Bay doesn’t add up to a hill of beans.

Is he considering coming back to a team that has a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl? No. Will his addition to this team make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender? No. Did his arrival with the Jets make them a Super Bowl contender? No (although don’t tell that Jets fans and the NY press circa November 2008). He can’t be doing this to improve his legacy because that’s already been demolished beyond repair. His legacy in Green Bay? Forget it. Its a distant memory that moves farther away with every twist in this sordid retirement legacy. What’s happening here is driven purely by greed and the opportunity to take advantage of another desperate franchise.

For the fans of the Minnesota Vikings (of which I am not one) and for the fans of the NFL, just retire. Move on.

A State of Denial

So I’ve been in a state of denial since Week 1 of the NFL season. I’ve just not accepted that Tom Brady got his knee ruined 8 minutes into the 2008-09 NFL season and is out for the year. It took watching Matt Cassell QB the Pats to a victory of the Jets this past weekend to have it fully sink in. When you compound this with the painful loss to the Giants last season, you just realize that you should take full advantage of every opportunity. Maybe Rodney Harrison should have tried just that much harder to get the ball off of David Tyree’s helmet. Or maybe Asante Samuel (who probably does not care since he’s playing in Philly these days) should have tried that much harder to catch that ball that Eli threw. As has been said so many times in so many media outlets, the Pats have quite a season in front of them. It will test Coach Belichick and the rest of the team. Thankfully, we have a pretty easy schedule. I’ll consider making the playoffs a success this year. Anything else is gravy.

Blogging “His Boys”

This is pure comedy.

A football player from the Washington Redskins, Chris Cooley, trying to be all hip and cool with his own blog, posted a photo of a quiz (NSFW) he was taking on the New Orleans Saints defense, because he wanted to try out posting to his blog on his own. He did this while he was naked. And you can see everything. And he didn’t realize it. And it was on his blog for a full day, Sunday, while he was playing the game against the Saints.

Then, he posted an apology that is funnier than the offending post itself.

Don’t mix technology and football players.

Buffalo Doctors Do It Again

Within the past six months, the city of Buffalo has born witness to two pretty horrific sports accidents. Back in September 2007, the Bills’ Kevin Everett suffered a spinal cord injury sustained during a game against the Broncos. As was well documented in Sports Illustrated, Everett is making nothing short of a miraculous recovery due in no small part to the decisions and swift action of the medical team from Buffalo’s Millard Filmore Gates Hospital. Then, this past week, Richard Zednik of the Florida Panthers had his neck and coratid artery cut in a freak accident on the ice during the Panthers-Sabres game this past weekend. With Zednik’s injury, he was taken to Buffalo General Hospital.

Why am I bringing up these accidents? To call out the medical staffs in the city of Buffalo, NY. That’s right…Buffalo, NY. Not Seattle, not Boston, not Los Angeles…Buffalo, NY. Because in both of these cases, the medical staffs at these Buffalo hospitals performed and demonstrated their skill and professionalism at beyond the highest level. The sadness and horror of these two events were countered by the sheer brilliance of these two medical staffs. Kevin Everett may never play football again but he is walking and mobile, something no one thought could happen, because of the swift action of Dr. Andrew Cappuccino. Zednik appears to be on the road to recovery, and I can only hope that to be the case, and his recovery will be in no small measure to the work of Dr. Sonya Noor.

Buffalo, NY…a hot spot for all you burgeoning med students out there.

Bad Omens For the Perfect Season?

pats_afc

OK, so I’m not one who’s into curses or bad karma, but a couple of things have happened this week that have made me a little concerned for this week’s game between the undefeated Patriots and the Chargers.

First, the news that broke yesterday that some desperate female “friend” of Randy Moss’s is accusing him of assault and issued a restraining order to boot. Then, today, I open up my Gmail Inbox and what do I find but an email from NFL.com with an offer to “pre-order” Patriots AFC Champions attire and gear (see image). Who is the idiot who sent this out?!? Who is the fool?!? Don’t they know better?!? Must be a Chargers (or a Colts) fan working at NFL.com.

People are thinking that getting the Chargers in the AFC Championship equates to a free pass for the Patriots to the Super Bowl. I agree with Bill Simmons who said that not having the Colts in the AFC Championship denies the Patriots and us fans the opportunity to go through their biggest rival on their way to history. (as the Red Sox did in 2004). The Chargers are playing a very good brand of football right now and while I’m anticipating a Patriots win, I’m starting to get a little concerned.

Well, we all know what happened to the Patriots perfect season in Super Bowl 42

Super Bowl

Some random thoughts while watching the Super Bowl:

  • Weren’t you just waiting for Joe Namath to “stop by” to pay Suzy Kolber a visit on the sideline and just plant one smack on her lips?
  • The kicker from Seattle should be fired. He cost me winning the halftime score.
  • Could the Rolling Stones have looked any older?
  • I don’t understand why the Motown artists were not the Halftime feature. Poor decision by the NFL and the organizers.
  • What’s the deal with people boo-ing Tom Brady? Just a bunch of bitter Pittsburgh fans.
  • Congrats to the Steelers. You’re just lucky the Patriots lost in Denver and you didn’t have to go through Foxborough. :)