A Force for Unity

Play by Play

Not Without Consequences

A body taking repeated hits certainly can’t come out the other side completely unscathed. In recent years more time has been spent researching (Will Smith even starred in a movie about) the long term impact of repeated hits to the head- known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. As the brain degenerates, those suffering can exhibit problems with impulse control, depression, aggression and paranoia. Unfortunately the end result can be as newsworthy as the athletes’ performances on the field, believed to have led to or caused numerous player suicides and acts of violence (read about Junior Seau of the Chargers and Jovan Belcher, of the Kansas City Chiefs for truly heartbreaking stories).

And just this week, it was reported that Aaron Hernandez’s brain showed severe signs of CTE, and at only 27 years old. Back in 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of the June 17, 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. The charges and trial came just after the Patriots Tight End had signed a multi-million dollar contract with New England.  Then almost two years to the date of his conviction, Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell. The CTE damage in his brain reflected that which might be seen in someone in his 60s. Can 100% of the blame for these occurrences rest with the NFL? Would the crimes have been committed had the men never played football? It’s hard to say but does bring about an interesting debate and poses questions about the future of the sport.

Unity Trumps Division

In case he hadn’t burned enough bridges, Trump’s tweets and impulsive statements have now made their way into the sports world. After any national championship victory, baseball, football, etc, it is customary for the winning team to pay a visit to the White House. Golden State (NBA Champions) recently started discussing this trip East, with a few, most notably, Steph Curry stating they had no interest in attending. In true Trump style, the president responded with a tweet uninviting the MVP,  attempting to  “break up with [the Warriors]  before we could break up with him.” Because it’s a package deal, No Steph means No Warriors – the entire team has opted out of the visit, choosing instead to spend time in DC working toward social justice. Many around the league, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Draymond Green all tweeted their support of Curry and dismay at the President. 

And if pissing off the entire NBA wasn’t enough, Trump steamrolled his way through the NFL as well, a league that has typically remained more separated from politics than others. During an Alabama rally on Friday, the president stated that owners should kick any kneeling “son of b**** of the field right now,” encouraging owners to immediately fire players who protest during the national anthem. Rather than fostering the divisiveness it’s certain Trump sought, his words did the opposite, bringing players, owners and fans together in support of everyone’s right to peacefully protest. The Ravens and Jaguars, the first teams to play following Trump’s comments, stood arm in arm, some kneeling and others standing, presenting a united front. Multiple teams throughout Sunday made similar statements, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks refusing to take the field for the anthem. Even those who supported Trump’s campaign, like Rex Ryan and Bob Kraft, voiced their support of and for their players. Times like these sure do bring out the best in people, and in sports.

If you are wanting to know more, I suggest listening to The Daily’s Monday, September 25th podcast.

Close Calls

Despite a few blow out games (The Jaguars trounced the Ravens 44-7 in London) many more were much, much closer and much more interesting. The New England Patriots, in typical fashion, having trailed for most of the game, overtook the Texans in the last thirty seconds with a touchdown pass. The Detroit Lions thought they came away with a victory when the referees signaled a touchdown with 8 seconds left on the clock. Yet upon review, the referee ruled that the receiver was down before crossing the end zone and by rule, the remaining 8 seconds had to be run off the clock, meaning the Falcons walked away victorious. If you were watching, any nicely manicured nails were certain to have been bitten extensively.

The Faces and Facts

Carmelo Anthony (Basketball): An NBA all-star who was just traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Joining Paul George (traded earlier in the year from the Indiana Pacers) and Russell Westbrook (last year’s MVP) we’re seeing the birth of the newest Big Three combination (think James-Wade-Bosh of the Heat, Curry-Thompson/Green-Durant of the Warriors, and most notably Jordan-Pippen-Rodman of the Bulls). Can they compete?

The Rundown

While I’d promised a rundown of the defensive players on the field, due to the Hernandez story, I thought I’d walk through some of the rule changes the NFL has made in order to address and limit the “violent hits” that could lead to CTE (changes that at the very same rally Donald Trump said were ruining the game of football):

Shorter Overtime: The league shortening the OT period from 15 to 10 minutes, believing that reducing the length of the game reduces a player’s time to get hit.  

Touch Back: When a team kicks off and it is caught by the receiving team in the end zone, that player can choose to either run the ball out and see how far he gets or take a knee. Previously, if choosing option 2, the ball was placed on the 20 yard line. But now, the rule has changed to place the ball on the 25, hopefully giving players the incentive to kneel rather than run the ball out and risk a big hit.

Helmet to Helmet Hits: As the name entails, players cannot hit an opponent using the crown of their heads OR hit any player’s head.

There are many more detailed rule changes that have to do with blocking, that fans probably wouldn’t even notice. Check them out if you’re interested!

The UpComing

MLB Regular Season: This is the last week of baseball’s regular season. This means that those teams vying for the Wild Card spot have only a few opportunities left to seal the deal. As of now, there’s one spot left in the American League, with the Twins looking most primed to nab it (there are four teams that are only six games behind but it would take a miracle to move ahead). With one spot still open in the National League, the Colorado Rockies face a tougher battle to hold on to it, with Milwaukee and St. Louis only 2 and 3 games behind. Could make for an interesting week!

Chicago Bears v. Green Bay Packers: A division rivalry set to take place Thursday, September 28th at 8:25pm EST. Consistent Thursday night games are relatively new to the NFL. Starting in 2006, each season had a few weekday games and despite some dislike for it, due to player exhaustion, the number of games has only continued to increase, with 13 scheduled for this season (along with a 9:30 am Sunday game and a few on Saturdays). It’s a perfect way to catch a game without sacrificing your weekends!

The Social Hour

In an attempt to start posting more frequently (twice a week) and thus make each post shorter, certain sections will appear only once a week. The Rundown will become “The Midweek Rundown” and appear in Tuesday posts whereas the Social Hour will be “The Weekend Social Hour” and appear in Saturday posts. So, stay tuned for this week’s social suggestions.

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