By Ken Reed
I try very hard to resist the urge to call articles “must read” because when I use that term I want people to take it seriously. “Must read” is a descriptor that can be easily abused.
That said, I think Dave Zirin’s recent piece on the Chris Borland decision in The Nation is truly of “must-read” quality.
Zirin does a nice job of describing the magnitude of a young, healthy football player walking away from NFL riches to protect his brain. A rising star leaving a game he loves to avoid thousands of blows to his brain will send shockwaves throughout the football world, down to the youth football league level.
“Borland’s decision to leave the game has had major ramifications,” writes Zirin.
“Most critically, he has reframed the debate about tackle football from the one pushed by so many sports-radio time-fillers and right wing radio jocks: That what we have is a fight between people who love the game and mollycoddled commie femi-nazis who want to bubble-wrap our children and then ban the sport. Borland has moved the discussion toward what the real debate actually is: On one side, there are people who believe that the NFL should be transparent about the health risks that come with the game, especially as they are now running football clinics around the country for children; and on the other side, we have a multi-billion dollar corporation obfuscating the actual dangers, relying instead on PR-meisters like Frank Luntz to come up with sound bites and action-plans to convince the public that all is well, and it is safe for your children to come out and play.”
To gain added perspective on Borland’s decision from a socio-political-cultural perspective, Zirin interviewed Dave Meggysey, a former NFL player who left the game as part of his protest against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. Borland had previously contacted Meggysey to talk about his decision to leave the NFL.
During his conversation with Borland, Meggysey told the young linebacker that:
“how you leave the game is very important. I said, ‘If you are able to raise the question of the game’s safety for parents and concerned people, that would be a very important thing to do.’ And my sense of what he’s done, the way he did leave the game, clearly did raise that question. He’s done it with a great deal of integrity, a great deal of intelligence, and that’s why a lot of players have supported him. … Of course, the League is not going to support him in this. Of course they’re going to try to say football’s safe. Well, football’s not safe. They talk about concussions when what we’re really talking about is brain damage. If you play this game, you’re going to walk away damaged. That’s why Chris Borland who loves this game, who was ready to star this season, left.”
Please trust me on this one. Because of how well it lays out the socio-cultural implications of Borland’s decision, Zirin’s column is a “must read.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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