Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bad Sports

Two stories in particular have caught The Common Man's attention today. Both are about sports and the people who play them, as is fitting for a blog about manliness:

The lesser, more trivial, of the stories is that Joe Torre has a new book coming out, co-authored by Sports Illustrated columnist Tom Verducci. The book purports to explore the Torre-era Yankees, and rips into Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, and Brian Cashman. A-Rod, especially, gets the back of Torre's hand, "Back in 2004, at first Rodriguez did his best to try and fit into the Yankee culture -- his cloying, B Grade actor best. He slathered on the polish. People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel, were calling him 'A-Fraud' behind his back."

The Common Man, frankly doesn't give a damn about A-Rod or Joe Torre, or their feelings, or their squabbles. Indeed, the state of the Yankee clubhouse isn't important to him at all. But what is interesting is that Torre is still managing in baseball, as the skipper of the Los Angeles Dodgers. As his current players see that their manager is willing to violate the cardinal rule of baseball's clubhouses (what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse) and sell them out for a big payday, they will inevitably wonder whether they will be the unwitting stars of Torre's next book. While The Common Man isn't a big proponent of team chemistry, he does think that most players can't play well unless they can relax a little. And it's awfully hard to hit a fastball or find the plate when you're looking over your shoulder for your manager and his ghostwriter. It will be interesting to see whether the Dodgers continue to underachieve and fail to live up to their potential this year.

The other story comes out of professional football, where it seems like players need additional protection from their coaches and their own desire to compete. Now, as much as The Common Man loves him so football, he would rather that The Boy find another sport to enjoy. This feeling is only reinforced by this CNN.com report about the deterioration of football players' brains from multiple concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). According to neuropathologist Ann McKee, who has studied the brains of six former NFLers, "What's been surprising is that it's so extensive. It's throughout the brain, not just on the superficial aspects of the brain, but it's deep inside." The brain damage can start early and is progressive, damaging centers of the brain that control rage, memory, and breathing, among others. It's also proving to be fatal, as sufferers often die young and unnatural deaths. And, as NFL players like Kyle Turley have noted, the league and the players' union is doing little to address this growing problem and take care of former players who are suffering.

Likewise, The Common Man is disturbed by the news out of Kentucky regarding the death of Max Gilpin and the arrest of his coach Jason Stinsin for reckless homicide. Stinsin, allegedly, was forcing his players to run in full pads in August without giving them access to water when Gilpin collapsed and his body shut down. The NFL is just now beginning to take action on the issue, following through on a settlement with Korie Stringer's wife to spend more time and money on prevent tragedies like that that befelled her husband. And it looks like, on this issue, a least, headway has been made. It's still not enough that The Common Man would be comfortable letting The Boy strap on the pads, but it's getting closer.

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