My Thoughts Regarding Athletes Protesting Before Games

Miami Dolphins kneeling before a game. Photo courtesy of si.com

 

MY ONE AND A HALF CENTS ON NFL PLAYERS AND OTHER ATHLETES TAKING A STAND AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICES AND OTHER ISSUES BEFORE GAMES

 

It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues in this country as of late.

And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my views of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling to protest police brutality and other racial issues while the national anthem is playing.

 

So here’s how I feel about it all…

I have family who fought and died for that starred and striped flag.

My great-grandfather fought in World War I

My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been 67 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.

My father fought in the Vietnam War.

Which is why I personally choose to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well.”

 

However…

I am also an African-American male who has encountered racism, such as being profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in fromt of my house because I “fit the description” of a stalker.

I have been denied employment because of my being black, like when after a great phone interview for a job, I was told that it was being offered to someone else because “He asked first” upon laying eyes on me.

I was called the “N-word” on numerous occasions during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural community of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.

I have experienced various slights and microagressions that, looking back, I recognize that’s what I went through during my teenage and young adult years.

Of course it’s impossible to forget the many instances of African-American men being brutalized and murdered in the hands of the local authorities; incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four Euro-Caucasian cops who did that dirty work – which triggered then L.A. Rebellion/Riots 25 years ago – and the murders of guys like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray come to mind.

 

Image #: 13530908 American athletes Tommie Smith (middle, gold medal) and John Carlos (right, bronze medal) at the Award Ceremony for the 200m race at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, October 16, 1968. The Olympics Black Power salute was a notable black power protest and one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. DPA/LANDOV Photo courtesy of africascountry.com

 

So what does this have to do with NFL players kneeling before games – I know you’re asking that right about now…

In a nutshell, I support the athletes.

I know that many folks – mostly of the white and conservative persuasion, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be a crime punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.

What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and the rest of those guys in the National Football League,

And the National Basketball Association as I’m sure there will be quite a bit of kneeling at Staples Center and other arenas when that season opens in a few weeks – and every other sports league for that matter,

Can kneel, raise fists, or not come out of the locker room at all like the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks have been doing during the WNBA Finals.

To frown on that is not only a case of free speech,

But a case of denying human rights.

Of course this issue is nothing new, Tommie Smith and John Carlos getting expelled from the Olympic Games in 1968 after displaying their Black Power salutes on the medal stand.

As well as Muhammad Ali getting stripped of his heavyweight title the year before after refusing to be inducted into the army (and undoubtedly getting sent to Vietnam), losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year prison sentence.

All of these incidents have one thing in common:

The protagonists’ color of their skin.

And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those taking a stand against racism, racist injustice, and the hypocrisy that American has exuded to those of its citizens who are not white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes.

Though I wouldn’t kneel during the national anthem due to my family’s involvement in defending that American flag,

While there are many people, particularly African-Americans, who are boycotting NFL games due to this issue,

I would go if I had the opportunity to go to a Rams or Chargers (the two teams in my area) game.

But I would wear a #7 Kaepernick jersey in solidarity.

It would be very wrong to not give these athletes my support in this issue.

Not as long as there are millions of people in these United States – and other countries – that still see me as inferior and a “lesser” due to the color of my skin.

 

Two Los Angeles Rams making like Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Photo courtesy of sbnation.com

 

 

 

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If I Had A Son (or Daughter), Would I Let Him/Her Play Football?

The NFL’s  Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers getting it on. Photo courtesy of profootballweekly.com

 

I’ve seen it on ESPN and Fox Sports reports and documentaries.

I can vividly recall my heart breaking when I saw former Chicago Bears quarterback and basic sunglasses-wearing bad-ass Jim McMahon struggling to remember where his home was on outings.

Not to mention big names such as McMahon’s Bears teammate Dave Duerson and former San Diego/just moved to Los Angeles Chargers and USC  linebacker legend Junior Seau kill themselves.

And I’ll never forget the sad condition of Mike Webster, the Pittsburgh Steelers center from the Super Bowl glory days of the 1970s, who was the same age as I am now (fifty) when he passed away of a heart attack.

All because of Cardio Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, which is essentially brain damage caused by way too many concussions.

Which these guys – and many more football players (and hockey players, too; can’t forget them) I may add – have suffered from for so long as recent research found that out of 111 brains of former football players studied, all but one showed signs of CTE.

It’s at the point where for the past couple of years, whenever I watch a football game one of my first thoughts is this…

“I hope his head’s OK.”

I think that’s a main reason behind me, despite liking the pigskin game as much as the next guy, preferring baseball.

A thought came to me very recently regarding all of this on a personal level:

 

CELEBRATING UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Hart High School’s football team, from Newhall, CA, after winning a CIF championship. Photo courtesy of archive.signalscv.com

 

 

IF I HAD A CHILD – WHETHER IT WAS A SON OR EVEN A DAUGHTER (Plenty of girls have liked the sport enough to have played it and want to play it) – WOULD I LET HIM/HER PLAY FOOTBALL?

I won’t waste any more time on answering this:

If it was flag football in a Parks and Recreation league, sure!

That brand of the game is obviously much safer, with no tackling.

Now the big question; if it was a Pop Warner tackle league or a high school team…

My Answer: YES – if my kid really wanted to do it.

There would be one condition I would put upon my youngster before I signed the form, paid the entrance fees, signed up for the booster club, etc…

The first concussion my child suffered on the gridiron, he/she would be immediately pulled from the field by me – or I would order the coach to – and would be done for the season.

Like any other sane parent, I would take no chances with my loved one’s health.

He or she would be gone, then have a complete brain scan at the beginning of pre-season practice – and pass with flying colors – the next year before I would let them take the field.

I can’t make it clearer than that.

For all those parents and loved ones whose children are doing battle on that 100-yard space, whether he’s a eight-year old in Pee-Wees, a 16-year old under the Friday Night Lights, or a five-star recruit at one of the country’s collegiate football kingdoms,

I pray that your kid gets through this season concussion-free.

 

Action from a Pop Warner game. Photo courtesy of readingpopwarner.com

Concussions, CTE, & Other Debilitating Injuries: Is Football REALLY Worth It?

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Members of the reborn Los Angeles Rams, back after 21 years in St. Louis, taking the field at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of ibtimes.co.uk

 

SOME THOUGHTS ON THIS ISSUE AS SUPER BOWL LI AND FOOTBALL SEASON IS NOW HISTORY

 

Now that the confetti’s been cleaned up and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been awarded in Houston, with the team receiving that trophy embarking on their celebratory parade as I write this,

Over the past several years I’ve watched football games on TV and in person and – sometimes in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of  it,

Considering all the stories of former stars and heroes who were seen as near-gods in during their time on the gridiron who are…

  • Unable to remember how to get home from the store as well as sometimes needing help remembering their oldest friends and even their own names
  • Can barely walk without significant pain
  • (In some cases) are paralyzed
  • Broke and homeless or even dead by suicide due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy suffered from all the hitting on the field

I have wondered if playing the game of football is worth it.

Many big names have ended up as statistics as far as CTE and other permanently painful injuries and how it ultimately ruined their lives, Super Bowl champions like Brett Favre, Jim McMahon, and Harry Carson along with ex-Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck, who has recently stated his fear of having CTE,

As well as guys who are tragically no longer with us such as former Baltimore Colt and Lite Beer commercial legend Bubba Smith,  Oakland Raider Ken Stabler, and notably Junior Seau, the former USC and San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer who shot himself in 2012.

These are and were the athletes who, suffer from bad headaches and memory loss in addition to the sometimes excruciating pain in their joints and various other body parts.

As former New York Giant Carson described it, in his words he “…doesn’t think as clearly as I used to. Nor is my speech (and) selection of vocabulary as good as it used to be.”

To make it clear, contrary to what some may be thinking I do enjoy football, having been a fervent fan of my collegiate alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for roughly 35 years and having seen them play approximately 130 times.

 

 

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Philip Rivers, the longtime San Diego Chargers QB who will as of next fall be playing his home games in Los Angeles; he’s another guy whose brain and overall health I’m praying for. Photo courtesy of wowtrending.com

 

I completely understand the appeal of football in this country, how it attracts people not only with its violent, battle-like nature and the pomp and pageantry that goes along with it, i.e., cheerleaders and marching bands (which I was involved with in both high school and at UCLA),

But – more importantly – also with the extreme sense of camaraderie that the game provides in the form of tailgating (my favorite part of football) and simply being with people similar to you as far as the team they root for.

I also completely understand the appeal of playing the game as who wouldn’t want to be adored by anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Not to mention all the lovely young women in short mini skirts holding pom-poms showing such enthusiasm over what they are doing on the sidelines.

And the fact that injuries suffered on the gridiron are unfortunate but also an occupational hazard that is more or less inevitable.

However…

The more I hear and see all these tragedies stemming from playing football – I’m praying that newly re-crowned Super Bowl hero and the guy who everyone’s saying is the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, doesn’t end up like Carson or (even worse!) Seau with all the hits he must have taken over his nearly 20 years as a New England Patriot,

The more I’m glad I chose to play baseball as a kid and continue to play softball today, because I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the costs of being a football player.

And the more I’m convinced that in the long run, because of its level of safety, longevity (the average NFL career being four years as opposed to 7-10 years for Major League Baseball) and security (the average salary is higher in MLB than in the NFL) compared to football, baseball is the better game to play.

I suppose that’s my answer as to, as much as I still like it and understand that it’s a forever slice of Americana, if I feel football is truly worth it.

By The Way:  On a side note, I think Brady needs to retire as with all the success and accolades he has collected squatting behind the center and throwing spirals, not to mention the many millions he has earned – enough so that his great-grandchildren will be set for life – what more does he need to prove?!

 

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Two guys whose heads I’m fervently hoping and praying will ultimately be OK shaking hands after the recent Super Bowl; the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Patriots’ now-five time NFL champ Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com

 

WHY BASEBALL SHOULD STILL BE CONSIDERED THE NATIONAL PASTIME (Sorry, Football)

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The tools of what I consider to be the greatest game in the word. Photo courtesy of littlerockchristian.com

A LOOK AT THE CONTINUED APPEAL THAT BASEBALL HAS, IN LIGHT OF THE MAJOR LEAGUES BEGINNING THEIR SEASON

 

I know, I know…

The bulk of Americans haven’t seen baseball as relevant for quite a while, as football – the high school and college kind as well as the NFL – has been considered this nation’s top spectator sport for several decades, and especially this century.

I’ve heard all the negative comments about baseball:

“It’s too boring!”

“All they do is stand around!”

“Why should I spend so much money on a glove and a bat (true, they don’t come cheap)?”

“You make more money in the NFL and the NBA!”

“Baseball’s just too stuck in the past!”

As someone who has had a fondness of baseball and has considered it my favorite sport for four-fifths of my life, I do see the point of those who find the sport boring; I get bored anytime I watch a game, particularly a little league game, where the pitchers aren’t able to throw strikes, ten runs are scored every inning on both sides, and no one’s hit the ball.

However…

There are reasons why baseball (and softball) still holds the number one place in my heart – and this coming from a guy who loves college football and who’s been a passionate fan of the team of my alma mater, UCLA, for roughly 35 years.

Let me list some of the factors as to why baseball still matters and should continue to be called the National Pastime in my book:

1.  LONGER CAREERS

The average career of an NFL player:  Four Years.

The average career of an NBA player:  About the same as his NFL counterpart.

The average career of a Major League Baseball player:  7-10 years.

Which leads us to the reason why that is so…

2.  HEALTH AND SAFETY

The issues that NFL players have had with concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, have been well documented, as has been the tragedies of former stars such as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters committing suicide due to the condition’s effects.

Simply put, baseball doesn’t have those issues as even the catcher, who experiences the most trauma of any position with foul tips and collisions, doesn’t get his head and body knocked around hundreds of times per game like a football player does.

3.  MONEY

Minimum salary of an MLB player:  $507,000

Minimum salary of an NFL player in 2015 (rookie): $435,000

This coming season it will be $450,000.

Which is still less than a rookie baseball player just up from the minors.

And in addition to that, the average salary of an NFL player – $2.11 million – is roughly half that of his Major League counterpart.

So in a nutshell…

Baseball players make more money.

 

 

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A Japanese player scoring a run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com

 

4. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Sportscaster Bob Costas put it perfectly in Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary “Baseball” when he said,

“What is Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar)’s final point total? And what was Wilt (Chamberlin)’s when Kareem passed it? What is Walter Payton’s final yardage total? And what was Jim Brown’s when Walter passed it? 

Even the most fervent football or basketball fan doesn’t know.

But the casual baseball fan knows that 1941 was the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ .406, and that 1947 was the year of Jackie Robinson…”

I’d even venture that the rabid, die-hard women’s softball fan wouldn’t know who the all-time leaders in hits, home runs,  batting average, and strikeouts are.

But the casual baseball fan knows that Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits, Ty Cobb’s .367 average, and Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs are the all-time records in those categories.

Which leads us to this final factor of why baseball should still be considered #1…

5.  THE CHARM OF THE GAME

There’s a reason why despite it’s supposed irrelevance, the number of fans attending baseball games are at an all-time high at all levels, at the college and the minor league levels as well as in “The Show”.

Largely of the history involved in it, but also because it has a charm – akin to a longtime family heirloom that has been passed down generations, or a heavy quilt that you had for most of your life that you like to wrap yourself up in on a cold night because it’s so comfortable – that football and basketball simply cannot match.

Putting it another way:

When Opening Day comes around for the MLB season, I get a good, holiday-like feeling that I don’t get for the openings of football or basketball as in those sports, they don’t do anything special to mark the occasion that baseball does.

Maybe I’m a little naive, a bit too nostalgic for the past, but…

My sentiments for baseball haven’t changed since I first followed the game in the mid-1970s.

And I don’t see it changing, even after I’m dead and cremated.

 

Dodger Stadium Cover

What former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda called “Blue Heaven On Earth” – Dodger Stadium, a place where I have been over fifty times, attending 50 Dodger games over nearly forty years. Photo courtesy of salesianalumni.com

 

 

 

 

Is The Quest For Full Civil Rights and Brotherhood Failing In America?

 

 

 

 

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Our nation’s President making a commemoration speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL on the 50th anniversary of the March from that point to Montgomery

 

Policemen getting away with murdering young unarmed Black men like Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Fraternities singing graphically bigoted songs; does anyone think that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma is the only Greek Letter organization that partakes in that sort of thing? FAR from it!

A fraternity at the University of Washington jeering and throwing things at a parade of people protesting the goings on at Oklahoma.

The young African-American student at the University of Virginia that was recently beaten up by cops.

A ten-year old white girl writing to her Black friend that her father wouldn’t allow her to attend her birthday party because of the color of her skin.

Various courts undermining details of a 1965 Voting Rights Act that so many people marched, were jailed, and died for.

Continued racial profiling and traffic stops for the crime of “Driving While Black”.

Continued hostilities over the fact that the President of the United States for the past six years has been a man of color.

Personally reading the most brutally racist comments at the end of online articles covering racial issues or incidents.

Considering these and other tensions stemming from race, ethnicity and culture, I believe I’m justified in wondering if the 150-year quest (I’m dating it to the end of the Civil War and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, in 1865) for true equality, love, and brotherhood in America is failing.

If Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of a nation where one is judged by the “…content of their character” is rapidly on its way to being over and lost, if not already such.

All of this reminds me of two things that I once read, the first one being this:

“…black and white players on a whole talk differently, walk differently, listen to different music, drive different cars, and even dress differently…these differences breed mistrust.”

Tim Green, a former player in the National Football League, wrote this in his book The Dark Side of the Game to describe race relations in his league.

He was talking about an entity where one would think that things are all hunky-dory, given that over 60% of the NFL’s players are African-American.

So one can easily imagine what things can be and – from what I’ve seen as of late – are in regular society.

Personally, I would have added this to what Green wrote:

“These differences breed discomfort, which breeds mistrust.”

That, I feel, is a main root of all these tensions and incidents, the fact that as one approaches adulthood, they have a tendency to – socially and otherwise – gravitate to others based on what they have in common, base their friendships on such.

Race and culture is among those bases.

Not that I’m implying – at all – that I approve of this, but that’s the cold, hard truth.

As is the fact that there will be always a segment of Caucasians of European descent who will always see Blacks – and other people of color for that matter – as inferior beings whom should never be near where they are, whether in neighborhoods, schools, or anywhere else.

The book Friday Night Lights, depicting a high school football team in West Texas and the social life and nuances of the town that fanatically supports them, illustrates this concept quite well in that nearly all of the town’s whites, who hold very conservative views regarding virtually everything there is to hold views on, commonly regard to black as “N*****s”

And think nothing of it as according to author H.G. Bissinger:

“In (whites’) minds it didn’t imply anything, didn’t indicate they were racist, didn’t necessarily mean they disliked blacks at all. Instead, as several…explained it, there were actually two races of blacks…the hardworking ones who…didn’t try to cut corners…And then there were the loud ones, the lazy ones, the ones who…every time they were challenged to do something claimed they were the helpless victims of white racism.”

 

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At a Ferguson protest; as for the sign, I couldn’t have said it better…

 

Another telling passage from the book concerning this issue:

“What was wrong with the use of that word (n*****)? Wasn’t that what they were? Let a judge shove school desegregation down their throats. Let the federal government have all the free handout programs it wanted. It wasn’t going to change the way they (whites) felt.”

A restaurant owner in that area describes his opinion of blacks bluntly:

“…I live (in my neighborhood) because I want to live with people like me and I don’t want kids bused in from the black side of town…Mexico’s nothing but a big god***n pigpen.”

And in an editorial from this town’s newspaper during the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement:

“If there are those who insist on integrated schools, let them. Those who prefer all-white schools, or all-black schools, likewise should be allowed to exercise their choice.”

The worst part of all of this is that these views were voiced in the late 1980s, when the book was written.

And more importantly, judging from recent events these views are still alive and well a decade and a half into the 21st century, not only in West Texas,

Not only all over these United States,

But throughout the world; check out the reports of soccer fans in Europe making monkey noises and throwing bananas at black players sometime.

And lets not ever forget the dark days of apartheid in South Africa that ended just over twenty years ago.

It all comes down to one thing, that I honestly feel that Dr. King and his Civil Rights associates may have overlook in their struggle:

REGARDLESS OF HOW MANY MARCHES, SIT-INS, LAWS OR “I HAVE A DREAM” SPEECHES, YOU CANNOT FORCE BROTHERHOOD OR ACCEPTANCE OF A RACE OR CULTURE ON SOMEONE WHO HAS NO INTEREST IN IT.

I reckon some who are reading this may be thinking that I’m blanketing all whites with regard in how African-Americans, Latinos, and other people of color are viewed.

Let me firmly state that nothing can be further from the truth, as I know full well that in the forty years since Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, things have gotten much better in society as integrated neighborhoods, romantic relationships and marriages are at an all-time high.

And thanks to what the Civil Rights Movement accomplished, I have never seen a “Whites Only” sign anywhere, nor have I ever had to sit in the back of a bus or have been denied service at a store or a restaurant or anywhere else.

But racist experiences has not eluded me as I was called the n-word as a little boy, racially profiled in my 20s and 30s, and although the prospective employer said that it was because someone “asked first” denied one job in particular clearly because of the color of my skin.

So at the end of the day, the question remains:

Is the quest for full civil rights and brotherhood along racial and cultural lines failing in America?

Lots of folks would say no to that question, considering all the incidents.

As for me, the only thing that come to my mind is this:

I certainly hope not, because it would mean an extreme sense of heartbreak and an ultimate sense of losing if this century-and-a half quest indeed fails.

 

 

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A symbolic protest against SAE’s actions at the University of Oklahoma; encouraging to see whites involved as well as African-Americans

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts on The End of the Football Season

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One of the Patriots’ touchdowns that helped them take the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from the Pacific Northwest

 

ONE LONGTIME SPORTS FAN’S TAKE ON AMERICA’S FAVORITE SPORT ENDING ITS SEASON 

 

Before anyone goes on about I am just a wimpy hater, I should state that like the vast majority of sports fans in America, I am a football fan.

Particularly the collegiate kind, where I have been a loyal and passionate follower of my alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for over 30 years; that’s no secret to any of my friends and acquaintances.

As for the kind of football that players legally get paid to play…

I’m not nearly a fan of that as I am of college football, for many reasons, among them being more traditions in college and not having to worry about teams moving if the owner is not happy about where they’re playing.

Or players holding out and missing training camp because their salary is $1.15 million dollars instead of $1.2 million.

Despite being a fan of the most popular spectator sport in this country, when Malcolm Butler intercepted what would have been a NFL championship-winning pass from Russell Wilson on the one-yard line, ending the just-played Super Bowl and giving the New England Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time, I felt just like Henry Aaron did when the baseball legend broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974 when the longtime Brave said,

“I’m just glad it’s all over with.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I’m glad that a sport where roughly hundreds of its former players are tangled up in a lawsuit with their former employers over compensation for debilitating, brain-damaging, and sometimes life-ending injuries,

Where big names such as the ex-Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon can’t remember where he is going when he goes on errands and where he lives when he is heading for home, his brain issues are so pronounced,

Where numerous stars have committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest so that doctors can research the damage in their brain that caused the suicidal feelings,

And where headlines have been made over players knocking out their fiancés in hotel elevators, whipping their children with tree branches, (allegedly) deflating footballs during a playoff game, and starting a fight a few seconds before the end of their championship game due to them being upset at being denied a second straight title,

Is closing shop until next fall.

Because to be honest, I was getting a little tired of it.

All the drama that went on in the NFL this year has reinforced this longtime conviction of mine, that:

When it comes to which sport is better, baseball wins the argument.

To answer all the pigskin fanatics that are screaming right about now about how baseball is boring, slow, and just plain sucks, among the simple reasons why baseball is the better overall sport are:

1. It’s safer – how many ex-Major League Baseball players have suffered from permanent brain injuries compared to ex-NFLers?

2. Baseball players have longer careers – seven to ten years as opposed to three and a half to four years for their NFL counterparts.

3. Baseball players make more money, with an average salary of more tha $3 million compared to the NFL’s average of just over $1 million.

4. The players’ union is stronger in MLB than in the NFL as the World Series being cancelled in 1994 was a result of the players sticking together while the NFL players’ strike of 1987 collapse due to those athletes’ crossing the picket line. 

5. Despite the MLB Players Union being as strong as it is, there has been a lasting peace between them and management for more than twenty years, while the NFL owners locked out their players as recently as 2011.

In what I believe settles the argument, guys such as former Bears coach Mike Ditka have said that they would not recommend that kids play football because the risk of bad injuries is just not worth it.

That these statements are coming from someone who likes the gridiron game  – me –  is perhaps what is particularly interesting, I think; imagine what someone who hates the sport would be saying…

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to the week of February 16th – two weeks from this writing.

That’s when pitchers and catchers report to either Florida or Arizona for Spring Training.

 

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Clayton Kershaw, the reigning King of Baseball (at least among pitchers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Ways That Baseball Is Better Than Football

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I completely understand that this will be a most unpopular position I am taking, being that the National Football League is this country’s most popular spectator sports enterprise and all.

Indeed, I can hear the “You must be out of your mind!” and “Baseball’s so boring!” and “You’re such a wimp!” rants now.

Before I’m summarily dismissed as some out-of touch wuss, however, let me say this…

Just because it’s my opinion that baseball is better than football and is still the national pastime does NOT mean that I don’t like the pigskin game, or the battles on the gridiron that are played out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday around this time (as well as Thursday and Monday nowadays).

In fact, I consider the UCLA Bruins football squad my favorite team in all of sports, as I have been attending their games at the Rose Bowl for over 25 years, dating back to my days as a UCLA student.

However, there are quite a few reasons why the game played on the diamond, in the long run, is better than the game played on the gridiron.

Here are ten of those reasons that I think football fans will be forced to acknowledge if not agree with, starting with this…

 

1.  MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYERS HAVE – ON AVERAGE – A LONGER CAREER THAN NFL PLAYERS

The average time an athlete has in MLB is seven to ten years, while his NFL counterpart’s tenure in that league averages out to a mere four seasons due to a MUCH higher chance and certainty of injury – which brings us to…

 

2.  LESS CHANCE OF DEBILITATING INJURIES (concussions, destroyed ACLs and cartilages) IN BASEBALL

This is especially the case when it comes down to head injuries that curtail a player’s quality of life years after retirement; how many MLB players have gone the way of guys like Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, NFL stars who after they killed themselves were found that their brains were permanently affected by all the collisions they endured on the field?

I’ll bet anything that there are far fewer baseball players who fit into that tragic category.

 

3.  AVERAGE LIFE SPAN OF AN NFL PLAYER:  55 YEARS OLD

As opposed to 75 for the average American male, which ties into numbers 1 and 2 in that the debilitating and crippling injuries definitely take their toll later in life.

I really don’t think its the same for baseball, even for pitchers who had Tommy John surgery for blown ligaments in their elbows.

 

4.  CTE – CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY – IS A LOT MORE COMMON IN THE NFL THAN IN MLB

Also known as Dementia, the instances of NFL players suffering and ultimately dying from this disease are well documented.

Among CTE’s symptoms are memory loss, depression, a change in behavior for the worse, and loss of coordination.

Along with Seau and Duerson, at the end of 2012 it was found that 39 former players were found with this disease after their untimely deaths, including ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster and ex-Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling.

Meanwhile, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Ryan Freel was the first MLB player to be diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2012.

Which makes the score thus:

National Football League – 39 (and counting),

Major League Baseball – 1

 

5.  FEWER REPORTED INSTANCES OF WOMAN OR CHILD BEATING IN MLB

To put it another way, when was the last time you heard of a Major League Baseball star beating his wife or his child – besides Ty Cobb, of course.

However, you would have had to have lived under a rock on Mars to not have heard about the issues that Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Jonathan Dwyer are facing.

 

6.  BASEBALL PLAYERS EARN MORE MONEY THAN FOOTBALL PLAYERS

Minimum salary of an NFL player:  $420,000

Minimum salary of an MLB player:  $500,000

Average NFL salary:  $1.9 million

Average MLB salary:  $3.3 million

Pretty self-explanatory, I believe.

Especially when you consider the physical risks that have been covered in this post.

 

7.  LABOR RELATIONS BETWEEN PLAYERS AND OWNERS MUCH MORE PEACEFUL IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Last work stoppage in MLB:  1994 

Via a player’s strike that wiped out the World Series and wasn’t resolved until mid-April 1995 when a judge – Sonia Sotomayor, who would go on to the Supreme Court – ruled that the owners were engaging in unfair labor practices.

Last work stoppage in the NFL:  2011 

Via a owner-induced lockout that lasted 136 days, the longest in league history.

 

 

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers

 

 

8.  FOOTBALL PLAYERS FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO THE PROS DROPPING DEAD AFTER PRACTICES AND GAMES. NOT SO MUCH IN BASEBALL.

The most notable instance of this was the Minnesota Vikings’ Korey Stringer, who died during training camp in 2001.

There have been quite a few others passing away on the gridiron before and since then, due to factors such as undiagnosed defective hearts – which meant that they shouldn’t have been playing.

Meanwhile, I haven’t heard of anyone dying on the diamond, at least not nearly as often.

 

9.  HISTORY IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THE BASEBALL FAN THAN TO THE FOOTBALL FAN

As a perfect analogy of this, let me ask a few questions, all having to do with the top records in the NFL’s record books…

– What is Jerry Rice’s final career touchdown total? And what was Emmitt Smith’s when Rice passed him?

– What is Emmitt Smith’s final career rushing yardage total? And what was Walter Payton’s when Smith passed him?

– What is Brett Favre’ final career passing yardage total? And what was Dan Marino’s when Favre passed him?

– Who broke the NFL’s color barrier, what team did he play for, and when did he do it?

If you asked the die-hard football fan these questions, the fan who spends every hour of his Sundays either watching the NFL at home or at his local sports bar, owns ten jerseys of his favorite team, bets good sums of none on such team, and spends the wary part of the weeks in a deep funk if his team loses, guess what?

Odds are, he wouldn’t know!

And more importantly, he wouldn’t care!

However…

The casual baseball fan, the one who doesn’t keep track of all 162 games that his team plays, goes to maybe one game a year, and is only a fanatic when his team is in the World Series, knows that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.

He knows that Henry Aaron broke that mark in 1974 and ended up with 755 homers.

He knows that Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games, which stands as the record to this day.

He knows that Ted Williams was the last man to hit .400 in a season when he batted .406 in 1941.

He knows that the Boston Red Sox went 86 years between World Series titles.

And he definitely knows that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

That makes it fairly clear that football, despite the NFL’s status as the #1 pro sports league in the U.S. and despite their championship game, the Super Bowl, being the most-watched TV show, still doesn’t have a hold in the fabric of American society the way that baseball does.

 

Last but not least…

 

10.  THERE IS NO CLOCK IN BASEBALL, WHICH MEANS THAT NO MATTER HOW FAR BEHIND A TEAM IS DURING A GAME, A COMEBACK IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE

Unlike in football, where if it’s one or two minutes left in game that is a blowout, coaches on both sides are expected to clear their benches and play their scrubs because there is no chance for a comeback due to lack of time.

Meanwhile, in baseball you have to get 27 outs (or 21 in softball’s case).

You can’t just take a knee and kill the clock.

A perfect example of this was during a pick-up softball game which I was personally involved in a few years ago, when the team I was playing on was winning by 20 runs in the ninth and last inning. I believe there were two outs before something incredibly devastating happened…

The other team got hit after hit after hit and scored run after run after run.

Roughly 20 minutes later we actually found ourselves on the losing end of the contest!

Which illustrates and proves once and for all Yogi Berra’s time-honored cliche of how “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”.

 

As was said, I don’t expect – at all – for probably the majority of football fans out there to agree with me on these convictions of mine.

I suppose I’m just old school that way.

But I do hope that I have – at the very least – triggered some things to think about among you disciples of the gridiron as the season hits its quarter point…

 

 

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