Super Bowl Sunday is a gambler’s paradise.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys placing bets, then the biggest annual television event in North America has no shortage of wagers to entice you.
“How long will Lada Gaga’s national anthem be?”
“Will the initial coin flip be heads or tails?”
“ What’s the over/under on a Beyonce (or Chris Martin) nip-slip?”
“How many tons of blue cheese will be used for wing duty?”
Oh. And of course- Who wins the game?
No matter what your wager of choice, there is one
guarantee. That in between the multi-million dollar commercials, epic halftime shows and all the slices of pizza your hands can hold,
over 100 million of us will be tuned in live to the silent murder of the approximately 90 men who will take the field Sunday evening.
“Why silent murder?” you may ask.
“Isn’t that a little extreme?”
No. It is not.
It is actually quite accurate when you consider the number of brain injuries that take place in a given game, year or career and then compare that with the irresponsible yet intentional means that the NFL, a company that made an estimated $10 billion in revenues last year, has gone through in order to hide the known effects the effects of concussions suffered by their constituency of untreated patients dressed in helmets and shoulder pads.
Ever since the days before helmets were even required, pro football players have been getting their daylights knocked out only to be told to get back up and do it again… and again… and again.
No band-aids for boo-boos.
Just a manly smack on the rear and back you return to the scrum, ready for more action.
Where head collisions were concerned, if a player appeared to be a little loopy after a hit, it was dismissed as just a case of being “punch drunk”. Afterall, no one really understood (or accepted) that maybe these players weren’t immortal men and that they were in fact, receiving life-altering punishment.
Enter forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu.
The public now knows him as the Nigerian doctor portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 release “Concussion”. Dr.Omalu famously performed an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Webster and subsequently discovered the disease known as Chronic Traumatic encephalopathy. CTE for short.
It’s a disease caused by brain traumas in which individuals suffer from dementia, depression, abnormal aggression and memory loss.
Because of the abundance of head traumas and concussions in football, this is great news,right?!
Now the NFL could no longer feign ignorance and would actually be able to effectively protect their player’s, right?!
Even Dr. Omalu himself believed that the league would be overjoyed to have finally pinpointed this silent killer and would implement aggressive changes both in order to protect their players and to save the business money that would go to otherwise unneeded treatments.
This was not the case.
Instead, The NFL fought Dr. Omalu’s findings tooth and nail. Dr. Omalu was suddenly faced with fighting contentious lawsuits. The merits of his work were attempted to be discredited through the prism of racist ignorance with claims that his medicine was in-fact “vooodoo”.
He even received death threats.
The NFL’s denial isn’t just some once upon a time movie stuff either.
Even today, things are far from happily ever after.
Despite the scientific community being in harmony about the connection between football collisions, CTE and the exponentially heightened risks of early-death, the NFL to this day performs a very shifty dance in not admitting the true impact of concussions.
NFL comissioner, Roger Goodell directly for the owners of the teams.
He essentially is the mascot that peddles whatever justification is deemed most beneficial to the league’s bottom line.
When asked if he would let his hypothetical son play proffesional footabll, given the apparent health risks, he answered-
“I’d love for him to play the game of football because of the values you get….
There’s risk in life. There’s risk in sitting on the couch.”
The fact that Roger Goodell would juxtapose the dangers in colliding with some of the fastest and strongest men on the planet with the perils associated with Netflix & Chill shows you just how real the cover up and denial is.
To be fair, The NFL and their corporate partners have committed $100 million towards research of traumatic brain injuries.
According to reports, that figure is greater than the National Institutes of Health’s budget for similar studies.
It however appears that like many other companies, the NFL is utilizing it’s research contributions in order to influence results that are in the league’s best financial and PR interests and not in the best interest of
unearthing the truth, no matter how damning it could be.
In keeping true to it’s tradition of probing, investigative reporting, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” makes the connection between the NFL’s research donations, the recipients and some pretty apparent conflicts of interests.
According to the report:
“beneath the surface of the NFL’s largesse is a secretive funding apparatus with its own set of rules, one that often rewards league doctors, punishes critics and, some researchers believe, steers research away from potentially uncomfortable truths about the relationship between football and brain disease”.
“WHEN ($#!&) HITS THE FAN, IS YOU STILL A FAN?”
As a lifelong sports fan, one of the issues I constantly wrestle with is what does it really mean to be a fan? Sure, I can buy my favorite player’s jersey, go to a game and get into a friendly screaming match about who the GOAT is with my homies at the gym or around the way.
But how can I TRULY call myself a fan of these players.. these human beings- and overlook the callous way that their incredibly wealthy employers exploit their suffering and cover up the extent to which they actually are suffering?
Many players endure irreversible damage and take years off of their lives for their enrichment and for our entertainment.
Some can’t remember.
Some can’t walk.
Some need help feeding themselves at the tender young age of 40.
Former offensive tackle Roman Oben said
“I’m 40 years old going on 65, God knows what I’ll feel like when I’m actually 65 years old.”
All time great Junior Seau decided to end his own life at the age of 43 after enduring years of emotional torment caused by CTE.
Naturally, the NFL initially downplayed any connection between Seaus suicide and football.
Even O.J. Simpson, America’s favorite pariah and pop culture lightening rod is believed to have C.T.E. Would that absolve hime of any crimes that he may have committed? No. But if you understand the scientific fact that CTE begets unnatural spikes in aggression, it isn’t hard to understand how one of America’s pitch-men was then more likely to become a monster at home.
My point in all of this is not only to indict the NFL for behaving so irresponsibly and for leaving many of it’s former and current employees alone and in the dark when their health is most vulnerable, but it is also to say that we as fans share some responsibility as well.
At the end of the day, The NFL respects the almighty dollar. So no matter how miserably the NFL has failed in cracking down on domestic violence, racial equality, player safety, etc. their profits grow larger and larger every year.
We can’t turn off the tv because we love the thrill the sport brings. We love the super bowl commercials and halftime shows. We can’t get enough. The NFL knows that it’s got that dope and about 150 million eager veins.
I don’t know when the NFL will begin to do right by it’s players with no strings attached. But if Super Bowl 50’s ratings turn out to be bigger than ever,if I were a gamblin’ man, I’d hedge all of my bets on “no time soon”.