I still haven’t found a great way to be critical of this new wave of talk about how the NFL is dealing with concussions, but I find all the discussion a bit condescending. Temporary brain damage could lead to permanent brain damage? Who knew?
The only substantive thing that we’ve heard is that the NFL and the Players were “close” to a deal. Right now, there is no deal, meaning that would be no league-mandated framework that would have precluded Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from playing. Interesting that it was Roethisberger’s concussion and not, say, the one that Eagles running back Brian Westbrook suffered in Week 7, that prompted ESPN’s foray into Head Trauma 101, including a interview with Hines Ward, who was critical of Roethlisberger sitting out after participating in practice for most of the week. Ward, who has played with a concussion in the past, said the Steelers locker room was “fifty-fifty” on whether Ben should play.
Ward was rewarded for his candor by being labeled as “uneducated” on the “new learning,” as if concussions were now more dangerous than they were five weeks ago. Leading the charge has been Merril Hoge, the former Steeler who’s now trumpeting himself head trauma’s cautionary tale. I lost my vision. I almost died. Awesome, I guess. Hoge retired after multiple concussions in 1994. Hoge has worked for ESPN since 2007…so why bare his soul on-camera now?
Part of it, to me, seems like that ESPN is just kissing Roethlisberger’s ass again. Remember that ESPN sat on the story involving Roethlisberger being named in a Nevada civil suit. Could it be that ESPN is overly defending Big Ben to keep him from looking like more of a Big Gash? And if a new NFL policy was already in place before Ben was bumped, why was nobody (including Hines Ward, his own teammate) not aware of it? Surely the “new learning” would have been absorbed by the players before any of them wound up on a stretcher.
Why would ESPN make the effort to hammer home something that’s so obvious to everyone? The whole thing just stinks. But the irony is that the midst of all this, another NFL quarterback, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, had to leave Sunday’s game with turf toe. Why don’t you testify to Congress on that, Merril?