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Meanwhile, the Bigger NFL Story Gets Buried

While the whole sports world  is keeping track of who did what during the national anthem, and who’s going or not going to the White House, maybe the biggest story of last week was actually the news about Aaron Hernandez.It’s big news not because he had CTE, or that maybe we should factor that in when deciding how “guilty” he really was (we shouldn’t), but because the lawsuit and investigation should shed some light on what happened to him.

In case you missed it, he had stage 3 CTE, at the age of 27.

One doctor said his brain was in the condition they normally see with 67 year old CTE sufferers.

Now, we don’t know what sort of things Hernandez went through outside of the NFL, and that’s why I want this lawsuit and investigation to go through. Remember, he only played parts of 3 NFL seasons. That’s not a lot of time on the field compared to many others who have since been diagnosed with CTE. Did he suffer additional head trauma in prison? Maybe. Or, rather, was the damage already done by the time he got to the NFL from youth and college football? Even if we allow that his behavior can be somewhat explained (But not excused) by CTE causing a lack of decision making ability, we could look back at his career at Florida and see some of the same sort of things. Was he already dealing with the effects of CTE in college? Should his family be suing the NCAA and the University as well for continuing to let him play football, not taking better care of hm, etc.? Maybe. Again, we don’t know what happened while he was in college, or the truth about what happened with the Patriots either. I’m curious to find out.

The reason I’m curious, is because the common argument we hear about football players is that they get paid a lot of money to take those risks, and they know what the risks are and make those choices. Can that argument hold water at all if we start to see CTE prior to any NFL games? Is playing college football and not getting paid beyond a scholarship worth the risk if it turns out that Hernandez may have been dealing with CTE during his Florida days?

One thing I know is that level of CTE didn’t just happen from three years in the NFL. There was plenty of head trauma occurring outside of that. Can we start to pinpoint where and when he may have had concussions and head trauma, and begin to understand what the game is really doing to these young men?

Will we like what we find out? Maybe not, but we owe it to every college and high school football player to find out.

Given the way ESPN and other media outlets, including the President, went all hysterical over kneeling, you;d think this was a coordinated effort to get the public to pay attention to anything other than CTE. But we shouldn’t forget this story. If anything is going to destroy the NFL, it’s going to be this.

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Link – ‘I’m Not the Lone Wolf’ – Urban Meyer on Mental Health

Chasing Ambien with beer to sleep. Forty-pound weight loss. Chest pains. To stay in football, Urban Meyer had to address his mental health. Now, to help America tackle the issue, Ohio State’s head coach opens up in a B/R Mag exclusive.

This article is absolutely fascinating on many levels, and not just because I’m an Ohio State fan.

Let’s start with the obvious. We tend to look at the dedication and drive of people involved in sports, whether it be coaches like Meyer, or players, and think that the level of absolute dedication to their sport is the way we should live our lives to be as successful in whatever endeavor that we choose. But here’s one of the most successful college coaches in the country completely contradicting that.

Here is Meyer saying that yes being dedicated and chasing your goals is important, but you have to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself too, and losing site of that is going to cost you much more than that goal was ever worth.

Think about what he’s talking about in sharing his story. Sure, he was as successful as you could be at Florida, but what he was doing was hurting his physical and mental health, and ruining his relationship with his family. When we look at the athletes we admire for their dedication, and single-minded focus, do we stop to consider just what kind of human being they are off the field?

For that matter, do we stop to think about the successful entrepreneurs, the Steve Jobs of the world, and whether emulating them is always a good idea? Sure they may be successful in business, or in sports, but are they just shitty people? Do they leave behind a wake of crappy relationships and interactions? Is that what I want when I’m reading the “10 habits of the best athletes that you should follow to be successful”?

What if those habits include things like watching game film until 4AM, not sleeping, not interacting with my family, taking drugs to get through the workload, dealing with anxiety and stress levels that make chest pains a regular thing? In what world is that something we should emulate?

Good for Coach Meyer for taking the time to, as he says:

“To help that man or woman who’s going through some s–t right now, and struggling,” he says. He rattles off one profession after another that isn’t College Football Coach but is demanding all the same—teachers, police officers, firefighters, doctors, parents, soldiers and more. “These people that are in consuming jobs—you forget to do one thing,” Urban says. “And that’s to take care of yourself.”

Absolute truth right there, and my respect for being willing to say it. Even more for the lessons he is passing on to his players about taking care of themselves. It’s impressive to see how much time he puts into that kind of stuff with his players as well.

http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/i-m-not-the-lone-wolf/

Link – Florida CB Jalen Tabor claims college football is ‘modern form of slavery’

“The SEC made a boatload of money in 2014, and Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor is irked that players didn’t get a piece of the pie.”

He’s not entirely wrong. No, it’s not slavery in the strictest sense, college athletes do get a scholarship, which isn’t nothing. But there are a whole lot of people making a whole lot of money on the backs of these young men, who, for 3 years of their lives have no possibility of making money based on their skills. They can’t turn pro, they likely can’t afford to go to college and not play during that time, and they likely don’t have many other employment opportunities available to them as 18-21 year olds. So they go play football at State U, and if they happen to blow out an ACL, or suffer a head injury and can’t play anymore? Oh well, we’ll offer that scholarship to someone who can continue raking in the money for dear old State. Too bad about “what’s his name again?”

Florida CB Jalen Tabor claims college football is ‘modern form of slavery’

Link – Report: Florida to suspend quarterback Will Grier for remainder of season

Should we just go ahead and suspect everyone who suddenly improves in sports from now on? I don’t think we should, but it’s hard to argue if someone wants to be skeptical. What happens to Florida now? It has been an amazing season up to now for them, but it’s hard not to see it differently now, huh?

Report: Florida to suspend quarterback Will Grier for remainder of season

What I’m Reading – College athletes at major programs benefit from confluence of factors to sometimes avoid criminal charges

College athletes at major programs benefit from confluence of factors to sometimes avoid criminal charges

I think this is something that we all sort of suspected, but seeing the details and hearing the stories is still pretty stark.

Perhaps the worst part of this is how many “fans” are willing to harass and threaten people who are the victims of a crime in order to win games. If that’s you, you are a screwed up human being.

The Inexplicable SEC

SEC logo photo

We’ve been told that the SEC West is the most amazing collection of great football teams ever. I’ve been skeptical of this claim for a while now, and this week provided more fodder. Here’s why:

 

  • Missouri beat Texas A&M to maintain their lead in the division.
    • Victories by other SEC West teams over A&M have been considered quality wins, but they currently stand 7-4 and do not seem like a good team
    • Missouri is 8-2, with a blowout lass to Georgia, and a home loss to Indiana. (INDIANA?????)
  • Georgia blows out Auburn
    • Yes, the same Georgia team that has inexplicable losses to South Carolina and Florida beat one of the “quality” West teams, badly.
  • LSU gets shut out by Arkansas
    • LSU, also one of those “quality” West teams, gets shutout by a team that had lost 17 straight SEC games and whose signature win this year is against 3-7 Texas Tech.

What to make of this? Perhaps, this is more evidence that Auburn, A&M and LSU really aren’t very good football teams.

Is that’s true, what does that say about Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss?

State gained their #1 ranking in large part by beating LSU, A&M and Auburn is consecutive weeks. They got a lot of credit for a stretch against teams with a combined 21-11 record before finally losing at Alabama.

Ole Miss beat Alabama, which they deserve credit for, but losing to LSU and Auburn? Ugh.

Alabama seems to be the best team of the bunch, but it’s a fairly mediocre bunch, in my mind.

To be fair, however, every other conference in America is just as mediocre, and is being led by teams that don’t seem very good. This includes Florida State, who somehow has won a bunch of games they had no business winning. So I’m willing to admit the SEC is maybe the better collection of teams when compared to other conferences right now, but I think college football, in general, is pretty mediocre right now, full of wildly inconsistent teams. Maybe that’s the reality of kids leaving early and having to play at a younger age, or perhaps their all just point-shaving? 😉

 

Photo by Roger Smith

It Might Be Bias But It’s Also a Problem with Preseason Polls

Southeastern Conference photo

By now, most of you have probably seen the Rolling Stone article in which they claim to show the bias of ESPN toward the SEC.

I’m not here to agree or disagree with the premise. There is definitely some cheer-leading going on with certain ESPN talking heads, but I don’t know that there’s an institutional bias. I think you can absolutely make the case that ESPN being an investor in the SEC network is a conflict of interest, but if there’s one thing we know about ESPN, apparent conflict of interests have never stopped them before. (They are the broadcast partners of many of the leagues they claim to “cover” from a news perspective after all!)

The one thing that the article really pointed out to me is the way that preseason polls create a real problem when it comes to ranking the teams properly.

Case in point, South Carolina was ranked #9, on the basis, I guess, of being a decent SEC team last year. When they got beat by Texas A&M in the first week of the season, the Aggies were credited with a victory over a top 10 team and rode that, and a few ridiculous non-conference wins, all the way into the top 10 themselves. As A&M lost to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama in consecutive weeks, they were all, as the article pointed out, credited with beating a “juggernaut” in A&M. But here’s the thing, A&M’s reputation this season was based on beating a South Carolina team that, in fact, stinks. They stand 4-5 after losing to Tennessee this week. (The Vols FIRST conference win by the way)

So in reality, A&M really isn’t a good college football team, nor is South Carolina. The Gamecocks, in turn, beat Georgia, who’s other loss was the embarrassment against Florida on Saturday, another team that isn’t really any good.

Now as it stands, right now, there are some teams from the SEC who are probably overated. I don’t think it is a huge problem for the final four playoff teams as of right now, but moving forward, these 4 teams are going to change, and there’s a good chance that there will be those who argue for a two-loss SEC team, because, “SEC”, when they might not be all that good, due to the teams they’ve beaten being ranked too highly at the start of the season.

As of now, Mississippi State and Florida State are undefeated, and I think if they stay that way, they deserve to be in the playoff. Going undefeated is an accomplishment in any of the Power 5 conferences. I also don’t have much of a problem with Alabama and Auburn because of a couple of impressive non-conference wins. (Bama over WVU, Auburn over K-State) But, TCU, Oregon, Baylor, Kansas State and Michigan State are right behind them. I don’t think, if everything remains the same, either one can afford a loss.

For the record, just to show that I’m not biased, the Preseason Polls also had these rankings that were ridiculous and as these teams started losing, the teams beating them were given too much credit:

#5 Ohio State (ranking was pre-injury to Braxton Miller, clearly not the reality of that team early in the season)

#7 UCLA

#9 South Carolina

#11 Stanford

#15 USC

#23 North Carolina

#24 (Coaches Poll) Texas

Let’s ditch the preseason poll, and let the teams actually show us something before we start ranking them and giving teams extra credit for quality wins that aren’t.

Photo by Diamondduste

Gator Fail

Florida gators photo

Photo by bjmcdonald

Statistically speaking, Florida played a great game against Missouri tonight. They had 8 minutes more time of possession, ran 35 more plays, gained well over twice as many yards and were given 11 penalties against Missouri.

So how did they lose 42-13? A kickoff return and punt return for touchdowns and 6 turnovers will do that.

Honestly, Missouri couldn’t have played a worse game on offense than this, but Florida mistakes helped them to a 42-0 lead anyway.

I don’t even know how a team can make that many mistakes. You can blame the starting QB, Jeff Driskel for some of those turnovers, but he doesn’t cover kicks. This mess of bad football goes much deeper, and I know Gator fans seem willing to dump much of it on the head coach. Can’t really argue with them.

Can history repeat itself and the Gators find the perfect replacement the way they did after the Ron Zook era? If they do, does that mean Muschamp will be at Illinois next year? 😉