I See Dead People Everywhere

And most of them are boys with their toys

Yesterday a few miles northeast of here, two dudes had a head-on collision in their snow machines. The snow machines burst into flames, one of the drivers died and the other is apparently in critical condition. Elsewhere in the state a man died of CO poisoning in his fish house, and as is often the case in these situations, a rescuer had some trouble as well and needed to be treated. If you heat your ice house with something that burns, remember that it will put out deadly carbon monoxide (and use up your oxygen as well, but those are two distinct problems).

Finally, a few miles south of us, there appears to have been an altercation related to one of the football games played yesterday to determine who goes to the Super Bowl. Good thing we have a gun carry law in this state, or the one guy would have had a harder time pulling out his piece and blowing away his buddy who is now dead. I quickly add that the circumstances of that gun-related killing have not yet been fully verified. But what I describe here is the most likely.

Independently of this I have been giving serious thought to deciding that I don’t like football, or more accurately, won’t support it any more. High school kids who play it sometimes suffer debilitating injuries that may affect them for the rest of their lives. For college students, those who would aspire to the pros find themselves a commodity in what is essentially a low-level form of human trafficking. There seems to be an increasing, rather than decreasing, incidence of long term injuries to professional players. One retired pro player that know has had most of his major leg joints replaced over the last few years (he’s still working on that).

I don’t see the frequency of head injuries decreasing. It is almost as though the technology to limit head injuries has leveled off but the likelihood of head injuries has continued to increase. Is there some ceiling that needs to be broken? Do players need to wear helmets that are disposable and changed a few times during the game, or larger helmets? Or the rules changed?

I like watching football, but the Romans liked watching gladiators too, and bull fighting which some people love is not exactly spreading. I has always figured that after boxing was made illegal, the next sports to be carefully examined would be hockey then football … not to make them illegal, but to have a harder look at them. But the violent sport of boxing has expanded into new and even more idiotic areas over the last decade or so, rather than retracting. Hey, they brought back Roller Ball, didn’t they? The trend is going the opposite way than I expected.

I don’t think most people allow themselves to think honestly about the injury side of football. They might, though, next year or the year after when one of the beloved players dies on the field. That will probably be a post-season event, because it is clear, as I have pointed out before much to the rather surprising denialist ire of my readers, things get much rougher in these games.

Comments

  1. #1 Timberwoof
    January 24, 2011

    I started laying hockey as an adult. It had an overall positive effect on my health, although I traded occasional back injuries for occasional knee and groin injuries. I played in an adult no-checking league. Fighting gets one ejected, not cheered, for we all have to go back to work in the morning.

    Injuries happen. But people get injured anyway, even with non-contact and individual sports. I’d rather enjoy the good health that comes with exercise than the bit-by-bit daily injury of couch-potatohood. That’s a manageable personal risk.

    The modern human trafficking of college and professional sports, however, and all the associated corruption, are problems that need to be addressed. (The US elected as president someone whose biggest political achievement had been to snooker a town into building a stadium for his baseball team.) I do not enjoy fights at hockey games. It tells something, IMHO, about this culture that many people consider them an essential part of the game. No. Ritualized tribal battles need to eliminate the actual intent to injure.

  2. #2 P. Locans
    January 24, 2011

    I started laying hockey as an adult. It had an overall positive effect

    It is well known as one of the homoerotic sports.

  3. #3 Art
    January 24, 2011

    Observation: People in hard times seem to enjoy rougher sports and exhibitions.

    Perhaps the brutality and violence of the sports are seen to mirror their lives, and inspire toughness and endurance they need to survive.

    Of course the more violent sports have also been seen as a way out of poverty. Essentially trading in a persons last resource, the physical integrity of their body, for one last tenuous shot at economic viability.

  4. #4 WMDKitty
    January 24, 2011

    I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out…

  5. #5 Timberwoof
    January 24, 2011

    It is well known as one of the homoerotic sports.

    Funny you should mention that: I enjoy wearing stockings and garters. Two-on-ones and three-on-ones are fun, and my friends cheer when they watch us score.

    Yes, that was snarky; you deserved it. Actually, I have not observed homoeroticism in the lockerroom; none of my teammates cares that I’m gay. (They think goalies are weird anyway.)

  6. #6 Stephanie Z
    January 24, 2011

    Art, I’d suggest you might want to take one more step back. There’s a very good chance that the same societal values that led to the economic collapse were sufficient on their own to lead to the increase in blood sport.

    Of course, to test that, we’d have to define what we considered blood sport and track its popularity against the state of the economy.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2011

    Timberwolf, what can I say? I have good sportsdar.

  8. An emergency room nurse once told me that most of their sports-related injuries were from hockey. But it seldom kills them and I don’t think she was counting vehicular injuries.

    Snowmobiles cause about 200 deaths per year in the U.S. & Canada. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) cause 600 – 800 deaths per year in the U.S. (figures up to 2008).

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    January 24, 2011

    When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of playing pep band for the girls’ hockey team. (Also the boys’ hockey team, the football team, the basketball team, etc. The weirdest was the wrestling team, because the rules mandate that the audience be silent for much of the match, making the concept of a “pep band” rather pointless.) It was wonderful; I enjoyed it so much more than boys’ hockey. The biggest difference was that checking is not allowed in girls’ hockey. So I have to echo Timberwoof: no-checking hockey is a good thing.

    Traditional hockey, though…. Fights may be enjoyed by a certain portion of the fanbase, but to me they detract from the game. It should not be routine strategy to attempt to injure your opponents’ star players. And all the jokes about professional hockey players and missing teeth…. I do not understand why they’re not required to wear masks, like youth hockey players. If that face belongs to player with a multi-million dollar salary, why don’t the owners want to protect it a little?

  10. #10 Nemo
    January 24, 2011

    I’m not sure I agree with you about the trends. It seems to me that boxing, which was once mainstream, even glamorous, has been greatly marginalized. Can anyone name the current heavyweight champion? Is there even one? Does anybody care? A few decades ago, everyone could name him.

    Sure, someone still can. And someone else can name the Ultimate Flighting champion, or whatever. But not most people. It’s more diverse now, but I think it’s more niche, too.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2011

    Nemo: I’m not sure I agree with you about the trends. It seems to me that boxing, which was once mainstream, even glamorous, has been greatly marginalized.

    Yes, you are absolutely right about that. What I was thinking of was these new forms of fighting that are not proper boxing. But, I actually have no idea what the popularity is (i.e., participation levels) of the sum of fighting style sports.

  12. #12 Geoff Rogers
    January 24, 2011

    Boxing has decreased in popularity for a number of reasons, not least being the head-injury rate. Other combat sports (Mixed Martial Arts, primarily) have vastly lower rates of head injury, since MMA involves victory by submission as well as knock-out.

  13. #13 Alan
    January 25, 2011

    When I was a kid I noticed the old man next door mowing his lawn in the hot Aussie sun. Knowing he had just recovered from a heart attack I went over and told him he shouldn’t be mowing his lawn and that I would be glad to do it for him. He thanked me for the offer and said “I enjoy mowing my lawn and I’d rather die than give up doing what I enjoy”. Sure enough he died less than a month later, doing what he enjoyed.

    My point is, unlike the roman gladiators, nobody is forcing people to play dangerous sports, they simply enjoy it.

  14. #14 Tina
    January 25, 2011

    Alan, you need to take a anthropology class to learn how exploitation works. You are obviously a privilaged white male (working class or better) and have no idea of what you speak.

  15. #15 Timberwoof
    January 25, 2011

    An emergency room nurse once told me that most of their sports-related injuries were from hockey.

    Markita, is selection bias at work? In what emergency room does she work? In Toronto, the explanation might be that people play hockey more than other sports. In LA, the explanation would be that hockey causes more injuries than other sports. (It’s the same thing as ER workers calling them “donorcycles” or “murdercycles” because the only motorcyclists they ever see are injured ones. Yet they don’t call cars “murdermobiles”.)

    Art, you said some confusing things. On the one hand, you talked about people using professional sports as a way out of economic hard spots, but on the other said that no one forces anyone to play dangerous sports. I’m not sure that pro sports are an economic “way out”. You have to be very, very good to even get a chance to play professionally. By contrast, in ancient Rome anyone could become a gladiator. (You had to be very very good to survive long.)

    Tina, did you jump to a delusion about Art? I’m not sure how you got from Aussie white boy to “needs to take an anthropology class.” Aside from Caribou Barbie’s hockey mom friends, who is forcing people to play dangerous sports?

  16. #16 Tina
    January 25, 2011

    Timberwolf, when blacks could be owned as slaves, each slave had the choice of leaving slavery. Why did they not?

  17. #17 Paco
    January 25, 2011

    Bread and circuses, baby!

    College sports are a good morality play to prepare the next generation for their eventual exploitation by the monied classes.

    Get used to it!

  18. #18 Captain Patriot
    January 25, 2011

    People who play football choose to do so on their own free individual will. They know the dangers of injusries before they ever start. Leave up to the secular oppressives to screw up even a game. All your regulations will one day come crashing down into the pile of crap its built upon. The sooner the better. Just let people have fun and be themselves. Leave the helmets alone. Leave gun alone. Leave us all alone. Stop regulting crap to death. If you want to regulate something how about regulating your mouth and your one brain cell. Just leave stuff alone for the love of GOd!

  19. #19 Doug Alder
    January 26, 2011

    Art – my next door neighbour is a 91 year old Italian whom I could only stop from cutting both his and our front lawn by doing it myself. As I don’t like cutting lawns, in fact find manicured lawns to be a total environmental disaster, I let Jack cut our lawn for us. Actually I let him do it because it makes him feel useful and when afterward we are out in my back yard, where nary a blade of grass is to be seen amidst the garden and paths, sipping on some 12 year old rum Jack is wont to say that he would rather shuffle of his mortal coil when he no longer feels wanted or useful. Best neighbor I’ve ever had. (still plays trombone, trumpet and a few other horns at his age too)

  20. #20 Timberwoof
    January 26, 2011

    Timberwolf, when blacks could be owned as slaves, each slave had the choice of leaving slavery. Why did they not?

    Aroo? I think you’re trying to make a subtle rhetorical point with that question, but I had a GPF at “each slave had the choice of leaving slavery”. Did you mean suicide? What does American slavery have to do with gadiators or football players? Don’t try to be subtle or Socratic; just say what you mean.

  21. #21 Cream
    January 27, 2011

    what a story…

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