Bringing Concussions Out of the Darkness (via NYT)

merlin_144102582_8adbab97-d108-4fab-ae7d-a385a8fff340-superjumboDuring my two decades behind the wheel as a full-time Nascar driver, I suffered more than a dozen concussions. For a long time, I managed to keep most of them a secret, but then my symptoms got too severe to keep up the charade and I was forced to get help. My battle with head injuries has given me a wealth of firsthand knowledge of the causes, symptoms, types of and treatments for concussions.

Racers get every injury you can think of, from broken legs to cracked collarbones. But it was concussions, not fractures, that forced me to retire as a full-time Nascar driver in 2017. Twice I was pushed out of the driver’s seat because of concussion-related symptoms, missing two major races in 2012 and an entire half-season in 2016.

When concussions do occur, it’s important to remember that brain injuries can be treated and healed like any other athletic injury — but only if the proper steps are taken, the right doctors are reached and the prescribed treatment is followed through to the end.

That treatment is not easy. I’d never been a gym guy, but I learned how to become one. My rehabilitation in 2016 was the hardest I have ever worked. I wasn’t told to sit in a dark room, the stereotypical treatment for concussion. That’s not how it works anymore. Instead, I was pushed mentally and physically through fine motor skill tuning, exhausting computer-based eye tests, and a lot of old-fashioned cardio. After months of work I could feel my brain, eyes, ears and body communicating properly again.

I also felt my life returning. The constant, dull feeling of fear lifted. I was smiling again. … Read More

(via NYT)

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Detroit Lions 2016 Wild Card preview

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Head coach Jim Caldwell has the Detroit Lions back in the playoffs for the second time in his three-year tenure. After ending the season with three consecutive losses, the Lions (9-7) will play the Seahawks tonight in Seattle in the first NFC wild card game, which kicks off at 8:15 Eastern on NBC.

Detroit’s playoff history in the Super Bowl era isn’t pretty. In the fifty seasons since the 1966 merger, the Lions have appeared in the postseason in just twelve of those seasons, winning just one game.

That one win, a 38-6 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys on January 5, 1992, also was the last NFL playoff game hosted in Detroit, and one of only two ever in the Super Bowl era (not counting games, like Super Bowl XL, in which the Lions, obviously, did not participate).

The national press picked up on an interesting narrative following that win, which featured Barry Sanders, of course, and also Erik Kramer, whom they highlighted as “a strikebreaker,” or, in the words of Cowboys defenders Jack Del Rio (now the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, who have an AFC wildcard meeting with the Houston Texans this afternoon) and Tony Casillas, “a scab.” Kramer had played for Atlanta as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike, something that upset apparent union tough guys Del Rio and Casillas and, the New York Times postulated, Kramer’s ostensible supporters in the center of the UAW universe (“this grizzled, battered town, this blue-collar, lunch-bucket town”). The on-field performances by Kramer, who had claimed the starting job after starting the season as the team’s third quarterback, and Sanders that day erased any internal concerns that might have troubled the Honolulu blue and silver faithful, however. They also silenced Del Rio:

Del Rio kept up the verbal barrage during the game, or part of it, anyway.

“I didn’t hear him make any more remarks after the first quarter, said Kramer.”

Detroit only led 7-3 at the end of that first quarter, but Dallas already had amassed half of the points it would score all day. Kramer threw three touchdown passes, Sanders finished the day with a forty-seven-yard TD run, and the Lions defense even got in on the scoring action, when Mel Jenkins intercepted starting Dallas QB Steve Beuerlein and ran it back for six. By at least this one measure– Super-Bowl era playoff wins– then, Kramer might be considered the Lions best-ever playcaller.

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This time around, the Lions quarterback again is the lead story. Matthew Stafford has struggled somewhat since injuring the middle finger on his throwing hand (pictured above, both pre- and post-injury). He claims he doesn’t rely much on that finger for gripping the ball, but the injury can’t help. Nor do recent injuries to other key contributors like DeAndre Levy, Marvin Jones, Ezekiel Ansah, Travis Swanson, and Riley Reiff, all of whom are likely to be game-time decisions. It also is not clear whether the team has a running back, although the emergence of Zach Zenner has caught the eye of at least one Seahawk defensive lineman.

While Detroit’s nine wins came on the back of a weak schedule, the Seahawks (10-5-1) also had some bad losses this year, dropping games to the Rams and Saints and going 0-1-1 against the disappointing Cardinals. They are coming off a win in Week 17, but they barely scraped by two-win San Francisco. This has not quite been the dominant Seahawks squad of recent seasons. Still, they best the Lions in all of the usual statistical categories and are 7-1 at home, where the game will be played tonight. (The Lions were 3-5 on the road this season.)

Any pieces of good news at this point are going to be small, but a notable one is the absence of Earl Thomas, one of Seattle’s best defenders, who will not play due to a leg injury. Seattle’s aggressive defensive tendencies also may help twist this piece of seemingly bad news into good news:

Lions fans are upset because Brad Allen, who calls a lot of penalties and officiated two Detroit losses and no wins, will be refereeing this game. Caldwell isn’t worried about the NFL assigning Allen to this game, though, and neither am I, because I think, in general, playoff games are officiated differently; Allen will have a completely different crew under his supervision; and, despite Seattle’s 2-1 record in Allen games, Seattle’s defensive strategy shouldn’t mesh well with a referee who throws a lot of flags. Their “efficient-breach” approach allows them to be aggressive, because they know that, even if their defenders commit pass interference or defensive holding on most every play, the officials won’t flag it every time. It therefore might not be a bad thing if Allen and his crew called more penalties in this game, so long as they do so fairly.

Another matchup to watch will be the Detroit defensive line against the Seattle offensive line, the latter being the only real Seahawk weakness. In a disappointing year from Ansah, the Lions haven’t made waves in the pass-rush department, but a breakout day from the fourth-year defensive end could be a difference-maker today.

It’s going to be a long and loud afternoon in Seattle, where a wintry mix has been in and out of the forecast. It will be tough sledding for these battered Lions. Here’s hoping they find a new gear and, once again, give their fans a reason to celebrate in January.

College football coaches are not overpaid.

So say two professors, Randall Thomas, under whom a number of us studied, and Lawrence Van Horn, and anyone who’s set foot in the state of Alabama in the last few years:

The New York Times has more coverage of their study here.

For another look at this subject, and the broader subject of money and largess in college football, I strongly recommend The System.

Rangers on Road in the Bronx? (via NYT)

An unusual aspect of the N.H.L.’s two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium is that the Rangers have been designated the road team for both games, even though their opponents, the Devils and the Islanders, come from outside New York City.

The reason seems to lie in the special exemption that has freed Madison Square Garden from paying property taxes since 1982.

A provision of that 1982 agreement stipulates that if the Rangers or the Knicks play a home game outside the Garden, the exemption is forfeited. … Read More

(via NYT)

HT: Niels

A Life on a Loop (via NYT)

At 2:44 p.m. on a recent Sunday, Tim Burke took a moment from monitoring numerous N.F.L. games for the sports Web site Deadspin to post something that had nothing to do with football: a smidgen of a clip from an English rugby match he also happened to be following.

He stitched together still-frame images captured from the broadcast into a short, continuous loop that showed a player built like a cement mixer strong-arming an opponent to the ground by the unfortunate man’s throat. The GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, showed a vivid moment, the kind that has become standard currency for online sports journalism. That Burke had time to produce it at all reflects the vacuum-cleaner-like way he approaches his job.

The sports editor at the Web site Buzzfeed, Ben Mathis-Lilley, could only observe in awe.

“It’s hard enough to watch one or two games at once and to actually get the stuff people think is great,” he said. “It’s hard enough to monitor all the American sports. But Tim is so good at coming up with stuff from all around the world, and from sports like minor league hockey, that no one else is watching.”

Burke, 35, is known among sports journalists for his ability to capture the moment — whether as a still, a video clip or in his favored format, a GIF — better, faster, more frequently and from more sports events than just about anyone. How he does it is a matter of wonder. … Read More

(via NYT)

Tainted Love: The New York Times doesn’t get Vanderbilt

nyt george jonesThe New York Times has been flirting with Nashville for years, joining the charge of northern and coastal publications eager to tag Music City as America’s newly discovered “It City” with multiple travel-section features and other glowing profiles. They even utilized Vanderbilt basketball player Joe Duffy as a sports columnist during Duffy’s senior year.

All of this praise and proclamation certainly drew Nashville’s attention. A sudden object of affection rightly wants to know that its new, putative suitor’s interest is real, though, and a period of trouble or difficulty can provide a means of testing the authenticity of that interest. If the suitor’s interest is genuine, it will respond in a way that demonstrates true understanding or, at the very least, in a way that seeks to gain that understanding, so as best to further the relationship. If it responds by turning to cliches and shallow “conventional wisdom,” though, it suggests the interest was only ever skin-deep.

I’m not suggesting that the New York Times owes Nashville, or Vanderbilt University, any special degree of care or deference. That’s especially so where, as here, the issue is a rape allegation, and one that describes a single victim with multiple alleged perpetrators at that. (To say that rape is a topic beyond the scope of this website a) is true; b) is not to signal that it is a topic that people should not discuss; and c) is not to say that the integrity of a sports team as such is the more important issue here.)

I am suggesting that the New York Times owes Nashville and Vanderbilt University a duty of ordinary journalistic practices, which include researching stated assumptions instead of treating general stereotypes as established fact applicable to the matter at hand. I also am suggesting that the New York Times did not meet that standard in an article about Vanderbilt University’s football program it published today. (HT: Johnny Too Bad.)

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Upton Abbey: Episode 5 – Guess Who’s Not Coming To Dinner

upton abbey bannerDinner is a popular event at the Abbey, and after last episode’s three-course meal, it seems it’s supper time again.

This episode presents a baseball-themed inversion of a classic dinner trope, as there was no dinner guest to be found when the paternalistic Braves arrived in Queens this week to dine with the Mets:

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ESS-EEE-SEE: UnderDawgs

With the spread starting at 10 points and quickly moving to 13.5, Georgia goes into the SEC Championship against LSU game clear underdogs (by comparison, the spreads for the last two SEC Championship games Georgia played against LSU in 2003 and 2005, which they split, were 2 and 3 points.)

While I don’t dispute LSU’s place atop the the college football pile, even discounting my hopes as a homer, I think Georgia has a better shot than most give it credit for.  That said, don’t take my word for it:

General WWL blog coverage.

This and this So much for the “every game counts” argument.

Mark Richt is respectful, but not intimidated, of LSU.

Georgia’s defense is even more confident.

Former Bulldog Zach Mettenberger, heir apparent to the LSU QB throne, may or may not contribute this year.

Two posts from the venerable Senator Blutarsky on Georgia’s ability to keep up on defense and on offense.

A breakdown of a few important stats.

A report from behind enemy lines.

And of course, the NYTimes analysis of the bulldogs.  Not the Bulldogs, well, except Uga.