More than a PR Problem for the NFL

by lizard

My oldest son, who is 6, has been really excited to watch football with me this year. Last season I declared that I would again righteously abstain from watching any games. Then my Chiefs teased me into their trap of not losing something like the first 10 games and the first game I watched was the first game they lost, to Denver. From that point on, they struggled. But I was back on the sauce! (as a quick side-note, the Chiefs only lose when I start getting invested in the outcome. Any attempt to tell me this is an irrational, kinda narcissistic superstition will fall on deaf ears).

And then there was the Superbowl last year with the Seahawks finally bringing home the trophy. I remember watching the Seahawks in the old Kingdom when I lived in Seattle as a kid. My favorite player back then was Steve Largent. I met him once, signing headshots at a bank. As a kid, I was delighted.

What initially intrigued my oldest was what I will call my “active viewership” of the games I started investing interest in again. I guess all that yelling and jumping and crying into pillows (not really, but close) inspired him to try to understand what the hell was getting his dad to act like a crazy person.

So this year, at the start of the season, we watched the Seahawks on opening night. My kid is really interested in the rivalries, who I like, and why. He asks all kinds of questions about different teams. I try and explain why I think the Cowboys suck (sorry Duganz) and why I want to watch the Broncos (Manning) even though I am obligated to hate the Broncos, as a Chiefs fan. He listens intently.

What my kids, both of them, saw tonight was a portion of the video of Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend in the elevator. I literally fumbled with the remote control knowing what was coming, but I double clicked the on/off button and the screen came back on, showing the unconscious body of Janay Rice sprawled face down outside the elevator.

There is so much wrong going on in the NFL, and it’s been going on for a long time. For this particular PR disaster (because that’s how it’s being treated) I’d start by reading Zirin’s take at The Nation. From there I’d ask why it takes video footage to create this kind of outrage. The video of Janay sprawled out unconscious has been out for awhile now. What about seeing the actual blow changes what was known?

I don’t know where football goes from here, though my hunch would be business as usual after the scrutiny blows over.

I also don’t know where I should go with watching it with my kids.


  1. My wife told me that our boys would not play football like their Dad. To violent she said. So I reluctantly signed them up for soccer knowing full well they’d be begging Mom eventually for (American) football cleats.

    That strategy worked, all I did was shrug my shoulders and say we tried, wink, wink.

    Both boys were offered college football scholarships and one boy played.

    • lizard19

      my kids won’t be playing football. your wife was right. I hope allowing them to potentially damage their brains for the rest of their lives was worth the scholarship.

      • Craig Moore

        If you are concerned about damage to young brains, set a good example for youth to follow.

        A study released this week by researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School has found that 18- to 25-year-olds who smoke marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in the brain.

        “There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug,” says Anne Blood, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the co-senior author of the study, which is being published in the Journal of Neuroscience. “We are seeing that this is not the case.”

        • Steve W

          Ah, the will to believe and the power of propaganda. Craig, you are a propagandist, either willingly or as a dupe.

          Did you read the part where the article said,
          “The researchers acknowledge that their sample size was small and their study preliminary.” ?

          If you are concerned about damage to young brains you might quit grasping at straws and treat cannabis like any other substance so it can be studied and understood. Instead it’s all lies all the time. it’s always “preliminary” and “a small sample size.”

          And by law, government funded studies are only allowed which show why cannabis is bad,

          That’s not science, that’s the manipulation of science to further an agenda.

          • “That’s not science, that’s the manipulation of science to further an agenda.”

            Are we talking global warming?

          • Craig Moore

            Steve, it is obvious that you would rather err on the side of use by young people rather than consider the science. Apparently validation is important to you.

            Washington, DC — The size and shape of two brain regions involved in emotion and motivation may differ in young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week, according to a study published April 16 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes, and highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain.

            Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with an estimated 18.9 million people reporting recent use, according to the most current analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health. Marijuana use is often associated with motivation, attention, learning, and memory impairments. Previous studies exposing animals to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive component of marijuana — show that repeated exposure to the drug causes structural changes in brain regions involved with these functions. However, less is known about how low to moderate marijuana use affects brain structure in people, particularly in teens and young adults.

            In the current study, Jodi Gilman, PhD, Anne Blood, PhD, and Hans Breiter, MD, of Northwestern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare the brains of 18- to 25-year olds who reported smoking marijuana at least once per week with those with little to no history of marijuana use. Although psychiatric evaluations ruled out the possibility that the marijuana users were dependent on the drug, imaging data revealed they had significant brain differences. The nucleus accumbens — a brain region known to be involved in reward processing — was larger and altered in its shape and structure in the marijuana users compared to non-users.

            “This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” said Carl Lupica, PhD, who studies drug addiction at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and was not involved with this study. “These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users.”

            The team of scientists compared the size, shape, and density of the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala — a brain region that plays a central role in emotion — in 20 marijuana users and 20 non-users. Each marijuana user was asked to estimate their drug consumption over a three-month period, including the number of days they smoked and the amount of the drug consumed each day. The scientists found that the more the marijuana users reported consuming, the greater the abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala. The shape and density of both of these regions also differed between marijuana users and non-users.

            “This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” Breiter said.

            This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

            The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. Gilman can be reached at, Blood at, and Breiter at More information on marijuana and addiction can be found on

            • lizard19

              do you have the same concerns regarding alcohol and brain development Craig? did you lament that Rehberg was setting a bad example for our precious youth by being an embarrassing drunk? do you think Alan Hale suffered brain damage by excessive alcohol use as a teenager and that’s why the moron got up at the legislature to lament that DUI laws were destroying a Montana way of life? do you agree with Alan Hale?

              • Steve W

                Craig, it says that cannabis causes part of your brain to increase in size.

                Interesting. So does music education.


                And with music education, the earlier you start, the more anatomical changes your brain goes through. Just like with cannabis, according to the article you posted.

                Do you think we should outlaw music training for kids, based on the facts?

              • Craig Moore

                Rationalize away Liz. Your children’s future rests with your leadership, living examples, and choices. When I was raising my children I would have done anything for them. There was no vice that I wouldn’t have gladly forgone if it meant their health. Times have changed I guess when the discussion and concern is about prophylactic measures rather than parental example.

  2. steve kelly

    Craig citing Harvard. That’s rich. Here’s a possible way to track the future of the NFL (and other cultural change).
    Why polling is so popular with TPTB.

  3. Please keep watching those Chiefs, Lizard.

    I still think the Ray Rice assault shows something rather more insidious than any corruption in the NFL. The people in this country seem to yearn for some kind of corporate control over morality, like kicking Ray Rice out of the league will prove something about social morals and justice. How does a corporation terminating gainful employment for it’s own image serve justice? It doesn’t. It is one more sad testament that doing the right thing is secondary to doing the popular thing, only now we expect, with full throat, corporations to behave in the very same way we give lip service to law enforcement for behaving and then become outraged when ‘examples are made’.

    This is in no way a defense of Ray Rice. If anything, it is an indictment of our cultural expectations. Kudos to Steve Kelly for pointing out (with math even) how those expectations can change, and regarding football, likely are. That’s the significance of the video of the blow, that it drives home people’s own expectations and misgivings. I’ve written before that the NFL is on borrowed time, and the Rice fiasco has done no favors to the league, or people’s desire to support the violence associated with it. The problem I see is with how expectations change, and in this case, I don’t think it’s for the better.

    You seem like a guy who honestly talks to his kids, even about things the parental impulse is to shield them from. You could do a lot worse than encouraging them to watch Peyton Manning, both as a player and a human.

    • lizard19

      our cultural expectations seem to be ignoring how pervasive something like domestic abuse is until it comes in some form that can’t be ignored, then the expectation is to be as punitive as possible.

      I appreciate your comment, Rob. I’m glad you still write about football. I will probably continue watching and, yes, having a lot of conversations with the kids.

  4. lizard19

    Craig, I’m going to respond to you down here.

    I’m not going to give you the rise you seem to be fishing for. I realize writing about the fact I have kids opens me up to your sad attempts to disparage me, but doing so doesn’t do your pro-prohibition stance any good.

    marijuana should be legalized. NFL players—to bring this back to the topic of the actual post—don’t need to be suspended for longer than wife beaters were recently penalized because they have some THC in their system.

    I keep bringing up alcohol as a counter to your cannabis fear-mongering because alcohol is astronomically more destructive than weed.

    alcohol fuels the “transient” problem, contributes to suicides and domestic abuse and sexual assaults, kills innocent bystanders when inebriates choose to drive intoxicated (like a certain MDA figure recently got busted for, though luckily he didn’t kill anyone) and costs all of us untold amounts of money.

    but go on harping on your pot obsession if it makes you feel better.

  5. steve kelly

    Play it again, Sam.
    “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

    ― H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

  6. larry kurtz

    • larry kurtz

      For the first time in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, recreational cannabis outsold medical pot in the month of July, according to numbers from the state’s Department of Revenue. In July 2014, customers purchased more than $29.7 million in recreational marijuana — up from $24.7 million in June. Medical marijuana patients spent more than $28.9 million on marijuana in July — comparable to June’s $28.6 million in sales. Since Jan. 1, Colorado has brought in more than $37.5 million in taxes, licenses and fees for recreational and medical marijuana. [Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist]

      • larry kurtz

        Remember the Montana Meth Project?

        Another study, which used more reliable state data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, concluded that “When accounting for a preexisting downward trend in meth use, effects [of the Montana Meth Project] on meth use are statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

    • One of the tricks of totalitarian government is to take something that most people are doing and make it illegal. It allows for selective law enforcement.

      For instance, marijuana laws have been use primarily to bear down on minorities, especially blacks. You, as a white guy, Larry, can indulge freely as you’re not the reason for the laws. If you we’re black, man, you’d be watching your back.

      • larry kurtz

        thank you doctor indubitable.

      • You should try thinking now and then. Painful at first but you get used to it.

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