This week I was going to write about publishers who complain that their tech stacks are so complex, they can't prevent ad fraud or assure ad viewability. But the humor in such protests is too self-evident to further berate.
No, on the eve of Butch Americana's Grand Celebration of Professional Concussive Violence Interspersed with Frightfully Expensive Clarion Calls for Conspicuous Consumption Usually for Something That Will Make You Even More Obese, the following caught my eye: A new study of NFL retirees found that those who began playing tackle football when they were younger than 12 years old had a higher risk of developing memory and thinking problems later in life. In tests given by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, those players recalled fewer words from a list they had learned 15 minutes earlier, and their mental flexibility was diminished compared with players who began playing tackle football at 12 or older.
I realize it is a fool's errand to use this weekend to try and jumpstart family discussions about how stupid football is, but it cannot be repeated often enough. For the record, I allowed both my sons to play Little League and high school football. Given what we have learned in the interim, it was a mistake. Both played under the explicit warning that if they ever got a concussion they would never set foot on a football field again. My GREATEST fear was that one of them would have been talented enough to be recruited to play in college. Neither was.
I told the headmaster at my youngest son's school -- which prides itself on academic excellence and community involvement -- that medical science is about two years away from being able to draw a very straight line between football and brain damage that emerges later in life. When that happens he will get a call from his insurance company who will say, "We will no longer cover you for football." Why not, I suggested, get out in front of it and drop football now, saying that there is no place for it in a school where the highest value is placed on learning and development. As you might have expected, he gave me the whole "athletics is part of our mission" nonsense before I reminded him that there are about 20 other sports played at the school. We agreed to disagree.
There is nothing more intoxicating to a teenager -- who is trying to figure out what it means to be a man -- than to be showered with praise and rewards for being more violent on the football field than the next guy. A good deal of that intoxication washes over the dads, and to an extent, the moms.
In this process, no one ever says: "There will come a day when all of this will come to naught and you will have to unlearn these instincts and this role model in order to become a real man." There is something ingrained in the American psyche that admires the gladiator, as long he can be controlled. The debate over "American Sniper" is a great example. So too are the rape convictions of the Vanderbilt football players.
I suspect there is nothing harder in parenting than telling a strong, spirited and willing kid that he can't join the rest of his friends on the football field. There is no tomorrow at that age. Having a clear mind for the rest of his life is not yet on his radar. There is only what makes him popular and "a stud muffin" today.
What will happen to football (if it hasn't already) is what happened to the "volunteer army": those with sufficient awareness and means to avoid it will keep their kids away, leaving only those who need it out of economic necessity to trade away their future health and well-being in exchange for the Friday night lights.
It may be true than not every kid that plays high school or college or even pro football ends up with early-onset dementia, but why even play Russian roulette? The stakes are simply too high.