I’m not going to lie, I am pretty pleased with my Week 1 picks. Normally week 1 is crazy, since fans do not have a great sense of what we are going to actually see from teams until they get out on the field and play. However, I went 11-5 last week. My misses? Both of the Monday night games, the seahawks, the colts, and the buccaneers. But if I could go 11-5, or whatever the equivalent is during bye weeks, I would be pretty happy. I also got my eliminator pick right for last week so I am still alive. This week, besides making picks, I will give a few quick thoughts on the Frontline report that came out today. So without further ado, here we go.
Eliminator pick: Mad I wasted the Dolphins last week after not having the guts to pull the Pats or Bengals. But whaterver. Top 5: Dolphins, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Colts. I’m going with the Rams this week.
So today(I am writing this on Friday the 18th), there was a Frontline report that came out today that had some very interesting information. The report they released today was from a study of the brains of 165 deceased individuals who had played football at some point in their life(at the high school level and up). It revealed that 131 out of the 165 brains CTE had been found. That’s 79%!!!! Narrow that down to brains from former NFL players, and that number goes to 87 out 91, or almost 96%! That is incredible. Further more, they found that 40% of those with CTE were either offensive or defensive lineman. The most stunning part for me may have been the quote from Dr. Ann McKee, the faculty director and chief neurologist at the VA Boston Healthcare System: “People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it.” People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion!!!!
Now you may be wondering what that sound that you’re hearing is. Well that’s the sound of me getting up on my soapbox for a minute. Fair warning, if you are sick of hearing about how the NFL has screwed something up, I get it. But stick with me here, I actually think this is really important, and a lot of fans turn a blind eye to stuff like CTE. So please stick with me. Plus we still have 11 days until we get Bill Simmons back so someone has to do it, might as well be me.
Here is the thing for me with CTE and everything, we know that it is a problem, and that it is definitely caused by football, other things cause it but those are not pertinent right now. So we pore millions of dollars into research, and pay top dollar to have some of the top brain science experts in the country, and yet, as evidenced by the bold sentence, people are skeptical of the answer.
This is a problem for a couple reasons. Besides just denying science, there is a link there that much is obvious. It also makes it much easier for the NFL to take a weaker stance on this. You see, the league has not had a great history in dealing with accepting the link between football and CTE. In fact, according to ESPN, in 2009 Goodell refused to even acknowledge that there was a link! Sidebar: that is a great article, check it out when you’re done with this one. Anyway, the league was refusing to say publicly that there was a link, while science openly rejected their idea, and on top of that former players were suffering all around them.
Now, this is not a piece to say that the NFL is going to perish, but it is facing a serious issue. The problem is, it is not being treated as serious as it should be. The league’s settlement for retired players was $765 million. I know what you’re thinking: “wow, that’s a lot of money.” And you’re right, but at the same time you are wrong. The settlement was that it wasn’t enough(they have resettled to $1 billion as of this year). However, many families needed the money ASAP, so both sides settled. The league never had to show any of it’s files on what it knew about brain injuries, and when it knew that information. My guess: that info would be so damning to the NFL. It would confirm long-held suspicions that the league had concealed this from players for years
The league has handled CTE eerily similar to how the tobacco industry handled the reports that smoking could cause cancer(thanks @Johnathan_Wood1 for that). They have lied, and tried to twist the facts to protect their product. It is a little appalling honestly, but like many fans, it is not enough to not watch. This is part of the problem, at the end of the day, how many people really are going to not watch. Hell, the league just finished a disastrous last year, one that could have seriously another professional league just not the NFL. The league can do whatever it wants because we are going to tune in no matter what. The NFL basically owns us… and it knows it.
Don’t mistake me, the NFL is in trouble. Chris Borland won’t be the only player to retire before his prime in pristine health. The risks for some are just too great. Obviously plenty of players are still going to play football, like I said, this won’t kill the league. But I will be curious to see how the amount of kids playing peewee football changes, if it does at all. Football is a dangerous game.
The best thing that we can od as fans is simply educate ourselves. I am going to try and see Concussion this winter, and you should try as well. But studies like what Frontline is doing are important because they show that there is a scientific backing to this stuff, whether the NFL admits it or not.
Sooner or later, the NFL needs to wake because it is on the wrong side of history here.
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports NFL Analyst