Discussing a popular workplace that neglects its employees
By Willie Lutz (@Willie_Lutz)
Loveland, Ohio – In all likelihood, I can join many of you in saying I spend, and for years have spent, the better parts of fall and winter Sunday afternoons watching the National Football League (or maybe as the ratings suggest, you didn’t). That being said, I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve watched more games of poorly played football. I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve had to cringe almost every forty seconds because one or more of the following events have just occurred: the FOX/CBS commentary team said something so irredeemable that I’ll forget about it the next time someone zooms in on Tom Brady, the officials called some incredibly boring foul which was legitimately negligible, or the more likely case, I’ve seen someone get hit so hard in the head that I’m worried they won’t be able to walk again.
[quote_box_right]Watching football used to be fun, now it’s torture.[/quote_box_right]Watching football used to be fun, now it’s torture (and not just because I’m a *FILL-IN-YOUR-FAVORITE-TEAM-HERE* fan). It’s not just about the Bengals rough season. it’s got nothing to do with the Browns stinking up the joint on a weekly (well now it’s more of an annual) basis. It’s not even just about the billionaire owners making it too expensive to see football in person. Watching these grown men fight for their life every four-to-seven days is nauseating, and it’s getting to the point where I can’t and WE shouldn’t keep watching.
[quote_box_left]Let’s talk about Luke Kuechly, who depending on your knowledge of locally grown stars, known as the St. Xavier Bomber turned All-Pro Carolina Panther linebacker.[/quote_box_left]Let’s talk about Luke Kuechly, who depending on your knowledge of locally grown stars, known as the St. Xavier Bomber turned All-Pro Carolina Panther linebacker. The guy is one of the league’s few remaining relatable young talents, but on November 18th, 2016, Kuechly was brutally concussed against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football (which is a stupid, greedy event anyway, but we’ll get there). Fans could see the star linebacker flail and cry as he exited the field.
The immediate assumption was Kuechly was frustrated, but that’s not really the case in this instance. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), concussions can cause sufferers (and make mental note that these following reasons are listed by the CDC as reasons to take someone to the emergency department on the double) to “have convulsions or seizures”, “have unusual behavior”, and “are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.” Now, I watched that injury unfold and looking back, I can’t even imagine the non-visible symptoms Kuechly had to be feeling. Plus, what Kuechly still might be feeling, as the 25-year-old still has yet to return to the field.
So that’s one story, but let’s talk about the upcoming death of the National Football League
Watching Tyreek Hill play football physically irritates me, even though I love watching his team, the Kansas City Chiefs. This roots in the fact that, while in college, Tyreek Hill struck his pregnant girlfriend several times, then later, strangled her, all leading up to his fatherhood and eventual NFL Draft pick. There are countless cases of incredibly violent humans being allowed back on the national stage in a laughable amount of time.
Why does that make me mad? Aside from the fact that it’s wrong to brutally attack another person…
[quote_box_right]Colin Kaeparnick took a knee during the national anthem and multiple people made threats on his life, meanwhile Tyreek Hill physically could have ended someone’s life, but was just named AFC Offensive Player of Week 12. What is happening?[/quote_box_right]Remember when all of those people got together and freaked out when one of league’s worst teams had a back-up quarterback take a knee during the national anthem in a pointless pre-season game (don’t worry, pre-season football, you’re getting a takedown, too)? People stopped watching football over that. OVER THAT! Colin Kaeparnick took a knee during the national anthem and multiple people made threats on his life, meanwhile Tyreek Hill physically could have ended someone’s life, but was just named AFC Offensive Player of Week 12. What is happening?
This is not a one-off kind of deal either. You’ve got guys like Greg Hardy, and hold on to your hearts, because it should drop if you care about other people. Greg Hardy threatened to kill his girlfriend, grabbed her, threw her into a pile of unlicensed guns, and then strangled her, which was evidenced in photographs released by Deadspin revealing stomach-churning bruises up and down her back… Greg Hardy spent sixty days in jail before being allowed back on a football field with the Dallas Cowboys (the Carolina Panthers had the gumption to drop him after the domestic abuse case) after just a four game suspension.
[quote_box_left]Greg Hardy threatened to kill his girlfriend, grabbed her, threw her into a pile of unlicensed guns, and then strangled her.[/quote_box_left]Let’s flip it to my least favorite team, who I’m going to back this time and probably for the lone time in my life. Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown makes football fun to watch. He keeps getting flagged and fined for wearing non-uniform cleats (WHO CARES) and doing touchdown dances (WHO CARES), which is physically harming to, hold on, let me check, no one (well, there was that one time where he drop-kicked the Browns’ punter, but we’ll put that to the side for now). Brown is incredibly popular among fans, raises a ton of money for charity (see his celebrity softball game), and was named Pittsburgh’s Drapper Dan Sportsman of the Year in 2015 (that award was for all Pittsburgh athletes). He’s one of the league’s most relatable under-30 stars, but he can’t stay out of trouble while causing no harm AND brining viewers to the game.
Now, bring it back to my favorite team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and one of my favorite players, Vontaze Burfict. I’m still not convinced Burfict isn’t going to end someone’s life on the football field. The linebacker has spent a career unloading devastating hits, dirty after-the-play actions, and isolates himself from local media, but [quote_box_right]I’m still not convinced Burfict isn’t going to end someone’s life on the football field.[/quote_box_right]the guy has made some tremendously dirty plays and hasn’t seen enough penalty flags. That being said, Vontaze has kind of turned a corner with the on-the-field murder stuff, as it seems like he’s now avoiding using the crown of his helmet to level people, probably because he saw a healthy number of fines and a three-game, unpaid suspension to start 2016.
So, those are a bunch of cases, let’s look at the underlying factors.
Bringing up one of the few remaining young, relatable talents left in the league. Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton said after a Monday night beat-down against the Denver Broncos that the hits have, “really taken the fun out of the game for me honestly, because, at times, I don’t even feel safe.” That is horrifying. That comes after Newton called out a referee who told him he was too young to get hit and get a flag, then later called out commissioner/multimillionaire… Commultimillionare Roger Goddell, stating how he’s sick of officials not being held accountable when players get wrecked with no penalty flag thrown… and it’s hard to argue against his point. After all, none of us are getting are getting attacked by someone at another company without the police giving them some sort of formal penalty.
[quote_box_left]It seems like we almost want these guys to get brain damage…?[/quote_box_left]Go on YouTube and look up best NFL hits. Click any video. You’re about to see guys get some of the nastiest brain injuries you’ve ever seen. Now look at the views. Now look at the likes… see my point? We watch a game that celebrates dirty hits, but it’s kind of getting better, maybe? It seems like we’ve sort of become desensitized to the violence football brings… in fact… it seems like we almost want these guys to get brain damage…?
And now for you I-won’t-believe-it-until-I-see-the-facts-but-also-climate-change-isn’t-real folks still hanging around, here’s some facts from people that are smarter than us: scientists and doctors. .
[quote_box_right]The American Academy of Neurology did a study of retired NFL ball players that revealed at least 40% of the guys had a brain injury.[/quote_box_right]The American Academy of Neurology did a study of retired NFL ball players that revealed at least 40% of the guys had a brain injury during their career. Let’s get that straight, you don’t get a brain injury from working at a desk, or as a shipping manager, or as a barista at Starbucks, or as a flight attendant, these guys are getting brain injuries because gigantic forces of human are running full speed into other gigantic forces of human.
While the 40% number might not surprise you, here’s some stuff that should
First of all, the average number of concussions per player studied was 8.1 over the span of an average seven-year career. Among the players that reported brain injuries, the AAN gave a test, which showed 50% had problems of executive function, 45% struggled with learning/memory, 42% had issues with attention/concentration, and 24% had issues with perceptual function.
The bottom line is some of these retirees had their brains fried playing football. Meanwhile, the league doesn’t even want to support research to help find ways to help avoid these injuries, as they denied to fund a $16 million, seven-year study by Boston University’s School of Medicine, which the university has decide to advance with despite the league ducking them on the funding. What does a league that generates $13 billion a year have to worry about in funding a $16 million that’s going to focus on the health of the league’s employees?
[quote_box_right]When you hear people talk about every NFL play having the same impact as a bunch of mini car crashes, that’s got to be outdated, I’m thinking it’s more like train wrecks.[/quote_box_right]Issue number two is a lot scarier to me; that study was done on retired NFLers; the guys on the field today are bigger, faster, and stronger. In 1980, the average player was between about 190-260 lbs. Today, the average is between 180-310 lbs, with most falling more in the 240-260 lbs range. The guys whose jerseys we drape across our backs are larger than the guys people draped on their backs in the 1980s. While your Joe Montana to Tom Brady might not look all that different, compare your Lawrence Taylor to Kalil Mack… it might make you think a tad. When you hear people talk about every NFL play having the same impact as a bunch of mini car crashes, that’s got to be outdated, I’m thinking it’s more like train wrecks.
[quote_box_left]A lot of our stars and Hall of Famers don’t even like the idea of their kids playing football.[/quote_box_left]Not to mention, a lot of our stars and Hall of Famers don’t even like the idea of their kids playing football. Mike Ditka, Brett Farve, Drew Brees, Ed Reed (that’s the same Ed Reed who has laid some dudes OUT in his time), to name a few, have suggested they’re not averse to keeping their kids off the football field. The injuries these guys sustained and saw others sustain during the course of their careers obviously spoke for themselves.
This league isn’t cheap, either. To see your team in person, it’s going to put you at the league average $92.98 to get a non-premium seat (unless you’re a Browns fan, you can grab seats for like five bucks on the resale market). To buy your favorite player’s jersey, it’s going to run you another $99.99. Hell, if you’re from Cincinnati and live in Hamilton County, you’re paying a tax for the stadium where you can’t afford to bring your family. Not to mention, Hamilton County is getting smashed by the debt credited by the stadium, even with the tax dollars meant to pay it off.
Now, if we’re going to mention taking your family to a game, why don’t we mention the game/games no one should attend, and certainly no one should watch, the pre-season games. These games feature about two drives of half-hearted, wooden acting from the starters before their back-ups enter the game, entering a hideous gladiator match between guys entering a full desperation attempt to earn a spot on an NFL roster.
[quote_box_left]It seems like all the coaches told their guys that when they hit the field, they’re entering day one of The Hunger Games.[/quote_box_left]When these back-ups enter, football gets as ugly as you’ll ever have the chance to watch, as it seems like all the coaches told their guys that when they hit the field, they’re entering day one of The Hunger Games. You see a lot of guys take gruesome injuries, or just see a lot of dropped passes and two-yard runs, because that’s just the nature of this pre-beast. Not to mention, the pre-season isn’t exactly safe for starters, which the Dallas Cowboys learned the hard way when their starter-to-be Tony Romo ended up with a L1 compression fracture in back. Even though Dak Prescott stepped in to lead the 11-1 Cowboys, NFL teams aren’t ever ecstatic to lose a face of their franchise before the game even count.
Speaking of bad football, hopefully you haven’t watched too much Thursday Night Football, of which too much is really just about a quarter. Players don’t feel like they’re healthy by Thursday, as it only gives most guys three days of recovery following their Sunday matchups, so they’re just more at risk of injury, but the league likes it, because their only other sports competition is MAC or AAC football, which usually allows you to count attendance on your hand.
On the topic of Thursday Night Football, Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks cornerback and one of the league’s stars said, “It’s rough on the body. Any time you play a football game and play another one a few days later, it’s going to be tough on the body. But it’s just another one of those things. Another one of those simple contradictions of the league, because they care about us.” That’s pretty telling. Other colleagues have some equally harsh opinions, which leaves us to wonder if the league actually care about its players YET AGAIN!
So, if you can’t afford to go, and the games are bad, then why are people still watching? Well, as a matter of fact, people have started to tune out, especially out of the prime time games. In 2016, ratings for Monday Night Football have dropped by 24%, Sunday Night Football is down 19%, and the notorious Thursday Night “Football” have dropped 18%. The Sunday night game has been the highest rated program on all of television for years, beating out every award show, sitcom, and reality program in its path. While people are still tuning in, what does it say about today’s fan that they’ve been watching Sunday Night Football year after year, but suddenly, the 2016 edition has finally wore them out?
[quote_box_right]We’ve seen the case of Ricardo Lockette, who was hit so hard that if any non-medical personal would have so much as gently pushed him, he would’ve died on the field. So why do we keep tuning in week after week?[/quote_box_right]We’ve supplied the market with its audience, but the fact is we aren’t going anywhere, but we probably should. You can make the argument that, yeah, the guys are making a lot of money, but at the same time, they’re risking their lives and health. We’ve seen guys lose the ability to walk on the football field. We’ve seen the case of Ricardo Lockette, who was hit so hard that if any non-medical personal would have so much as gently pushed him, he would’ve died on the field. So why do we keep tuning in week after week?
And I’m just as guilty as anyone else! Between my pointless reporting from the beating a dead horse committee, my fantasy football habit, and my occasional Bengals merch binge, I’m just as guilty IF NOT GUILTIER than the next fan.
Where do we go from here? Just talk about it with people who like football. I love football, but the NFL is leading me to turn my attention more towards the college game, which even though the NCAA is a shady organization, at least more of their players seem to be safe on the field.
Well, that was depressing to write, but I think it’s kind of important. I Hopefully, it’s given you something to think about, I know I have been.
Willie Lutz (@Willie_Lutz) attends Ohio University and is from Loveland, Ohio. He holds interests in politics, sports, and culture. Lutz was a former Intern at Loveland Magazine.