Sports Law Roundup – 4/28/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

After a slow news week off, we’re back with the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Hockey head injuries: The NHL suffered another loss in the pretrial discovery process in the ongoing head-injury lawsuit between the league and a group of former players. Last month, the court ordered the public release of certain internal NHL communications and other documents, some of which contained embarrassing and damaging statements by team and league officials, including Commissioner Gary Bettman. Now, the court has mostly denied the NHL’s motion to force Boston University’s CTE Center to produce research documents and information about test subjects, although it will allow production of documents pertaining to deceased players whose families authorize the release of those records, as well as documentation of the Center’s public statements to the press regarding research on NHL players. The league responded by filing its opposition to the plaintiffs’ request for class-action treatment, arguing that there is not a scientifically established link between head trauma and “neurodegenerative” diseases like CTE. According to the NHL’s filing, “any causal relationship between head injury in contact sports and later-in-life development of CTE remains scientifically unproven.” The league also argued that it would be inappropriate to certify a nationwide class for a medical-monitoring claim, since the applicable laws vary on a state-by-state basis.
  • More hockey head injuries: With the NHL already embroiled in head-injury litigation, two of its teams, the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils, now face another lawsuit filed by a former player, Mike Peluso, addressing the same situation. Peluso, an enforcer for the Blues and Devils (as well as the Blackhawks, Senators, and Flames) in the 1990s, alleges that the teams had actual knowledge of the medical risks of additional head injuries he personally faced, yet continued to encourage him to play and fight on the ice. According to Peluso’s complaint, which also names an insurance provider as a defendant, “This is not simply a case were [sic] defendants are alleged to know the link between head injuries and permanent brain damage. This is a case where defendants knew the link between Mr. Peluso’s head injuries and permanent brain damage because they had their own Board Certified Team Neurologist tell them that Mr. Peluso would have brain damage if they allowed him to continue to receive head injuries” and hid that information from him. The complaint also alleges that Peluso suffers from permanent brain damage and dementia and is permanently disabled. Peluso, now fifty-one years old, claims he engaged in 240 fights in his nine-year NHL career and suffered at least nine grand mal seizures. A member of New Jersey’s 1995 Stanley Cup-winning team, Peluso finished among the top-ten players in the league in penalty minutes in four of his nine seasons, leading the league in the 1991-92 season. Mike Peluso should not be confused with his cousin, Mike Peluso, who had a brief NHL career with the Blackhawks and Flyers in the early 2000s.
  • Football biometric data: The NFLPA and Whoop, a company that sells wearable fitness monitoring devices, have entered into an agreement in which Whoop will provide players with devices that track “strain, recovery, and sleep” and can transmit that data to Whoop’s web-based applications. As part of the agreement, the players will be able to customize the aesthetic design of their device for their own use and for retail sale. Significantly, the agreement grants each player ownership rights of all data his device collects. While headline-writers have feasted on the possibility (apparently authorized under the agreement) that players may sell their data in some manner, the real purpose of this deal likely is to stem growing concerns that it would be the teams or leagues that would own (and potentially misappropriate) players’ biometric data.

Sports court is in recess.

Dusty Baker, John Lee Hooker, and the Fillmore District (via Ephus)

Excerpt from Kiss the Sky: My Weekend in Monterey at the Greatest Concert Ever by Dusty Baker:

When I met John Lee Hooker that took it to another level for me. John Lee was born in Mississippi. His daddy was a sharecropper and a Baptist preacher. He played down-home Delta blues and no one did it better, as you know if you’ve heard his versions of “Crawling King Snake” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” He moved around a lot in his life, but spent a lot of time in California, especially as he got older. He was here so much that later in 1997 he opened John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. But John Lee and I go back farther than that. I played for the Dodgers for eight seasons starting in 1976, and John Lee was a Dodger fan. He had a house in Long Beach and would come to games. I signed a Dodger uniform for him – and I found out later he had that framed and on the wall of one of his houses in the Bay Area.

John Lee would sometimes come see me at Candlestick when I was manager of the Giants. He was a real baseball fan. At home he’d have three TV sets on at a time, each tuned to baseball, and he would pay close attention. He’d been a catcher way back when and always loved to talk baseball with me. He came to a game as my guest in September 1995 and had himself so much fun, talking to the players in the clubhouse, wearing a fedora hat made of felt with diamond and gold pins shaped like musical notes. He watched the game from a broadcast booth up in the press box, then came down afterward and we talked in my office for hours. My dad was there, and my youngest brother, Millard, from my dad’s second marriage, who picked up a love of the blues from my dad, too. Deion Sanders played for the Giants that season and he was there in my office to hang with John Lee, too. Asked who his favorite Giants player was, John Lee said, “Royce Clayton.” And why was that? “Because he’s cool.” Royce was cool. He had that right.

The next August John Lee invited me to a big birthday party he was having. He was turning seventy-nine year old, but you’d never know it from talking to him. He was having himself so much fun all the time, he might as well have been a teenager. That was John Lee. He was still performing regularly, too. I went to that birthday party and met all kinds of people, including Elvin Bishop, whose guitar work I’d first seen at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He’d actually seen John Lee’s “Baker” Dodgers uniform and asked about me and John Lee said he’d introduce us.

Elvin was my kind of guy. He’s lived up in Marin County for years, and was actually born in California, but grew up in Iowa and Oklahoma and earned a National Merit Scholarship to attend the University of Chicago and study physics starting in 1960. He met Paul Butterfield a few years later and started playing guitar in his blues band. Elvin formed his own group before long and had a hit with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (he didn’t sing on that one, though). Elvin has played with everyone you can think of. He played with Muddy Waters. He played with Lightnin’ Hopkins. He and I could have talked music all night, or baseball, but instead we started talking fishing, which we’re both serious about. After that we became fishing buddies.

(via Ephus)

Baker’s Washington Nationals are in a decisive NLDS game five tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Worldwide King of the Blues Jam

Today’s Jam is dedicated to the memory of the Beale Street Blues Boy and recognized King of the Blues, B.B. King, who passed last night at the age of eighty-nine.

I was fortunate enough to hear B.B. in person on three occasions, first at Wolf Trap in Northern Virginia, then at the Stanley Theater in Utica, and finally at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids. Presenting a rousing, engaging performance through his late seventies and early eighties, King was the consummate showman if anyone ever was.

Here he is with the great Buddy Guy, who remembered B.B. in a post early this morning:

The King is dead they say. Long live the King.

On the Road Again: A study of NHL rink variation

One of the important background dimensions to comparative baseball statistics is known as “park adjustments,” a set of corrective factors applied to account for the physical differences (e.g., outfield wall depth) between each park. Among American sports today, only Major League Baseball and NASCAR (and golf, I suppose) permit such structural variation between the competitive arenas themselves.

Professional hockey used to be in that group too. More than merely adjusting, adding, and subtracting lines on the ice to affect the flow of play, as the NHL continues to do (cf. the NBA three-point line), the rinks themselves used to be different sizes. League rules mandate a uniform rink size, but so-called “small rinks” persisted in the NHL as late as the 1980s and 1990s in Boston, Chicago, and Buffalo.

While hockey does not face the structural differences present in baseball, there still is a need to apply rink-by-rink statistical adjustments. That’s because the compiling of basic hockey statistics (e.g., shots, hits, turnovers) requires statisticians to make judgment calls to a more significant degree than in a discrete-event sport like baseball.

By way of limited background, the NHL collects basic gameplay statistics through a computer system known as the Real Time Scoring System (RTSS). A benefit of RTSS is that it aggregates and organizes data for analysis by teams, players, and fans. A vulnerability of RTSS is the subjectivity alluded to above that comes when human scorers track a fluid, dynamic sport like hockey.

While others have noted certain biases among the RTSS scorers at different rinks, a paper by Michael Schuckers and Brian Macdonald published earlier this month analyzes those discrepancies across a spread of core statistics and proposes a “Rink Effects” model that aims to do for subjective rink-to-rink differences in hockey scoring what park adjustments do for structural differences between baseball parks.    Continue reading

Friday Jam Approximately

February’s almost over, John Lee Hooker was almost a Chicagoan, (try Detroit) where the clip of this week’s Jam was set by someone who was not Harold Ramis (try Egon’s sometimes collaborator John Landis), who was directly involved in almost every other comedy movie of the last forty years.


If you need me tonight, I’ll be watching Stripes.

Voodoo? Hoodoo? You d[a] Man Blues Jam

In last week’s review of Chicago Blues: The City & The Music, I lamented the exclusion of Hoodoo Man Blues, one of the great Chicago blues albums. Here’s a review by AllMusic’s Bill Dahl:

Hoodoo Man Blues is one of the truly classic blues albums of the 1960s, and one of the first to fully document, in the superior acoustics of a recording studio, the smoky ambience of a night at a West Side nightspot. Junior Wells just set up with his usual cohorts — guitarist Buddy Guy, bassist Jack Myers, and drummer Billy Warren — and proceeded to blow up a storm, bringing an immediacy to “Snatch It Back and Hold It,” “You Don’t Love Me, Baby,” “Chitlins con Carne,” and the rest of the tracks that is absolutely mesmerizing. Widely regarded as one of Wells’ finest achievements, it also became Delmark’s best-selling release of all time. Producer Bob Koester vividly captures the type of grit that Wells brought to the stage. When Wells and his colleagues dig into “Good Morning, Schoolgirl,” “Yonder Wall,” or “We’re Ready,” they sound raw, gutsy, and uninhibited. And while Guy leaves the singing to Wells, he really shines on guitar. Guy, it should be noted, was listed as “Friendly Chap” on Delmark’s original LP version of Hoodoo Man Blues; Delmark thought Guy was under contract to Chess, so they gave him a pseudonym. But by the early ’70s, Guy’s real name was being listed on pressings. This is essential listening for lovers of electric Chicago blues.

Many of the cuts on this album are traditional blues numbers, but Junior Wells and Buddy Guy put their own spin and rhythmic emphasis on these otherwise familiar songs. Today’s Jam is a good example:

(If the title of this post jogged something in you, here‘s what you need.)

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Related
Book review: Chicago Blues: The City & The Music