Saturday Selects: Ali

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the first Saturday of each month to discuss something outside the general bookish theme of the blog. Today’s topic is Muhammad Ali.

He died last night, which I’d been expecting for a few days. Too many vague statements about his health situation. There’s been an outpouring of support in the hours since the news broke. Many people have been praising Ali the boxer while others praise Ali the humanitarian.

But for me it all comes down to one thing. The boxing doesn’t matter and the humanitarian efforts only came after his career was over. I’ve looked up to him for neither. But I’ve looked up to him for speaking out against war and the military draft. He gave millions of people a voice by standing up and sticking to his beliefs. He did something that we now take for granted. Imagine if every person who spoke out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was suddenly unable to find work for more than three years. That would leave us with no presidential candidates left.

Ali has been great on several fronts, but what I appreciate the most is his unrelenting resolve to stand up for what he believed in. We could all take a page from him in that regard.

Rest easy, champ.

Saturday Selects #21: My problem with football

There isn’t enough being done to make the sport safer. I couldn’t be more blunt and straightforward.

Let me give you a little background here. It is all but certain that I know more about football and sports in general than you do. I love sports. If I could live a life entirely surrounded by sports I would. I do my best to live that life now.

The Houston Texans debuted in 2002. They’ve been my favorite sports team since that first game. But my favorite sport has always been baseball.

Back to the topic. Injuries happen in all sports. That’s the first thing people say when I bring up the safety of football. But baseball players suffer mostly from shoulder injuries. And of course knees are torn up and legs even broken. All very serious in nature, absolutely. But none life threatening. Basketball players often suffer injuries to their lower bodies and although quite serious, still not life threatening.

Then someone will bring up how hockey players have blades on their feet and a puck that often does some real damage, and hard collisions that are rarely matched in any other setting, besides football. But still, with the even more serious nature of the injuries sustained by hockey players I’ve never heard of a player dying because of what happened on the ice. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

But then we get to football. We have these analysts who are often former players talking about how the game isn’t played the way it used to be. And how it’s becoming more soft. As a longtime fan of the sport, this is outrageous to me. We’ve had former NFL players commit suicide due to the head trauma they endured. We’ve had them kill other people.

There is no injury that hasn’t happened on the football field, except for a player actually dying right there. Broken necks. Torn ACLs. Broken arms. Broken legs. Collapsed lungs. Torn Achilles. Broken collarbones. Concussion after concussion after concussion. It’s all routine now. And everyone uses the excuse that the players are rich and know what they sign up for. But using someone’s salary as a means to justify very real health concerns is a damn joke.

Because I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of all of this. It isn’t from the NFL or NCAA levels of play. It’s from high school. Eight players have died this year as a result of football-related injuries. Eight. Eight high school kids. And that number is right in line with the average number of football-related deaths in each of the last few years.

How has it become acceptable for kids to die playing a game that is utterly meaningless? To me, if one player had died this year it would be too many. The number should be zero. But no one seems to care.

The thing about it is that I’ve played football. And I’m near certain that I suffered at least one concussion during my playing time. And guess what happened immediately afterward? I got up feeling very dizzy and my coaches and teammates were fired up because of my “big hit”. I could barely get back to the bench. And it’s on me for not saying anything. Absolutely.

But there are kids playing football at the high school level who shouldn’t be. They’re too small, not strong enough, or just lack the skill set needed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But these kids are at great danger when they enter games. They might go in thinking they’ve got something to prove or that they aren’t good enough, and that’s how injuries happen.

I understand that the NFL doesn’t oversee every school district or youth football league. But they have a duty to every player playing football today to do whatever they can to keep them safe. Whether that be through seminars or coaching clinics or TV ads promoting safety on the field. In my opinion, enough is not currently being done and kids are dying every single year. It’s unacceptable. And I’m sick of it.

In years past I’d watch every Texans, Sunday night, and Monday Night Football game. But no longer will that be the case. I will continue to watch the Texans through the end of the season, but I will not watch any other games. If the NFL isn’t willing to address legitimate safety concerns, then I’m not willing to watch.

FYI: I also don’t watch UFC or boxing because I find it quite difficult to see how either can be legal in today’s modern society.

Characters and Their Sports

I’m not talking about characters and their favorite sports to watch, I’m talking about characters and the sports they’ve played at some point in the past. I know not every genre does this, but it seems just about every detective novel I read the MC has played a particular sport at a younger age. I don’t see anything wrong with this, but I’m wondering if it’s just what I read or if it’s a bigger thing.

The two sports I know some of my favorite characters have played/participated in are baseball and boxing. I can think of one character who was a minor league baseball player until injury ended his career. And another character who was the top amateur boxer in his state. Maybe you’ve even read or written a character who still plays a particular sport? I haven’t seen that because after all, how many people are still playing a sport after being done with school.

Have you read or written characters who have played sports?