The End of Football – and Hillary?

nfl-collisionI played high school football in small-town Montana.  I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I loved the sport.  To this day I and my family, like most Americans, spend a good chunk of our time and money following the monsters of the midway.  Football has become more than a pastime – it is a juggernaut industry, and until recently its meteoric growth in popularity seemed limitless.  But I digress . . .

It was a kickoff play, and I was the “contain” guy on the end.  My job was to make sure the kick returner did not get outside of me and have a clear path down the sideline.  He caught the kick near the sideline, on my side of the field.   I was barreling down the sideline, full speed, and the returner motored straight toward me.  Yep, it was a full-speed, head-on train wreck.

We were both seeing stars and, with assistance, wobbled off to our respective benches.  But the cobwebs cleared in a few minutes, and we were soon right back in the game.

And that is what will be the end of football.

A four-year study was recently completed on the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Scientists studied the brains of 85 deceased athletes and soldiers, mostly football players.  They discovered that serious brain damage was not always the result of one or more major concussions; it is just as likely caused by repeated, smaller jolts to the noggin.

While professional boxers were commonly “punch drunk” after their careers, most of us were not aware of the devastating effects of CTE until we saw Muhammad Ali reduced to a mumbling zombie at a relatively young age.  There were sad stories in professional football, like Mike Webster, who suffered, among other injuries, amnesia, dementia, and depression from his later football years until his death at the age of 50.

As players get bigger and faster (largely thanks to steroids) the hits become progressively more devastating.   Many successful players have had their careers shortened by concussions, and the inevitable lawsuit barrage has begun.  Junior Seau, star linebacker with the Chargers, committed suicide in May, and CTE was implicated.

The “concussion crisis” is threatening the game itself, at every level.  Two Pop Warner kids’ coaches were suspended when five boys reportedly suffered concussions in the early minutes of one game.

While there is little doubt that CTE exists and has wreaked havoc on the lives of many sufferers, there is also the likelihood that it will serve as a handy excuse for a variety of bad decisions.  When Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs shot his girlfriend and then himself earlier this month, some were quick to blame CTE.

hillaryAnd when Hillary Clinton was called to testify before Congress about her baffling failure to prevent, mitigate, or correctly report the murder of our Libyan ambassador and those who attempted to protect him at Benghazi, she declined to appear, invoking the “concussion” defense.   She reportedly fainted from dehydration and hit her head, although she did not seek medical attention.

I’m going to miss football, but there’s a silver lining.  Next time I forget my wedding anniversary, or throw my socks in the laundry hamper inside out,  I’ll just explain, “Honey, remember that football game when I was a sophomore . . . ?”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Don’t you know it hit me like a hammer
Hit me like a ton of lead
You know it hit me like a hammer
You know it hit me, baby

Hit Me Like A Hammer – Huey Lewis

Good Times in Canada, Eh?

We just returned from a fantastic football weekend in Canada.

Yes, they do play football in Canada, and for football junkies like my son and I, it’s a great excuse for a summer road trip.  The Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the BC Lions 23 – 20, and the big play was a missed field goal attempt that was run back 129 yards for a touchdown!  Now that’s something you don’t see in the NFL!

Aside from getting our summer football fix, the thing we enjoy most on our northern excursions is our Canuck friends.  They always make us feel welcome, show us a good time, and are as curious about our everyday lives as we are about theirs.

I was delighted to learn that the economy is great in Saskatchewan.  The mean family income is now $73,000, second among the provinces to Alberta.   New shops and restaurants are popping up all over, and business is brisk.  New football stadiums are planned around the country, including Regina. The streets are filled with shiny new cars and trucks, and pockets jingle with loonies and toonies (one- and two-dollar coins).

On the other hand, my Canadian friends worry about public services.  The health care system is a mess.  The average wait time to even see a specialist is now ten weeks, and the six-month wait time after that for routine surgical procedures forces many patients to spend their hard-earned Canadian money at hospitals south of the border.  They view their health care as “free” but when pressed, they admit that they don’t always get the best value for their tax dollars.  It is a sneak preview of ObamaCare.

For all Saskatchewan’s apparent wealth, we couldn’t help but notice the shabby condition of their highways and other infrastructure.  They definitely have some “shovel-ready” jobs.  It seems that Canada has the same problem we have in the US – things left up to the free enterprise system seem to work out just fine, but anything filtered through the mud-bog of government slows to a crawl.

One of my Canadian friends was fascinated to learn that I own guns, and usually keep one close by for personal and family protection, thanks to our second amendment and my Montana concealed carry permit.  “We can’t even buy a bullet, eh?” he lamented.  “Only the bad guys have guns here.”

I didn’t run into any bad guys.  Just a bunch of good guys who love their country, Riders Football, and Canadian beer.  (PS –  no US flags anywhere – no Star Spangled Banner at the game either!  See my blog about that)

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Green is the Colour.
Football is the Game.
We’re all together
and Winning is our aim!

Green Is The Colour – Saskatchewan Roughriders

I Pledge Allegiance – to the Maple Leaf?

Saskatchewan RoughridersMy son and I are big CFL (Canadian Football League) fans.  We make the long drive from our Montana home to Regina, SK for a game every summer, and listen to our beloved Roughriders on the web.

The Rider fans are amazing – they paint the town green for every home game.  They yell and scream and guzzle Molson Canadian beer, and wear watermelons on their heads.  It’s about as fun a football atmosphere as you could want (well, except for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium).  And the Canadian rules make for a fast and furious game of football (“He’s at the fifty!  the fifty-five!  and down at the 53-yard line!”)

But that’s not what this blog is aboot (Canadian for “about”), eh?

Whenever we attend a Canadian football game, or listen on the internet, I can’t help but notice that they always play O Canada, the Canadian national anthem, but then never play the Star Spangled Banner.   Never.  The same is true at a Canadian hockey game, baseball game, or any other public event.  They never recognize the US.

By rule, 19 of the 42 players on any CFL team are from the United States.  Obviously, there are not that many good Canadian native football players.  The best players are all from the US, as are the coaches.  Canadians love their football, but it is an American game.  Still, there is never any recognition of the United States at any CFL game.  No flag.  No national anthem. Nothing.  It’s all about Canada.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this.  Really.  It’s their country, it’s their league, they are very patriotic about it, and more power to them.  The Canadian fans welcome my son and I as a curiosity, and frankly as “football experts from the States, eh?”  Our celebrity status is very cool, just like that great Canadian beer.

What I don’t understand is this:  last weekend my band played music for three nights at the fantastic rodeo weekend in Augusta, MT, and we enjoyed watching the rodeo on Sunday.  In addition to the athletic prowess and the terrific Western atmosphere, there was a lot of pageantry and patriotism.  As far as I know, there were no Canadian participants in the event.  There may have been a couple of Canadian spectators.  Still, the rodeo officials made a big deal of riding the Canadian maple leaf flag around the arena, and playing O Canada before our national anthem.


Even stranger than that, about HALF of the spectators stood there with hands over their hearts for the Canadian anthem!  Like they were pledging allegiance to Canada!


Here in Lewistown we have local drag races on summer weekends.  What a great American event!  Vintage American Chevies and Fords,  classic Beach Boys music – it just doesn’t get better.  So why the heck do we have to listen to O Canada before our own precious Star Spangled Banner?  I mean, I like Bachman Turner Overdrive as well as the next guy, but hey!  This is American Drag Racing!

I don’t think the Canucks need to pay homage to the US at their events.  But I also don’t think “O Canada” is required at ours.

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

American Woman, Stay Away from Me! – the Guess Who