Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I'm starting to think that the NFL is in serious trouble.

Not today, mind you. A decade from now? Yes, absolutely.

I saw a story last Sunday that Jim Hudson, who played for the Super Bowl winning New York Jets team in 1969, had severe degenerative brain disease before his death. Here's an excerpt from the story (the stupid American Statesman has it behind a pay wall, although it was free last Sunday):
A year ago, Jim Hudson, a safety who helped the New York Jets to their Super Bowl III championship, sat up in his bed at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. He was suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s, a disease that his doctors believed was tied to his six-year career as a pro football player.

Hudson's wife allowed his brain to be examined for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The results came back recently, and to no one's surprise, his brain was severely damaged from CTE.

Here's the NFL's problem: there are literally thousands of players in this condition. These stories just aren't going to go away--they're going to get worse.

Plus, there's another lawsuit now, this one relating to team doctors: Lawsuit: NFL pushed drugs on players.

Boy, there's a surprise.

At some point, people are going to realize that the NFL actively promoted and supported an incredibly unsafe working environment. Do the players bear some responsibility? Of course. But when doctors are giving Toradol shots to players on a weekly basis, it's clear that the doctor is not interested in their health.

It's going to be easy to explain what happens next. The NFL cannot, in any form or fashion, allow any of these lawsuits to proceed to the discovery phase. If you're not an American DQ reader, here's a description from Wikipedia:
Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions. Discovery can be obtained from non-parties using subpoenas. When discovery requests are objected to, the requesting party may seek the assistance of the court by filing a motion to compel discovery.

It's not like there's one smoking gun here; if anything, there are dozens. So once a lawsuit reaches the discovery phase, the NFL is going to own the biggest scandal in the history of professional sports. It's going to make the steroids scandal in baseball (or track and field, or cycling, etc.) look quaint in comparison.

That's why the NFL is in trouble. They can't go to trial in any of these lawsuits, because if they do, either the lid blows off a huge scandal or lots of people commit lots of felonies to hide what happened.

On another front, there's plenty of evidence now that engaging in collision-based sports are very, very bad for your brain. How is that going to affect participation in high school football? How many great athletes are going to decide they'd like to make a living playing sports AND be able to find their car keys--or their house--fifteen years after they retire?

This is a heel wound. To Achilles.

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