This time the warning note came from a tough guy who once epitomized every macho stereotype about the NFL. A man who couldn’t be dragged off the field – who still holds the record for the most consecutive NFL starts at 297.
This week, Brett Favre told the “Today Show” that, if he had a son, he would question whether that boy should play football.
“I would be real leery of him playing,” said Favre, who has two daughters. “I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face. Also, the physical toll that it could possibly take on him.”
This is the latest in the NFL’s ongoing nightmare: one of its greatest legends doubting the safety of the game. Favre also has revealed that – at 44 – he has huge lapses in his memory. Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett recently was diagnosed with brain disease at 59.
These developments coincide with news that Pop Warner had nationwide participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010 and 2012. Pop Warner lost more than 23,000 players, the largest decline since the organization began keeping statistics.
That tracks with other numbers. According to reports, sales of football equipment are down 17.5 percent sine 2008. High school-participation numbers are dropping, too.
No one expects the NFL, a $35 billion business, to wither and die. It is America’s most popular game, the world’s most powerful sports league.
But Favre’s comments – and the statistics that show he’s not alone in his feelings – are canaries in the coal mine. Troubling signs about the grassroots level of the game and its future.
–Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle
Garrett Safron plans to become a firefighter when he grows up, unless, of course, he never grows up.
A walk-on three years ago at Sacramento State, Safron would love to play games for a living. If scouts from the NFL or Canadian Football League tempt him with a tryout after he graduates, the junior quarterback would pack his bags and sprint to the nearest airline ticket counter. On those occasions when he allows his mind to wander, when reality and dreams converge, he goes through his reads like every other quarterback.
Today, he savors his recent record-smashing performance against Portland State. Saturday, he envisions a Hornets victory over rival UC Davis in the 60th Causeway Classic. Next season, he sees himself transforming a program still awaiting that breakthrough moment, that extended series of wins that elevates the Hornets into the Big Sky Conference elite.
“There were some games we could have won,” Safron said this week, “but we made too many mistakes. Hopefully, we don’t make any big mistakes (Saturday).”
While their record (5-6, 4-3) has relegated the Hornets to another mid-pack finish, there has been nothing mediocre about their quarterback. Safron hasn’t merely exceeded expectations, he has obliterated them, setting school records and directing the most dynamic offense since the days of Ricky Ray and Charles Roberts, both of whom went on to star in the CFL.
–Ailene Voison, Sacramento Bee
Michael Weiner was the focus of only the occasional personality profile in his roles as a labor lawyer and head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. But writers in search of a human interest angle invariably headed in one of two directions: His fondness for Bruce Springsteen, or his lifelong allegiance to Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
A New Jersey boy to the core, Weiner found something magical and magnetic in the Boss’ melodies and lyrics — from the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets to barefoot girls sitting on the hoods of Dodges, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain. Yes, he represented millionaire Lexus and BMW drivers as head of the most successful and effective union in sports. But he did so with blue-collar sensibilities, minimal ego and perspective in abundance.
The shoes were no-frills and built for comfort, just like the man who wore them. Weiner kept a suit and tie handy for special occasions, but his work attire generally consisted of the white high-top Chuck Taylor sneakers, jeans, short-sleeved polo shirts and “hair by pillow,” as his players’ union colleagues jokingly referred to it. B.B. Abbott, the representative for Chipper Jones and numerous other big leaguers, once observed that Weiner “single-handedly dressed down” the annual baseball agent meetings.
That lack of concern with the superficial served Weiner well in the latter stages of his life. When he lost his hair to radiation and his face was puffy and sallow from chemotherapy to treat his brain cancer, he wasn’t the least bit self-conscious.
“You know me,” Weiner told me during an interview in November 2012. “I’ve never been a big appearance guy.”
Weiner, heir to the Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr legacies as the MLBPA’s executive director, died on Thursday after a long and courageous fight. He left behind a devoted wife, three loving daughters and scores of players, agents, media members, club and MLB personnel, and Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey Sunday school students who will feel the pain of his absence in ways too profound to contemplate.
From the moment Weiner experienced a mysterious numbness in his right side while walking from New York’s Penn Station to the players’ association offices in July 2012, his life took a sad-yet-inspirational twist. After a battery of tests revealed the presence of an inoperable tumor, the clock began ticking and he knew his days were numbered. Logic says that his family, friends and co-workers would buoy his spirits while he lamented his fate. But Weiner flipped the equation on its side; while the people closest to him struggled to accept the worst-case scenario, he lifted their spirits with his energy, commitment and positive attitude.
–Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com