Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Concussions in Football: Fixed

Have you heard about all of the hullabaloo (Ha! Hullabaloo... I don't even have to make jokes if I use that word) about concussions in American Football? (yes, American Football. We have an international audience here at Complete Tangent) It's quite a concern for two concerning concerns:

  1. People who played in the NFL are offing themselves at an alarming rate post-career
  2. Other players are getting dementia at an alarming rate

My first point of note: How is this a surprise to anyone! You've got 300 pound men firing into each other headfirst 60-70 times a game and clanking melons every single time. And that's just the linemen! Otherwise it's two smaller guys who don't hit as often, but when they do it's by running full speed and hurling themselves head-first into someone else. This is like holding a NASCAR race where half the cars go in one direction and half in the other, then being surprised when there's a car accident.

Obviously this isn't a great thing from a PR standpoint for the league, or a life-expectancy standpoint for the players. And it's not just NFL'ers. Here's a quote from Malcolm Gladwell in an exchange he had with Bill Simmons at Grantland.com (find it here):

"I was recently reading, by the way, about the work of a researcher at Virginia Tech named Stefan Duma who put electronic monitors in the helmets of 7- and 8-year-olds playing Pop Warner football. He found that those kids were routinely getting hits to the head in the 40 to 60 g range, with some even upwards of 80 gs. To put that in perspective, imagine that you put your son in the front seat of your car, told him not to wear a seat belt, and then smashed the car at 25 miles an hour into a brick wall, so that your son's forehead hit the dashboard. That would be 100 g. Then you reverse and do it again, 30 to 40 times over the course of two hours, at speeds between 20 and 25 miles per hour. That's a football game. If you reversed and did it again, 1,000 times, that would be a season. This is massively screwed up..."

Needless to say there's an issue here. Fortunately I'm not a bystander. I'm a man of action! So I fixed the problem. Well actually, I just changed a word and that fixed the problem. Observe:

American Football -> American Football + Australian = Australian Football, aka "Aussie Rules Football".

Aussie Rules is the perfect replacement sport for American Football and I'll tell you why in an overly complex point by point list:

  1. No Helmets: I know, I know. This doesn't seem like it fixes the concussion problem. But you know who doesn't hurl themselves head-first into another guy's noggin? Guys who aren't wearing helmets. As a sub-point to this, the players aren't generally running directly at each other, which helps, and there's no linemen. Sure, there's probably more knee and joint stuff but that's better than losing your frigging marbles at 50.
  2. Gambling Implications: Let's be honest. The NFL succeeds because of gambling, fantasy football in particular, and a big part of why that is is because of the one-game-a-week format. Same for Aussie Rules! Plus, any player can score so there's a whole new level to the team you field.
  3. Increased Handsomeness: You can actually see the player's faces ('cause of the no-helmets) and so you don't have to just cheer for a number on a jersey. This translates into increased marketability for everyone.
  4. High Scoring: Games regularly go over 100 points (6 points for a goal, 1 for an almost-goal) so there's always something interesting going on.
  5. Way Less Down-Time: For all of the similarities in play to NFL, the actual timing is more like soccer. Four 20-minute quarters where the clock just runs, then a bit of time added on by the ref based on injury or scoring.
  6. Humour: The trainers run out and give water to the players during the game. Just the mere chance of a trainer getting blown up by a 6'3" 230lbs guy running at top speed is worth it to me. And let's just pretend I didn't say that during a post about concussion avoidance.
  7. Free-Flowing: There's way more movement and creativity in an Aussie Rules match. It's more like hockey or soccer that way. Y'know, if you're into that kind of thing.

That's why I think Australian Rules Football could replace American Rules Football. By the way, this is as likely to happen as the aforementioned 2-way NASCAR race.

I would like to wish a fond farewell to my razor. He was a great one, left it all in the sink. I remember when I first took him out of the package... it seemed like just another day. An in-game replacement back in January and barely an afterthought at the time. But week-in, week-out he kept showing up to the shave. Never took a day off. It wasn't until March that I realized we had something special going on.

I'll be honest with you - I didn't believe he'd keep it up. It was unthinkable! But I didn't factor in his desire; that passion for shaving I'd never seen before and never will again. This razor was Cal Ripkin Jr, Jahangir Khan, and Yasuhiro Yamashita all rolled into one. He was born to shave.

If I had to share an anecdote it would be two shaves last May. He faltered and we all held our collective breaths... there was a cut. Was this the end? If it were anyone other razor we would have pulled him right away. That's a career ending injury! Even though the call was close we ultimately decided that his months of service deserved another chance and he paid back that loyalty with weeks more of solid duty.

When the streak finally ended last week my razor had put in over 20 weeks of service to the organization, the fans, and all of his medicine cabinet teammates. He will be fondly remembered as a role model not only to other young razors, but to all of us with a dream and the will to make it happen.

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