Home / Robert Farley / Smoke?



I don’t think there’s really much to this Max Boot-Daniel Flynn kerfuffle; with no appreciation of the relative stylistic merit of the two pieces, the preference of one author over another on the part of the WSJ doesn’t seem particularly problematic.  It IS fascinating, however, to see the emergent right wing narrative on football:

“Another thing he might mention is this absurd concussion lobby, which consists of these researchers in Boston and other assorted grant-grubbing academics and worry warts who are all trying hard to push this nanny state narrative,” Walker wrote. “The quarterback of that team is, of course, the NYT — but we wouldn’t want to mention them in the piece.”

The Left is at war against horrific brain injuries in football. The Left has always been at war against horrific brain injuries in football. Hell, there’s probably a union out there planning to make trouble, too.

And then this:

“He also misses out on some strong arguments in football’s favor,” the editor added, and went on to list four points in defense of football, including the lower brain-damage rate among younger players, the changes already taking place to protect players’ health, the fact that risk was an inherent part of life, and the fact that football “is a consciously AMERICAN game… part of our national identity—as much as, if not more so, than baseball.”

The “consciously AMERICAN,” is very interesting here, because of course in some sense it’s true that baseball is becoming less “American,” in the way that he’s using the term here. The development of baseball in Latin America and Asia is rendering the game more global, with all that the term implies for cultural diffusion and receptivity. Those influences are feeding back (unevenly, to be sure) into MLB, in a way that I can imagine right wing culture warriors could easily find uncomfortable. Football, despite growing popularity in Europe, remains an area of virtually uncontested American domination.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • DocAmazing

    the fact that football “is a consciously AMERICAN game… part of our national identity—as much as, if not more so, than baseball.”

    Translation: Apart from the odd Samoan, Joe Gadsdenflag won’t see a football player who “only looks illegal”.

    • Ann Outhouse

      Further translation: “How many football players are named Rodrigues, eh?”

      • Sam240

        There were never any major league baseball players named “Rodrigues,” but quite a few have been named “Rodriguez.”

        The “-ues” ending is more associated with Portuguese than with Spanish. Do you know what the most popular sport in Lusophone countries like Portugal, Brazil, and Angola is?


        But it’s the wrong type of football for those conservatives.

        • Ann Outhouse

          I assume you realize it was a typo.

          • Sam240

            I know it was a typo. I just couldn’t resist putting in the football link.

      • rea
  • zombie rotten mcdonald

    Of course, the fact that so many football players are African-American has nothing to do with the right’s willingness to defend the games’ blind spots in this issue.

    Because it’s Not About Race. It’s Never About Race.

    • And a further possible implication, liberals interest in concus… WELFARETHATSWHY!

      “Always taking money from the white man and giving it to those malingering blacks…”

      • Alan in SF

        I’d love to see any of these guys tell ex-Bears QB Jim McMahon about the absurd concussion lobby.

        • Karen

          C’mon, Jim was always fragile – the glasses (“my eyes!”), the flak jacket, now his head. Just because LT picked him up and dumped him on his head…and shoulder..

          Yes, I’m kidding. I’ve known too many guys with TBI from football and just from life, and it’s not funny or make-believe and it is full of consequences, none of them good. (But McMahon *was* fragile…)

    • RepubAnon

      I hate to joke about such a serious topic – but a bunch of Republicans coming out against the prevention of brain damage sounds like something George Carlin would have had fun with.

  • c u n d gulag

    Baseball, in recent years, is getting whiter and whiter.

    There aren’t as many black players as in years past. A lot of Hispanic, now too.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if more Conservatives started, or returned, to Baseball, since the NFL has a lot more black than MLB – if, IF, they can get over the brown furriners.

    Or, maybe Hockey.
    I’m sure not too many Conservatives are out there watching NBA games.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know. You may be mischaracterizing the interplay between race, sports, and conservative politics.

      Let me put it this way: Conservatives may be happy to watch the Kentucky Derby, but they don’t want the horses to vote.

      • c u n d gulag

        Yeah, but they’d gladly use the losers of the Derby to glue chad’s, if they’re ever used in an election again!

        • sparks

          Reminds me of when the County Fair circuit ran, I’d call it the Dogfood Circuit. Still, it was the only place where longshot hunches were consistently worth trying.

      • Warren Terra

        Heck, they don’t even necessarily want the jockeys to vote.

        • DrS

          Short people got
          No business livin

    • Linnaeus

      Or, maybe Hockey

      Hockey has too strong a Canadian influence (to put it mildly), which makes it socialist or something.

      • Warren Terra

        True. Remember, it’s the “National Hockey League”. The “Nation” in question is the True North Strong And Free, not the Home Of The Brave.

    • Hanspeter

      Hockey is full of Canadians and Russians. No way Conservatives will cheer for the damn Commies (for Putin on the other hand…)

      • c u n d gulag

        Our Conservatives would vote for Putin for POTUS in a nanosecond.
        They’ll probably settle for Ted Cruz-ader.

        • jake the snake

          I heard one Tea partier say that he would take Gorbachev
          over Obama any day, but he did not say anything about Putin.

      • Loob

        and worst of all Swedes and Finns

    • “Less black” doesn’t mean “whiter.” There are more Latinos, obviously, plus there are probably 50 or so Asians in the ML’s right now. And even the white players, more of them are coming in from Canada and even a few from Australia.

      Counting injured players, there were 79 players named to the AS teams this year. That included an Australian, two Canadians and two Japanese. Overall, if this is current, there are about 50 players from Canada, Australia and Asia currently in the Major Leagues. That’s around 7% of all MLB players, which is close to their representation in the AS game. According to this, the % of African-American players, which is now about 9%, never exceeded 19%. Since the % of Latin players is far, far higher today than the peak years of African-American players, combine that with the other trends, there’s certainly a smaller % of white American players, and maybe even a lower % of white players from all countries.

      • BTW, obviously I wrote the line about 50 Asians before I went and checked it. There are about 20 Asians.

    • Ann Outhouse


      Conservatism is joined at the hip (and spine and skull) to a very traditional view of masculinity which puts the warrior archetype on a pedestal. Guns, war and football are proxies for an idealized hypermasculinity which they themselves cannot achieve but which they long for.

      Hockey can be violent, but it’s not the right kind of violence.

      • efgoldman

        Hockey can be violent, but it’s not the right kind of violence.

        Right. Can y’all ‘magine good ole boy f’bawl fans puttin’ up with a “Lady Byng” Trophy? SheeYITT!

      • Anonymous

        Once the Left’s evil, unAmerican restrictions on Concealed Carry are overturned, it can be the Right Sort Of Violence … Stand Your Ground On Ice!

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Football playing (and fandom) has long been a culture-war shibboleth. It dates from before culture wars were even called culture wars (at least in this country).

    Think of the football helmets worn by Doonesbury’s BD or Jack Nicholson’s George Hanson in Easy Rider. It was no accident (as Marxists used to say) that Gov. Ross Barnett gave his defiant anti-desegregation “I Love Mississippi” speech, which helped encourage the riots in Oxford, MS, at an Ole Miss football game.

    Like so much else on the right these days, the focus on football is a recycled and repurposed bit of political theater from the past.

    • Davis X. Machina

      I blame Nixon. (But then, that usually works, doesn’t it?)

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Incidentally, one of my favorite Hunter S. Thompson bits is the moment at the beginning of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail in which he flashes back to ’68 and recounts his bizarre conversation with then-candidate Richard Nixon in which he and Tricky Dick bonded over pro football (to their apparently mutual surprise).

        • Mudge

          They were riding in a car. In New Hampshire, I think. That was one weird conversation.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Exactly. Despite his self-described status as the only “Peace Freak” in the press corps, Thompson gets chosen by Nixon to sit with him in his limo on his last ride through NH before the ’68 primary. Ray Price, Nixon’s press secretary, tells Thompson that there’s a catch: he can only talk about football with Nixon, who’s exhausted and needs a break from politics. Thompson, a huge NFL fan when that was a much rarer thing than it is today, assumed that Nixon “didn’t know any more about football than he did about ending the war in Vietnam.” To his great surprise, Nixon is very knowledgeable about the game.

    • Linnaeus

      Football playing (and fandom) has long been a culture-war shibboleth. It dates from before culture wars were even called culture wars (at least in this country).

      I’m reminded of the football game scene from Hearts and Minds, with the crowd and the coach yelling at his players.

    • Warren Terra

      The football helmet worn by Doonesbury’s BD isn’t some pure cultural indicator, it derives from his character having been created for a whole bunch of scenes set mostly in the huddle of the Yale football team.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        It’s more than that. B.D. was based on Brian Dowling, Trudeau’s Yale classmate and QB of the (relatively) great Yale teams of the late 1960s. But B.D. quickly became the cartoon’s resident conservative…and the football helmet never left his head.

        • Ian

          Not quite–when he lost his leg they took his helmet off.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’ve been looking for that Barnett speech on the intarwebs for years, thanks!

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Unfortunately, it’s not really the Barnett speech…just a newsreel that includes a very brief clip of it.

        • Scott Lemieux

          A slightly longer clip than is in Eyes On The Prize, I think, which I also would have settled for.

  • Derelict

    I’m stuck trying to figure out how anybody can be against preventing easily preventable injury. Pointing to declining rates of brain injuries among younger players as a justification for not taking action among professional players is just too, well, fucked up logic: The declining rate among younger players is due to the fact that we’re taking action at that level to reduce the incidence of brain injuries.

    Can these people be for real? Do they hand packs of cigarettes to their toddlers because doing so “pisses of liberals”? I can only hope they figure out that what REALLY pisses off liberals is when conservatives chew on live extension cords.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Jim Traber–who’s one of the dominant voices on sports-talk radio here in Oklahoma, a former MLB and college football player, a wingnut (he used to also host an explicitly political talk show), and an idiot–rails against concerns about brain injuries in football by claiming that people are attempting to “sissify” the game.

      Opposition to preventing brain injuries in football is wrapped up in a series of political and quasi-political concerns about masculinity that are easily exploited by people with vested interests in not doing anything about head injuries in football. At any rate, this is Kim du Toit territory (though, sadly, the epic “Pussification of the American Male” seems to have been taken off the interwebs by Mr. du Toit).

      • Mudge

        Early death due to brain injury also keeps ex-football players off the Medicare rolls. Win-win for the wingnuts.

        • Warren Terra

          Death by dementia is slow and expensive and requires a lot of care. You’re thinking of, say, cigarettes: keeps people happy and productive when young, kills them cheaply and quickly as they near retirement.

      • sparks

        Maybe du Toit will come back with a “Pussification of the Gridiron”

      • Brandon

        “They know the risks!”

        “Just give ’em flags and skirts!”

        “I want to see BLOOD!”

      • The Dark Avenger

        Here’s a good take-down of that essay:

        The duToitification of the Western Conservative

        I’m torn about Kim du Toit’s essay about, as I’ll put it, avoiding his gratuitous crudity, the wimpification of the Western male. I’m inclined to ignore it, since it’s unlikely that anyone who found the essay insightful will listen to anything I have to say about it; but du Toit is full of shit, and that, combined with the apparent popularity of the essay on the right wing of the web makes it hard to ignore. I’m torn about it also because there is, in fact, an important and true point in the essay. I’d put the point this way: we’re in danger of undervaluing virtues like courage and self-reliance that are traditionally thought of as masculine. Now, I’d add—though du Toit might not–that for almost all of human history we’ve done just the reverse, undervaluing virtues like kindness and cooperation that are traditionally thought of as feminine. So I see the problem of wimpification as a relatively minor, relatively recent and eminently correctable phenomenon, a predictable case of the pendulum swinging a bit too far in the other direction as we try to correct a bigger and more long-term problem. But I do agree with du Toit to some extent, and I do think that the threat of wimpification is worth discussing. That’s why it’s too bad that du Toit’s essay is such a piece of crap–the wimpification point gets lost in a torrent of bigotry, falsehoods, and right-wing fantasies.

        But du Toit’s essay is brilliant in a way he probably never intended—it’s a masterpiece of self-confirmation. His main thesis is that Western males are becoming wimps, and his essay itself proves that there is at least some truth in the thesis; never before in human history has there been so much puling and whining about such inconsequential irritations. Du Toit’s groundless blubbering is, in the end, itself a partial confirmation of his point. In fact, du Toit’s essay probably deserves to spawn a neologism: duToitification and its cognates. You become duToitified when you’ve got it so good that you lose all perspective on the world and as a result exaggerate minor unpleasantries into vexations of Biblican proportions. That is, you become an insufferable weenie.

    • Hogan

      It’s mildly intellectualized sadism. It’s good for you. Play with the pain. Walk it off. Pain is a sign of weakness leaving the body. Builds character.

      And somewhere farther down the road:

      I’ll give you something to cry about.

      • Linnaeus

        Also, there’s the implication that collective action can solve social problems, reduce risk for the individual, etc.

        • And, from my POV (which is that I teach a number of football players whose grades mysteriously don’t recover well after multiple concussions), there are two more currents:

          1) “Whaddaya need a brain, for, anyway?”


          2) “If I played and got crushed and turned out fine, you’ll be fine too.”

          • Hogan

            Oh how tired I am of the “I turned out fine” argument. YOU DID NOT FUCKING TURN OUT FINE.

            • efgoldman

              Junior Seau turned out fine. Dave Duerson and Steve Stonebreaker and Andre Watters, also too.
              I mentioned on another thread, TNC did a few very eloquent posts about how he, a lifetime NFL fan, couldn’t watch the game anymore.

              • Anonymous

                This. Football is an almost perfect television sport for me; I can’t keep up with Basketball, and Baseball bores me silly – but in Football there’s always something happening, except for the pauses when the TV crew can show me the replays from a couple of angles so I can figure out just whathappened. It’s the only sport I can enjoy watching, and I can’t because of the toll it exacts on the players. Torn ligaments and broken bones I can ignore; they happen or they don’t, and it’s out there in the open. But I can’t be a party to the slow, hidden destruction of players’ minds.

                • BobS

                  There’s not even close to “always something happening”- out of the 3 hours you spend in front of your television watching a football game, just 11 or 12 minutes is actual playtime.

      • sparks

        The glorification of players who continues playing after sustaining a serious injury, and denigration of those who don’t continue. This is one most sportswriters are guilty of.

    • CD

      The game is designed to injure. Injury is a key part of its popular culture. My junior high school celebrated “whomp ’em in the head day” to encourage its football team. I am not making this up.

    • Brien Jackson

      I’d venture a guess that a good deal of the backlash results from the extremely ham-fisted and illogical way Goodell is going about “changing the game.” I mean hell, even the players are pissed off about this.

      On the other hand, some of it is just a pure refusal to reconcile the need to protect players with the fact that they don’t want to see the game changed, hence you get old dudes super pissed off that kickoffs are going to be abolished pretty soon and that college football flags players for continuing to play if their helmet comes off.

  • somethingblue

    Following the publication of Boot’s essay, Flynn reached out to Rosen in a detailed email …

    Following that email, POLITICO reached out to Rosen, Boot, Rogers and Paula Keve …

    On Friday evening, prior to publication of this article, Boot reached out to POLITICO by phone …

    Hands …
    touching hands …
    reaching out …
    touching me …
    touching you …

    • I laughed.

      But probably tomorrow morning, when I wake up with that in my head, I’ll be cursing you.

    • JustRuss

      Thank you. My current pet peeve. ‘Twere I king, “reaching out” would be banished unless one is referring to trapeze artists.

  • Shakezula

    It’s a reboot of the RW narrative on soldiers. It was un-American to suggest it sucked soldiers in combat weren’t given body armor or reinforced vehicles. It is un-American to suggest fball players be given proper medical treatment.

    And of course it is (another) vast leftist plot to make sure athletes can continue to play for more that a few seasons. And of course the crap weasels squealing about the Nanny State will never, ever tell a player they’re better off with brain injuries and it is in fact their duty as Americans to receive one.



  • William Burns

    I really wish people would stop linking to the second page of multi-page articles.

    • Anonymous

      I’m with you, but I really wish websites would stop splitting articles across pages.

      While I’m at t, I adore the writing of Charles Pierce, but everyone involved in the creation of the Esquire website needs to be painfully if ultimately harmlessly subjected to public humiliation for a period of some weeks.

  • McKingford

    consists of these researchers in Boston and other assorted grant-grubbing academics

    I just wanted to comment on this notion you commonly see paraded in right-wing circles, because it shows how completely out of touch they are with academia; you see it most often in reference to climate research.

    In their world, these grant-grubbing researchers are padding their pockets, buying Swiss villas and adding to their car collection (because this is how things work with wingnut welfare). The truth, of course, is that if you are an academic and get grant money, you don’t get richer, you don’t increase your salary. You simply hire researchers! The money gets plowed back into…research! What a scam!

    • Mike G

      I love the retarded “follow the money” logic of conservatives, that anthopogenic climate change is driven by scientists’ greed for research grants. I guess it reflects their own proclivity for profitable scams.

      So who has more money at stake, and hence more motivation to skew the debate over climate change — climate scientists on one hand; or the worldwide oil and gas industry, motor vehicle manufacturers and electric utilities?

      • I’m not sure the word “retarded” is appropriate here.

    • Bill Murray

      actually tenure track/tenured professors doing research often do increase their salary. I know I use my research grants to pay me salary in the summer, when the glorious citizens of South Dakota do not pay me. I also pay other researchers and buy equipment etc., but i do get paid. When i was a research scientist, however, my grants paid my 12 month salary

      • McKingford

        Lemme understand this: you work longer and harder and get paid more? Sounds like a scam!

    • Pseudonym

      And the grant-grubbing researchers are continually in opposition to the poor, virtuous team owners who make up the NFL.

      • Anonymous

        As the team owners never tire of telling us, touchingly if perhaps not truthfully, they lose money on their teams … For the love of the ame and their community!

    • cpinva

      “The money gets plowed back into…research! What a scam!”

      because pretty much the entire rightwing is a scam, they quite naturally assume everyone else is grifting as well. the possibility that someone may actually be doing something sincerely, would just never cross their minds.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I would be happy if we could just stop all the militant patriotism in sports, all sports, all the time. Why does there have to be an honor guard or whatever at every goddamned game? Why do we have to Bless America and get manhandled by armed goons if we don’t?

    • Stag Party Palin

      Plus (infinity x infinity) + 1!! If I were a professional baseball player (or popcorn vendor for that matter) I would go insane before the 4th of July. And what about honor guards on the 16th green of several golf tournaments? Fuck. Let’s honor the soldiers by giving them free beer for a day instead of adequate rehab.

      I guess a nation of bedwetters needs repeated interventions to keep it from lapsing into permanent coma.

    • efgoldman

      Why do we have to Bless America and get manhandled by armed goons if we don’t?

      I hadn’t heard about this before, even though it was several years ago. What was the final upshot? Did he sue? Did he win? I know the NYPD never apologizes for anything…

      • Bitter Scribe

        The Yankees settled for $10,000 (plus $12,000 for his lawyers) without admitting wrongdoing.

        • Bitter Scribe

          Oh, and he got to go on Colbert.

      • J R in WV

        I was taken into custody once for not standing up for the national anthem – it was being played while film of military jets bombing third world villages into rubble, and I couldn’t stand up for that.

        Master at Arms took me to the OOD…

        Didn’t amount to anything, but pretty scary when you’re 19!

  • Mike G

    Shorter conservatives:
    The football concussion problem doesn’t really exist, anyway it’s getting better, and you’re a pussy communist for mentioning it.

  • herr doktor bimler

    Does no-one play Rollerball these days?

  • Pingback: That Sweet, Sweet Wingnut Welfare - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

It is main inner container footer text