Sep 242017
 

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem.” – Dr. Ann McKee

Perhaps nothing in my life has given me more silly pleasure than American football. I like the pro game. I adore the college game. I have never known a fall without it. Labor Day weekend is one of my favorite leisure times because football starts for real. I never miss any of the postseason games. And I love that Alabama so effectively sticks it to the rest of the country. Please, hate us. Your tears are delicious.

Yet, barring significant changes to the game, I’m giving it up. I have already dropped the NFL, and this is my last year to follow college. I’ll have my memories on a shelf, like mental memorabilia, and that will be it.

It’s not anything about flags, or protests, or people acting ugly. I’m just barely aware of all of that noise. No, it’s about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—the debilitating, fatal disease to which we are sentencing a substantial number of football players by design.

CTE is degenerative. Repeated blows to the head are believed to be the primary cause of it. It causes confusion, memory loss, depression, dementia, and other severe mental symptoms. Symptoms can first occur many years after the repeated blows stop. Dr. Ann McKee just published a study in which she examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. Of the 111 NFL players’ brains, she examined, 110 of them had CTE.

“Oh, Bo. Come on. Sports can be dangerous. Aren’t you into auto racing?”

The big difference between the scourge of CTE and the risk of injury in other professional sports is that for some significant number of football players, this is a certainty. The players are too big. The equipment is too effective. The forces are too great. Football kills a large percentage of its participants by design. If played absolutely correctly, the game results in substantial fatalities.

That is not sport. That is gladiatorial.

However marginally (he said, laughing nervously), are we still a civilized society, or not?

The whole point has been entertainment, yes? It’s big, stupid fun. Well, how can it be fun now? Can I pour myself wholeheartedly into the NFL playoffs, knowing this guy on the screen will never know his grandchildren, or that guy won’t speak for the last four years of his shortened life? Can I scream “Roll Tide!” knowing that some substantial percentage of the kids I’m watching aspire to the NFL? No, I can’t. I won’t be party to it.

So what would gridiron football have to become for me to follow again? Well, I don’t know. I’ve imagined a game much like today’s, perhaps augmented with electronics that measure touch duration, with a continuous touch of a certain duration being a tackle? Certainly there would be a much larger emphasis on speed rather than size.

Whether the NFL would ever work on the problem at that level is another question entirely. The NFL response to the report is tepid in some ways, and perhaps somewhat constructive in others. But there’s still a bit too much tobacco company in their supposed wonder into the frequency of CTE in football players vs. the general population. Golly gee, we just don’t know.

What we do know is that football is a gigantic money machine, and if that is genuinely threatened, the NFL will move to protect it. Whether it will do so ethically and morally bears close scrutiny. There’s a bumpy start to the 2017 season, but all of the sociopolitical churn makes it hard to tell whether that represents a genuine decline. We ought to be smarter about that in a month or two.

Or, what if parents just stop letting their kids play? Then the sport doesn’t backfill with new talent, or does so insufficiently to preserve the quality of the game. I wonder whether that would ever be a strong enough force to effect change, but it might. There are significant changes already in how our very youngest children play the game. George Will speculates that “football participation will skew to the uninformed and economically desperate.”

I would love for this to get fixed. I’ll be watching the issue closely for progress. Ideally, we’ll have a dramatic medical breakthrough that enables us to protect the players without changing the game too much. Barring that, yes, we’d need to switch things up pretty dramatically. We’d have to learn to get excited about watching a significantly altered game.

Until that day, I must say goodbye.

 Posted by at 4:37 pm
Sep 212017
 
  • I apologize for my reduced frequency lately. I’ve been writing less anyway, and I didn’t manage even my new “standard” this week. It’s been an unusually busy time.
  • Gene Simmons says he’s charging $2,000 for his box set The Vault, and will personally deliver it to anyone who purchases it. I doubt he’ll find it practical to follow through on that. Expect additional constraints. (No, I am not a prospect for the set.)
  • Last man standing at my house. Nate got sick about a week ago. Lea was next. Now Aaron has it. It’s cold symptoms with a fever; lasts about three days. I hope I don’t get it at all, but I can now without a severe hit to my schedule, so I’m thankful for that.
  • Taco Bell is going to serve alcohol at up to 300 locations. Presumably the model is you drink until Taco Bell food sounds like a good idea, and then you’re already there.
  • The Duluth Trading Buck Naked boxer brief acquisition is nearly complete. I’ll have a full, yearlong review underway by next week.
  • I had pho tai at Viet Cuisine for lunch, and it was good, but a little off. It’s my favorite in town, but there might be an issue with consistency. Further research warranted.
  • I had a nice stainless wristwatch bracelet repaired at this shop this week. It was good, prompt work at a fair price—and the repair is better than original.
 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Sep 182017
 
  • Remember when Tennessee-Florida was THE game in the first half of the season? Did they edit an ending from 20 years ago onto Saturday’s snorefest?
  • If Gus Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn were a game of Combat on the old Atari 2600, the score just started flashing.
  • Did you remember that Missouri won the SEC East two years in a row? Seems like a really, really long time ago now, doesn’t it? (It was 2013 and 2014.)
  • Well, we’re not even to October and Ed Orgeron has already used his mulligan. It’s not necessarily embarrassing to lose to Mississippi State, but to be so listless and lose by 4+ TDs? Shameful. Had a look at the rest of LSU’s schedule? He better right this ship quickly, or .500 may be too much to hope for. Does a 5-7 or 4-8 Coach O get a second year?
  • We still don’t really know how impressive Georgia’s win in South Bend was. Now State’s upcoming visit to the hedges looks like the most intriguing game of the weekend.
  • Did you see Vanderbilt beat K-State? Maybe the East is anyone’s this year. (Well, except Missouri’s.)
  • The hole in Alabama’s defense is not broad, but it’s deep. Pruitt and Saban are clearly trying to put some weight on the resumés of a lot of different guys ahead of conference play, and on Saturday it showed. Nevertheless, so far it’s hard to see anyone clearly challenging Alabama’s SEC dominance. Whichever Bulldogs are victorious this weekend may have the best shot.
 Posted by at 10:21 am
Sep 142017
 
 Posted by at 9:40 pm
Sep 122017
 

I just got my second shipment from Fuego Box. Quarterly, I get three boutique hot sauces for $29.95. It’s a fantastic way to try new flavors. It’s a little higher than selecting three new sauces myself from a good shop, but there is value for me in receiving things I might not have considered on my own.

And as long as the sauces are the quality of Secret Aardvark Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce, I’ll be a customer indefinitely.

Hot sauces often have an intent. Some have an obvious Asian tilt, while others are clearly meant for Mexican fare. Still others fall in a Greek or Levantine vein. Secret Aardvark is aiming for a broad “table sauce” appeal—at home with many different cuisines, and melding effectively with a wide range of flavors. What’s in it?

Ingredients: Tomatoes, white wine vinegar, carrots, water, yellow onion, habanero chili peppers, mustard, organic cane sugar, salt, modified food starch, garlic, sunflower oil, herbs and spices. (Composite lists for tomatoes, habaneros, and mustard edited.)

So, reader’s impression: we’ve got all of the obvious heat coming from habs, but with relatively few of them in the mix. Water is a little concerning so high in the list. What’s the experience like?

This sauce is thick, almost like ketchup, with a few small chunks of vegetable and flecks of spice evident. It tastes good by itself, and even better on food. There is a big bright tangy burst of roasted tomatoes, with a little sweet-salty accompaniment. Then, there’s a backbeat of onion as the habanero come online. A hint of garlic and a whisper of what may be celery finish the sauce out.

As is typical of habaneros and other Capiscum chinense cultivars, the heat is cumulative. This sauce never gets dramatically hot, but understand that bite two will be hotter than bite one, and bite seven will be considerably hotter than bite four. Don’t have a dip of it, decide, and then consume indiscriminately. Pay attention.

I enjoyed it with a cheeseburger and tater tots, using it much like ketchup. It was an excellent egg sauce on a bacon, cheese, onion, and bell pepper omelet. I’ll try it on pizza. Secret Aardvark suggests an Aardvark Red Eye—pour 2 oz. beer into a beer mug, fill with beer, and then add a tablespoon of Secret Aardvark. I may try that sometime.

I don’t know if it’s a mainstay for me, but I’ll purchase and eat another bottle of it before deciding. Good stuff indeed.

8/10

 Posted by at 7:11 pm

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