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


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




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.




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


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.


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?!



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


UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: My Predictions for the Crosstown Rivalry Game





OK, with 48 hours before kickoff at the Rose Bowl as of this writing, I won’t waste any time; here’s how I see the 84th meeting between UCLA’s Bruins and USC’s Trojans (the last time I mention that name in this post as per personal policy, they shall be referred to as “That Private School”) unfolding:


As I had stated in my preview of what is widely known as one of the nation’s elite rivalries, this year’s version of UCLA vs. that private school will feature teams that – at least as far as both player and team statistics – are VERY evenly matched.

In fact, it’s hard for me to remember a Bruin vs. the private school game that is matched up more evenly than this; not in a long time.

That evenness will show on the field this Saturday, particularly with regards to the offenses as while I don’t think it will be a total shootout a la “I went to a football game and a basketball game broke out”,  with one team scoring over 50 points and losing, both UCLA and that private school will get their yards and points.

Cody Kessler, the private school’s quarterback, has had a great season in that he has thrown for five or more touchdowns in a game more than once. I think he’ll have another good day, but won’t go off on the Bruins like he did against Colorado and Washington State.

In last season’s UCLA sacked him six times, which neutralized the passing game as it did in their wins over that private school in 2006 and 2012. I think the Bruins’ front seven – and their entire defense for that matter – has been playing better of late to the point where they will put enough pressure on Kessler to disrupt his throwing, which means that Nelson Agholor and the other private school receivers won’t have the gaudy numbers that they are used to.

I don’t see six sacks, but they will pressure Kessler and bring him down a few times.

They will have to in order to win the game and keep the Victory Bell, which is awarded to the winner, in Westwood and painted blue.

As for UCLA’s offense, like their defensive counterparts they have likewise been playing well of late, mostly because as opposed to earlier in the season when that unit struggled, Brett Hundley has done what has rendered him most effective; run the ball from the quarterback’s spot.

The offensive line, which I covered in savage criticism after giving up ten sacks in their loss to Utah, has improved as they have done a better job in protecting Hundley, which is another key to this game.

As I’ve mentioned, however, the private school player that the Bruins need to watch more than anyone else is a sophomore defensive back named Su’a Cravens.

Cravens’ 14 tackles for loss and five sacks on the year tells me quite plainly that he blitzes a lot; if he does that and gets to Hundley, it could result in some hero-making moments for the guy.

As such, I think UCLA will be aware of that and make sure he’s contained, which will better allow Hundley to run his plays and get the ball to receivers like Jordan Payton.

The running backs? Both of those featured guys, the Bruins’ Paul Perkins and Javorious “Buck” Allen from that private school, will get their yards and will likely go over 100 for the day; they’ve been too good all season not to.

If the game comes down to field goals – which games like this often does – it’s pretty even there too, though Bruin Nation has been holding their collective breath whenever Kai’mi Fairbairn takes the field.

His numbers (14 out of 18 field goal tries) are perfectly respectable, but he still retains an aura of inconsistency that his private school counterpart, Andre Heidari, doesn’t have.

Having said that, I think since Fairbairn, like the rest of his Bruin teammates, has performed better in recent games, I’m calling the kickers even.



A scene from the last UCLA game against That Private School in the Rose Bowl


All right, enough elaboration. Here’s the bottom line…

UCLA and That Private School will engage in a close, hard-fought battle that has a fairly good chance of coming down to the last play or a field goal try.

But because of two factors:

1.  The Bruins having the home field and crowd (yes, I know that the visiting team has won more than their share of games across the country  this year; as evidence of that, UCLA was 6-0 away from the Rose Bowl this season, but still),


2.  Brett Hundley, unlike Kessler, being able to run from under center and get much needed yards and scores in that fashion,

Here is my official prediction of the final score:





If the Bruins execute like I know they can, I’m quite confident that this prediction will come true and I’ll be one ecstatic Bruin at around 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.

For the time being , I hope all my fellow members of Bruin Nation enjoy this clip of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band:

















UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: My Personal Crosstown Rivalry Story


My former marching band, as they look today


November 14, 1988 (I think).

It was my first year not only as a UCLA student after transferring from a junior college, but my first year in the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, where I played the tenor saxophone.

As I was a longtime Bruin fan who was realizing my longtime dream of becoming a Bruin, I was excited about experiencing in person, for the first time, the rivalry that my institution of higher learning has with a certain private school located 12 miles to the east in Los Angeles’ inner city, having watched the two football teams do battle on TV since I was less then ten years old.

Not to mention seeing in person what I had been bragging about during my high school days as UCLA beat that private school in my 10th, 11th and 12th grade years.

A quick note before I continue:  I refer to the University of Southern California – USC – as a “private school” because it is. Those three letters put together will not be written again in this post from this point, nor will their nickname, the “Trojans”.

All right, now that that disclaimer has been taken care of…

I was riding with some fellow UCLA band members to the private school to partake in a flag football game called the “Band Bowl”, which the marching bands of the two schools have played in since the 1950s during the week of the “real” game.

It was usually held on the Sunday before, but due a prior commitment from the private school’s band, the game had to be held on a Wednesday night.

As I was and still am a big guy, I was going to the game as a member of the Bruin band football team but because I had fallen on a broken beer bottle and subsequently suffered a cut on the bottom of my toe that required stitches and a small cast, I was on the “Injured Reserve” list, so to speak, and was attending the game solely for moral support.

I was told by friends in the UCLA band about the evil nastiness that the private school band exuded with regards to us, but it was that evening where I would experience it face to face.

We arrived at the private school campus’ track field, getting off our yellow school bus (“Let’s go back to the 6th grade, shall we?” our captain quipped), and prepared to play the game, which much like our real football team with the full scholarships was important on a pronounced scale to everyone involved, on both sides.

The game begins, and we played very well; I believe we led the whole way and ended up winning 21-7.

It was during halftime that I saw, for the first time, the way that private school band acted like a combination of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Satan-led devils…

After the private school band played – well, I don’t recall what they played but I do remember that it sounded rather bad – they turned around to face our side and screamed at the top of their lungs, with their middle fingers proudly pointed in the cool L.A. night…

“F*** the Bruins!!!”

While getting into our band’s faces – those who showed up to support us – with what I’m sure was their drunken breath, yelling various versions of “F*** You!”  for roughy 15 minutes until it was time for the second half.

Although I was on the other side of the sideline from that evilness, I’m sure that saliva from that private school band’s mouths found the faces of at least some of our band members.

There was one particular member of that private school band whose image I haven’t forgotten after more than 25 years – he had a long, scraggly beard that would be made popular by pro athletes today, who was obviously smashed on various liquors as his face was as red (or “Cardinal”, as they call it) as his school’s primary color.

I was surprised that he didn’t vomit on the poor Bruin band girl whose face he so obnoxiously got into; I believe she was a piccolo player who had brought a large Bruin teddy bear to the game.

Other hate crime-level deeds such as water balloons being thrown from a building that stood behind us which was intended to humiliate, which our band director chased away, marred the whole evening, which would have been a much more bitter memory if we hadn’t won the game.

As such, this was an annual tradition with that private school band, I would later find out.

But it wouldn’t be until 12 years later, having long since received my degree, when this private school bigotry would reach the last straw when – to make a long story short – UCLA’s instrument and equipment truck was broken into during a Band Bowl game on that private school campus, $30,000 worth of instruments, uniforms and other stuff were stolen and a tenor sax case, when recovered, had a “Stop Hate” sticker ripped off and replaced by, crudely written in black marker, the word “Jew”.

Sounds like Germany in 1938, don’t you think?

That solidified my dislike for that private school in South L.A. to nuclear-like proportions; not that is was much less to start with.

And because of that hate crime, which is precisely what it was, the Band Bowl has not been held since as the private school band’s leaders feared retaliation.

There are quite a few other incidents that occurred with that private school over the years since that day in 1988, some that directly involved me and some that did not, like that instrument truck incident.

However, If I discussed every one of those episodes, the size of this article would approach that of “War and Peace”.

So I’ll end this post with those two prevalent memories of the longtime animosity between the two major college marching bands that call America’s largest city west of the Mississippi River home.

As well as announce that my official preview of the big showdown between UCLA and that private school and a separate piece that will feature a prediction of the game, which will include a score, will appear on this blog later this week.

For the record, my preview of this 84th renewal of the Crosstown Rivalry will be on this site Wednesday, while I’ll give my prediction – including a score – in a post on Thursday.

I certainly hope you are all looking forward to reading what I think the keys to this game will be and how I see it unfolding…


What UCLA does to protect their Bruin Bear statue; because vandals from that private school have ripped this cover to deface the statue, thus committing a felony, it is now covered in a big plywood box.