Tag Archives: football

Jemele Hill Was Doing Her Job

(Rich Polk/BET/Getty Images for BET)

The nation’s third-largest state is currently engulfed by 17 separate wildfires, with more than a dozen people dead and additional 100 in the hospital. More than 80 percent of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is still without electricity after Hurricane Maria devastated the island three weeks ago, and more than a third of the island’s population does not have access to drinking water. But the President of the United States, after throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans, is tweeting vindictively about a cable television host he dislikes.

ESPN Sportscenter host Jemele Hill, who Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously said should be fired for criticizing the president in a Twitter conversation, has been suspended for two weeks for violating ESPN’s social media guidelines for employees.

ESPN did not say exactly which of Hill’s tweets prompted her suspension, but it appears to stem from several tweets after Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said that players who don’t stand for the national anthem — “disrespects the flag,” in his words — will not be allowed to play.

Before we go any further, here are some things to know about Jerry Jones. Read more…

Playing Football to the Beat of Their Own, Literal Drummer

football players on the field line up to play
Photo by daveynin (CC BY 2.0)

Gallaudet University — named for Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who helped create American Sign Language — was the first institution of higher education for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. And like any good American institution of higher education, it has a football team — except players and coaches communicate via sign language and the vibrations of an enormous bass drum. In The AtlanticMatthew Davis takes us to Gallaudet’s homecoming game (they won!), and unpacks the tensions that arise when a school tries to cater to deaf and mainstream students, as Gallaudet increasingly has to do.

In 2000, hearing students were admitted for the first time. Today, a rising percentage of Gallaudet’s students come from mainstream backgrounds, a percentage that likely needs to keep rising in order for the school to survive.

This is not without controversy, especially as it relates to students with cochlear implants, students like Reds. Cochlear implantation is an invasive surgery that places an implant into the cochlea, the spiral within the inner ear that contains the primary organ for hearing. A processor close to the outer ear sends electronic sounds to the cochlear implant, which directly stimulates the hearing nerve. What you think of this surgery depends, in part, on how you view deafness—as an identity trait or a problem to be solved. Many in the Gallaudet community see deafness as an identity trait, and they see American Sign Language as the primary expression of that identity. So do some in the hearing community. One hearing mother of a player on the football team told me she never considered implanting her son because it would be like changing his race. The argument, then, of who is deaf and how this deafness is expressed cuts to the core of language, identity, and biology and has deeply affected the Gallaudet community.

In the end, though, football brings them together — a quintessentially American form of bonding.

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‘Three Hours of the American Way of Life’: Football as Fantasy in Ukraine

football sitting on a field
Photo by Elvert Barnes (CC BY 2.0)

Photojournalist Alexey Furman and writer Robert Langellier spent time with the Azov Dolphins, a football team in a town close the front lines of the violence in Ukraine. In a sad, intimate piece in Roads & Kingdoms, they explore the hope and hopelessness of young Ukrainians.

“I really like history,” he says. “I found a source that says the U.S. owes Russia $12 trillion. So Americans started this war in Ukraine against Russia, so that the documents proving this will be burned. It says the Americans want to start a third world war to find these documents and burn them.”

Being in the epicenter of a reality-bending information war between Ukraine and Russia, Dima, like most in Mariupol, has no idea what to believe. Half the time, people don’t even know who the combatants are. Some think the shelling from the rebels was actually the Russians, some the Americans. Some believe the Ukrainian army shelled itself in order to blame the rebels.

What is beginning in the U.S. has been ongoing for years in Ukraine. Disinformation has split a country into brutal civil strife.

American football, though, is an escape. Dima likes the Miami Dolphins, though he can’t name the players. “They create miracles on the field,” he says. The only place he knows he wants to go besides Kiev is Miami, Florida. He wonders if football can someday take him there.

“When I play American football, I feel like I’m in America,” he says. “When I’m in practice, I imagine playing in the NFL on one of the great teams in one of the great stadiums with lights shining on me and people applauding me. I’m jumping to catch the ball. It’s a great moment.”

Dima mentions that dolphins, by nature, aren’t supposed to be in the Sea of Azov. They aren’t well-suited to the pollution and the increasingly shallow depth, so when they slip through the Kerch Strait and find themselves in the Azov, they often get rescued and thrown back into the Black Sea.

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“Modern Life Is Not Violent Enough,” Said Nobody — But They Thought It

football field

GQ published an excerpt from Chuck Klosterman’s book But What If We’re Wrong? last May — and while it’s nominally about football, violence, and why the sport isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s also a prescient analysis of current U.S. politics.

There’s an embedded assumption within all arguments regarding the doomed nature of football. The assumption is that the game is even more violent and damaging than it superficially appears, and that as more people realize this (and/or refuse to deny the medical evidence verifying that damage), the game’s fan support will disappear. The mistake made by those advocating this position is their certitude that this perspective is self-evident. It’s not. These advocates remind me of an apocryphal quote attributed to film critic Pauline Kael after the 1972 presidential election: “How could Nixon have won? I don’t know one person who voted for him.” Now, Kael never actually said this. But that erroneous quote survives as the best shorthand example for why smart people tend to be wrong as often as their not-so-smart peers—they work from the flawed premise that their worldview is standard. The contemporary stance on football’s risk feels unilateral, because nobody goes around saying, “Modern life is not violent enough.” Yet this sentiment quietly exists. And what those who believe it say instead is, “I love football. It’s the last bastion of hope for toughness in America.” It’s not difficult to imagine a future where the semantic distance between those statements is nonexistent. And if that happens, football will change from a popular leisure pastime to an unpopular political necessity.

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Concussion Chronology: One High School Football Player’s Secret Struggle with CTE

Photo by Marcus Quigmire CC-BY SA 2.0

“Zac was a thumper,” his father says, standing in the family kitchen. “Of all the boys, he was the one who wouldn’t show pain, who’d be fearless.… He’d throw his head into anything. He was the kind of guy I like on defense.”

…only Winslow knew the full extent of Zac’s struggles in the five and a half years since high school: the brain tremors that felt like thunderclaps inside his skull, the sudden memory lapses in which he’d forget where he was driving or why he was walking around the hardware store, the doctors who told him his mind might be torn to pieces from all the concussions from football. She knew about the drugs and the drinking he was doing to cope. She knew about the mood swings, huge and pulverizing, the slow leaching of his hope.

At GQ, Reid Forgrave profiles Zac Easter, a former “smashmouth” high school football player who took his own life in the aftermath of suffering five diagnosed concussions during his football career.

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I Was a Super Bowl Concession Worker

Last Sunday, Super Bowl 50 descended upon Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. At Slate, freelance journalist Gabriel Thompson describes game day from the perspective of a worker in one of the stadium’s upscale food courts, where he earned less than $13 an hour to serve $13 beers.

It doesn’t take long to realize that the Chrome Grill, which functioned perfectly well for sparsely attended 49ers games, is not quite ready for the Super Bowl and its crowd of 71,000. Our cooks, three temps who earn $10 an hour for typical Levi’s Stadium events, but $15 an hour for the Super Bowl, are cranking out food. Still the lines keep growing. It doesn’t help that the fancy new registers tend to freeze up, or that we sell out of the jumbo dogs an hour before kickoff, which means that we have to waste precious time absorbing complaints. “At the Super Bowl?” one lady asks. “No hot dogs? You have got to be kidding.” I apologize—as sincerely as possible, given the circumstances—but she just stands there, unconvinced. When I pull off the lid of the hot dog container to reveal greasy water, she stomps off.

“The system is not working,” says Khalid Subainati. A jack-of-all-trades at the Chrome Grill, Kal usually works as an expeditor, but today he’s spending much of his time serving as a buffer between angry customers and us, as well as trying to get the registers to work. I’m totally absorbed in slapping pizza slices onto plates while trying to keep five orders straight in my head. Relief finally comes in the form of the national anthem, performed by Lady Gaga. Ticket-holders rush to their seats, which gives us a moment to collect ourselves. “Shit,” says Joshua. I nod. For weeks, our Centerplate supervisors have reminded us about the importance of today, when we’ll put “Fans First!” to “create excitement and lifetime memories at America’s greatest event.” That’s not where this day seems to be headed.

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Life After Football: Our College Pick

Disappointment feels so much bigger when you’re young because you haven’t lived long enough to know that there’s always something else on the other side. In his story about a former football prospect who seeks a new identity on a baseball field, Jesse Dougherty elicits emotion from a normally taciturn type – the young male athlete – and conveys those feelings without tripping over purple prose.

Life After Football

Jesse Dougherty | The Daily Orange | April 5, 2015 | 1,647 words (7 minutes)

Football as a Barometer of Italian Society

“Football is a very simple barometer of a society,” says Paddy Agnew, an Irish Times correspondent and former RAI television commentator who has covered Italian soccer since the 1980s. “And if the red light is flashing in society, the red light is flashing in football. That’s what it is here, they’ve run out of petrol. This is a society — and it is not just football — that has stood still for 30 years.”

You can see many the troubles of Italian life through a lens of Italy’s favorite sport. A struggling economy exerts pressure on the country’s social fabric. High unemployment means plenty of young men living in their parents’ homes with little to do. To cope, many simply dive deeper into their calcio [Italian for football].

Peter Simek, writing in SB Nation about Italian football culture and the Rome-based football club A.S. Roma.

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How the NFL Is Like a Blockbuster Movie Franchise

The industry term for or a blockbuster movie franchise is a “tentpole”—it’s the asset that holds the whole operation up. At the height of mass culture, in the second half of the 20th century, it was enough to be on television to command an audience in the tens of millions. But as channels multiplied, the difference between those properties that could command such audiences and those that merely gathered under the shelter they provided began to fall into relief. Tentpoles are harder and harder to find in the movie business today, and those that do exist are as frequently a result of 3D ticket prices as they are of any organic appeal. In music, too, a few big stars give life enough for a universe of micro-ecologies where many artists barely make a living. Against this backdrop the NFL stands out as the last fortress of mass culture. Today, nothing is watched by everybody, but the thing that comes closest is the NFL.

This power was on display in its demand that this year’s Super Bowl halftime performer pay the NFL for the privilege, in the form of cash now and a percentage of tour revenues later. All three of the finalists—Rihanna, Coldplay and Katy Perry—refused, and apparently Perry was chosen anyway. But the message was clear: No show is bigger than the NFL, not the biggest pop star, nothing.

Stephen Squibb writing for n+1 about the problems plaguing the NFL.

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Dinner at Tom Brady & Gisele Bündchen’s House

Photo by denverjeffrey

Mark Leibovich, in the New York Times, gets a rare look inside the life of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who’s now 37 in a league where few play past the age of 40. The result is some obsessive habits about caring for his body and the food he eats:

Every morning in the Bahamas, Brady undertook an intense regimen that included resistance drills, exercises with rubber bands and stretches designed to foster muscular flexibility. While traditional training in football emphasizes the building of muscle strength, [Body coach Alex] Guerrero also focuses on pliability, which Brady equates to sponginess and elasticity. “If there’s so much pressure, just constant tugging on your tendons and ligaments, you’re going to get hurt,” Brady told me. “Like with a kid, when they fall, they don’t get hurt. Their muscles are soft. When you get older, you lose that.”

After his vacation workouts, Brady joined his family for a late breakfast that — for him — consisted mainly of a protein shake that was also high in electrolytes and included greens like kale and collards. (Brady also likes to add blueberries to his concoctions, but some other berries are off limits because they are thought to promote inflammation.) I asked Guerrero at one point if Brady is ever allowed to eat a cheeseburger. “Yes, we have treats,” he said. “We make them.” Like what? “Usually raw desserts, like raw macaroons.” Ice cream made from avocado is another favorite, Guerrero said.

“Sometimes we’ll go over to Tom and Gisele’s house for dinner,” Brady’s father, also named Tom, told me. “And then I’ll say afterward, ‘Where are we going for dinner?’ ”

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