Oxymoronically, deflategate scandal is overblown

The biggest problem with the so-called scandal concerning allegations that the New England Patriots blew too little air into the footballs with which they played last Sunday is that the mainstream news media have blown too much air into the matter. Did this issue really deserve to be the lead story on all three major-network newscasts the other night? Was there nothing of far greater importance happening anywhere in the world? Come on. Wait! I know what you’re thinking: Deflategate is a big story because everyone is talking about it. My reply: Everyone is talking about it because it’s a big story in the media. And it shouldn’t be. It’s really no big deal. Ask yourself: Is there evidence that the outcome of even one NFL game has ever been determined by the extent to which a football was inflated? I don’t know of any such evidence. So what if 11 of the 12 footballs examined after last Sunday’s game were shown to be underinflated in violation of NFL rules? So the hell what? The NFL has all kinds of rules to which little, if any, attention is paid. A pound or two more or less inflation in a football is simply not scandalous — especially when it clearly didn’t influence the outcome of a game in which one team scored 38 points more than the other team. If every regulation in the NFL rulebook was rigidly enforced, whole squads of lawyers would be required to settle all the arguments in each and every game. Is the rule against offensive players holding defensive players strictly enforced on all occasions? Of course not. The holding usually has to be egregious to warrant a penalty. Ah, but what’s egregious? To me, the only way to view this whole deflategate thing is with a cynical eye. I’m not so sure that the matter wasn’t dreamed up by some NFL publicist to generate more interest in the upcoming Super Bowl. And the mainstream media, whores that they are, are happy to play along....

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Millions of people think God will decide who wins the Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said something the other day to the effect that the outcome of a football is not likely of any great concern to the proverbial Man Upstairs. Rodgers was responding to a fan who said she found it “a little off-putting” when an athlete thanks God for helping his team win a big game. Said Rodgers: “I agree with her. I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.” Perhaps so, but a new survey commissioned by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Religion News Service SHOWS that lots of folks discern divine intervention in athletic contests: Twenty-six percent of Americans and 27 percent of self-described sports fans believe God plays a role in determining which team will win a sporting event. Even more — 53 percent of Americans and 56 percent of sports fans — say God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success. Sixty-five percent of Catholics and 68 percent of Protestants believe God rewards faithful athletes, while just 27 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say the same. Protestants, at 45 percent, are more likely than other religious groups to believe God plays a role in determining the winner of a sporting event. Thirty-one percent of Catholics and nine percent of the religiously unaffiliated agree. Two weeks before the 2014 Super Bowl, half of American sports fans said they believed God or a supernatural force had a hand in the games they watched, according to a PRRI study at the time. Included in that percentage were the 26 percent of Americans who pray for God to help their team, 25 percent who think their team has been cursed and 19 percent who believe more generally that God is involved in determining who wins on the court or in the...

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Let’s not ignore this other connection between football and domestic violence

The one good thing about the current scandal concerning domestic violence among professional football players is that public opinion seems to be running strongly against tolerance of such behavior. But there’s another angle to this matter that also deserves our attention — domestic violence among football fans. Consider THIS: [T]he latest research suggests that negative emotions triggered by events such as a football loss can lead to more serious crimes and behaviors like domestic violence. In a comprehensive survey of domestic violence calls recorded by 763 police departments in half a dozen states, economists David Card and Gordon Dahl report in the Quarterly Journal of Economics that NFL losses can result in a 10% spike in domestic violence reports in the hour or so after a local football team has just suffered a loss. The volume of calls doubles when the team loses to a traditional rival, and also surges if the football team loses during the playoffs. Card and Dahl analyzed the relationship between domestic violence and football losses in order to better understand the factors that contribute to domestic violence, which is the leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. Violence in the home runs counter to the idea that the family is a source of support and in need of protection, and sociologists and psychologists speculate that apart from cases of mental illness, many cases of domestic abuse arises from the need of one partner to exert control over the other....

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You might want to consider this before encouraging your son to play football

Recent polls indicate that worries about head injuries have resulted in parents becoming increasingly reluctant to have their sons play football. That would seem to be a prudent attitude, as THIS indicates: The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population. The findings are a result of data prepared by actuaries hired by the league and provided to the United States District Court judge presiding over the settlement between the N.F.L. and 5,000 former players who sued the league, alleging that it had hidden the dangers of concussions from them. (Snip) The statements are the league’s most unvarnished admission yet that the sport’s professional participants sustain severe brain injuries at far higher rates than the general population. They also appear to confirm what scientists have said for years: that playing football increases the risk of developing neurological conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can be identified only in an...

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Manly men — and even some women — complain that football is becoming feminized

For several years now, I’ve been writing about the gradual convergence of various factors which, taken together, pose an existential threat to football. We’re reaching the point where the most fundamental aspects of the football culture — the violence and machismo —  are under assault. Players suddenly — and litigiously — are aware that head injuries suffered on the field can bring life-long misery. Consequently, new rules have been promulgated, and some players are unclear about which kind of tackles are legal and which aren’t. And now a new controversy has arisen regarding bullying among football teammates. This one encompasses a variety of issues ranging from racism to towel-snapping in the locker room to countless  peculiarities of male-bonding among millionaires with high levels of testosterone. Inevitably, these changes in the gridiron world have spawned widespread complaints that the sport is becoming unduly feminized. There’s a bit of sarcasm in Gwen Knapp’s TAKE ON THE MATTER: Victory is nigh. We can feel the NFL giving up ground, becoming more feminized by the day. Stick a salad fork in it. All that’s left is choosing the skirt styles. Pleated for quarterbacks, A-line for the big guys, stretch minis for everyone else? The Miami Dolphins fast-tracked the cultural revolution this week. The discussions of locker-room bullying generated by Jonathan Martin’s voluntary and Richie Icognito’s involuntary departures from the team teased out a larger truth about the league. When defining manhood, a lot of today’s players and recent retirees are most definitely not on the same page. They’re not even using the same dictionary. (Snip) Some of the online comments sounded like retreads. Martin was called “she” and “soft” and scolded for not “manning up.” The wussification of football was bemoaned, in less sanitized language. (And, of course, it’s scrubbed down here, because that’s just what we do.) They see us coming, threatening to turn their beloved sport into a yoga demonstration, and they don’t know want to do. Some of us are even men. In fact, a lot are. Men who hate football tend to despise it far more than women do. Exposed to the sport as teenagers, they rebelled against authoritarian coaches and disdained players who wore their toughness as a fashion piece while docilely submitting to group-think. Those guys, the football apostates, might as well be women, too. We’ve converted all of them. We’re that powerful. (Snip) The feminization has been on a tear of late. Think of all the players who’ve stepped away from football since the brain-damage reports started circulating, since PBS ran the “Frontline” documentary based on “League of Denial.” You can barely turn on ESPN without seeing another of those early-retirement press conferences. Any day now, some franchise won’t have enough bodies to play a game. That’s how alarmed they all are. Either that, or they don’t want to play in stretch miniskirts.    ...

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