Fighting the Popular Narrative: Concussions (NFL) & Steroids (MLB)

Two of San Francisco’s most popular athletes — Barry Bonds (steroids), and Steve Young (concussions) have had to go through a lot before and maybe for Young in the future, after their playing careers

For your reference, I will probably be referring to these two pieces on concussions and on steroids. Both of these pieces will take some time to read, but don’t worry, this article will still be here when you finish.

It is not often — check that — this is the first time I’m writing about football at all, but it comes at the price of writing about baseball, which I’m totally cool with. I also write about it because there are these narratives that hang over society like the sun in those movies when the characters are in a desert, or like a white flag over a French militia (sorry, France, that’s an outdated stereotype). I feel that the popular opinion, when we talk about steroids in baseball and concussions in football are the following:

Steroids: CHEATER! YOU CHEAT! DIE! … And then they reenact that Monty Python’s Holy Grail seen where the villagers call to burn the witch.

BURRRNNNNN HER!

Concussion-related preventative acts: THAT’S NOT FOOTBALL! IF YOU WANT TO PLAY TOUCH FOOTBALL GO TO YOUR BACKYARD, YOU SISSY-WILLY-NILLY-WAMSY-PANSY.

Not really football, I guess

These narratives suck, mostly because they’re based on these very weak platforms that people think are made of gold, but instead you find the gold paint scratches off and find out that those arguments make the arguer look like an idiot to people that have read things that incorporate research.

Want to talk about football? Ok. Helmet- or Body part-to-Helmet collisions, or even the now hard hits on “defenseless receivers?” If you’ve read, you know about how bad it can be for children, and then some of the damage it’s even done on retired professionals who had been playing football — some of them for all of their life. If you’re a parent and you love football, why do you risk your child’s (I’m talking before high school here) brain at that intensity from an early age when you know the risk as well as how their brains are developing? Now, are those big hits exciting in the moment when you’re watching the NCAA or the NFL action? They definitely can be, yes. Are they going to hurt everyone every time? Maybe not, but there’s a lot of hard hitting these guys in football have been going through since high school at the least. I understand that you don’t escape to watch football so you can care about the athletes on the field, you want to watch your team, or your players, or if you actually can transcend all that and just love the sport itself, you watch for the passion that you have for the game. Problem is, these athletes live on after your affair with the television or after when your head is held high/low as you walk out of the gates from the stadium. This applies to any other sport as well, but we as a people are very selfish — we want to be entertained, and we don’t want their problems, or really want to care about them. Well, that’s a shame, because as more people are getting rights (and rightfully so), so will players to get a chance to live their lives after their careers, and people (this includes the money-makers in the business) will have to get over that to a degree. People are scared football “will never be the same” with all those acts. I’m sure when those players’ kids and grandkids still have their father/grandfather around and in a relatively normal state of mind, they’ll be OK with that.

Removing the shoulder pads and busting out the bats, fans of the sport of baseball have had an issue with steroids for over a decade now and for an array of reasons supported by a narrative that doesn’t die, there are a bunch of people standing on a pedestal looking as silly as the people once did when they claimed the world was flat. If you read the article, you already know what I’m talking about, and it’s not like this guy just makes these things up with guesses and nonsense, but with scientific research like with the work Dr. Ann McKee does with the brains for those that have gone through careers in football, boxing, etc., but obviously with steroids and baseball-related research. People say things like “People in Hank Aaron’s day never did that PED stuff!” Wrong — “greenies” (amphetamines). “Well, steroids affect their power!” Mostly wrong again for a variety of reasons including what steroids primarily work (upper body) and what really supplies the power for the swing of a batter (the lower body), the extra power gained on a batted ball (~45 inches of distance), and the “spliced power factor” the author went through so nicely for us to talk about “But the numbers!” Yea, I refer you back to said data. “Ok, but it’s unnatural, ha-HA!” Well, so are cortisone shots, greenies, laser eye surgery, and basically anything made by modern technology if you want to define what’s “natural” that’s used today. Then it’ll be “But the kids!” Yea, research doesn’t back kids using it because of athletes, either, so you’re running out of material there, boss. “The Mitchell Report said though…” Yea, the Mitchell Report was a lot of interviews led by a man who knew what was going on in the end, had the opportunity to bring some truth to the public AND the had knowledge of what was up, but why in the heck would MLB OR the federal government want to hear, “Yea, steroids are OK as long as you don’t abuse them like any other drug” and for the most part, the ones that abuse them are more likely to be the bodybuilders so they can get that… unique physique of theirs. If MLB also didn’t get some sort of drug-testing going, Congress was breathing down their necks to open their books, and if you’re MLB, do you want Mitchell reporting that the drugs are A-OK to a Congress that refused to listen to experts on the subject, anyway? No way, so you can understand MLB’s position, although they did miss a golden opportunity to enlighten some of the people the preach the narrative. Oh, and how could I forget the good ol’ “side effects” narrative? If you’ve read the article, you know most of the side effects of steroids are just as prevalent as compared with other medication, however, cholesterol count and the enlarging of the breasts for males are recognized as very real possibilities, and the latter being tough to reverse.

People feel safe in their narratives, I can comprehend that. People don’t like to read stuff that’s contrary to their views, OK. People don’t like to read, don’t worry, I know… it took me a lot of time to read both of those articles, and it didn’t help that the TV was on. Point is, we as sports fans can be better than the general public until they catch up, or until there’s better research that comes out that maybe shuts down this whole article. We can be better than some of the national media that is stupid enough to keep blowing through their saxophones the same old tune of ignorance. Vacate wins because of one player that plays on a team of 25 or 60? Hogwash. And really that is a whole ‘nother issue, but there are a lot of people doing their best to think of solutions to a problem that could be so much less of one if they only took some time to think for themselves, think about others, and read the research.

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