Football, Concussions, and the President

President Obama’s interview with Franklin Foer and Chris Hughes in The New Republic has attracted a lot of attention for comments the President made about working with Republicans and proposed gun control legislation, but the most interesting segment of the interview for me was a one-off question on what Obama thinks of emerging consensus that professional football poses a permanent risk of brain damage for its athletes:

FF: Sticking with the culture of violence, but on a much less dramatic scale: I’m wondering if you, as a fan, take less pleasure in watching football, knowing the impact that the game takes on its players.

[Obama:] I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.

I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies. You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.

This is something of a stunning answer for how well it mirrors my own evolving feelings about football.  I played football for over eight years at the youth and high school level, and made it through a grueling pre-season of collegiate practices before dislocating my knee for a second time and calling it quits.  I knew several players who struggled with concussions, and as was the case at the time, coaches encouraged players to snap out of it or take a day off before getting back out there.  Concussions were seen as a temporary injury, like getting the wind knocked out of you.  Today, medical science tells us that this was a very wrong assumption.

I love the sport of football, but as a former participant and current fan, I am pretty alarmed by the NFL’s lack of responsibility over this issue.  Clearly, players are suffering – if not while in the direct spotlight of their career on the field, then certainly in its aftermath.  This is a multi-million dollar industry that seems to understand the risk into which it puts its employees, and neglects to do anything about it.  This makes it very hard to be as passionate a fan of football as I once was.  I find myself, like the President, hoping that the football played in the future is a little less exciting and a little more safe.  It will make it easier to grapple with the moral culpability of cheering violence on the field, and will also make the decision about allowing a future child to play the sport a little less terrifying.

Guns in America

This isn’t a trick in the “Florida or Ohio” game, this one is just from Virginia:

An unidentified 22-year-old man carrying a loaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday was questioned and released by police at the  Kroger at  Hydraulic Road and Emmet Street.

Charlottesville police Lt. Ronnie Roberts said the man did not break any laws. Since he legally owned the rifle and it was not concealed, he was within his rights, Roberts said.

[….]

Shopper Monica Green said she fled the store and called 911 after she saw the man. Green said she warned people in the parking lot not to enter the store.

Totally crazy, but totally legal.  This is what the gun control debate is about – not the right to bear arms, but the right to incite mass panic (or worse) by being sick and loaded.

Jam of the Week

As those who know me already know, I’m a bit of a new music snob enthusiast, and compulsively curate playlists of new finds and old favorites on Spotify.  I also frequently stream music from turntable.fm an online radio format that caters to music discovery and new artist promotion.  This twin obsession leads me to hear a lot of music released each year, and I always feel compelled to rank or sort it at the end of the year for a list of bests.  However, my memory isn’t always great, and the task of identifying and sorting a year’s worth of gems at the end is pretty daunting.  So I’ve begun curating cumulative playlists of my favorites as I find them – hence, I’ve already created two Best of 2013 playlists (tracks and albums separately) though we’re not even clear of January.

To highlight some of the gems within the gems, I’m going to start posting my favorite new addition each week using this fancy Spotify embed widget.

My jam this week is Jessie Ware’s “If You’re Never Gonna Move”.  Fans of the sentimentality or lyrical message of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” may find this a musical spiritual animal as well, as Ware describes a love off the dance floor who she’ll slowly dance toward to attract attention.  It’s a sexy slow-jam version of the Robyn tune, but no less infectious. Check it out.

First Listen: The Joy Formidable – ‘Wolf’s Law’

Rolling Stone has a sneak preview of the new The Joy Formidable album streaming on their website.  As a big fan of the Welsh rock band’s first release, 2011’s The Big Roar, I’ve looked forward to this release for some time.  The band played a benefit concert at a church in D.C. this past November and debuted a few of the new tracks on stage, but I’ve been waiting to hear how they sound on tape.

Well, the wait is over and they sound pretty great. Continue reading

Washington’s Petite Bourgeoisie

“Washington, though, has become an increasingly two-class town. About a third of households make less than $60,000 a year, while around 45 percent make more than $100,000 a year. Relatively few are what might be traditionally considered middle class.

Perhaps that, more than anything, explains the appearance of the new gilded-age Washington, which is less about wealth than it is about the growth of one of the most ascendant petite bourgeoisies that the United States has known. In the five years since I moved to the city, the transformation has been visible, palpable and sometimes astonishing. Washington has become a place that sports a decent turnover in multimillion-dollar homes, a Tesla dealership and a dozen fabulous new restaurants a year. You can even purchase a $69 tasting menu of craft cocktails at a speakeasy, if that’s your thing.”

This from a recent New York Times Magazine feature on the booming economy in metropolitan Washington, DC.  I know exactly which bar the tasting menu references, and while I’m glad that it exists I understand that the influx of money into this area in the past 12 years has changed the local culture – and class groups – present in the District itself.  Gentrification and re-development of an area with a rich historical tradition is a touchy subject, but I do think that what is happening in Washington is good for the residents able to stay here.  Violent crime is the lowest it has been in years, neighborhoods once filled with abandoned properties now feature sidewalk cafes and luxury condo units, and I can think of at least 5 Spanish Tapas restaurants to try.  Lowrey offers some evidence that growth may slow in the coming years, but even muted growth is growth.

Django Unchained and the Morality of Revenge

Blood on cotton.

Note: Some plot spoilers follow.

Let me first start with the obvious: Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a remarkable feat, stunning both in composition and execution.  The narrative is compelling, the acting is superb, and many of the shots are stunningly beautiful.  Any fan of film – whether spaghetti westerns, coming of age narratives, action movies, or period pieces – should see this movie.  It is a tremendous visual achievement, and will no doubt be short-listed for a wide variety of Oscar categories.

That said, it is a challenging film, and one that I spent a good deal of time thinking and reading about in the day since I’ve seen it, trying to put a finger on why it is so discomfiting. Continue reading

Resolved

For the past ten years, I’ve made several commitments to writing online.  These sporadic periods of inspiration have resulted in a number of short-lived weblogs and journals on providers like LiveJournal, Blogspot, Tumblr, and WordPress, chronicling my whims and interests through periods of late-teenage angst, college-age superiority complexes, and most recently, semi-anonymous musings on politics and pop culture.

My most recent endeavor involved music reviews of records released in 2012 – music being a topic often on my mind and the search for exciting new releases a fairly significant hobby and source of pleasure in my daily life.  Like previous efforts at prolonged content-production, this effort eventually waned and my site fell dark.

Despite these aborted attempts and scattered directions, I miss writing.  I find it therapeutic, relaxing, and ultimately, a rewarding experience if only because it forces me to grapple ideas into a form with structure and inherent logic.  I still have a wide array of passions and interests, so those that stumble upon this site can probably expect a scattering of posts related to film, books, international affairs and globalization, baseball, urban development, indie music, food and local news, reluctant wedding planning (itself a new development in my life), and snippets of interesting commentary or other things from various corners of the internet.  I’m a pretty avid consumer of information and pop culture, and I enjoy highlighting the most engaging things I find.

So if you’ve happened upon this site and this post, I hope that you’ll come back again.  Because I’ve resolved that I’ll still be writing.

In the meantime, you can find my most recent online writing at The New Millennial here.  And probably some periodic music reviews for Indie Bloops and Bleeps here.  And I’ll always be on Twitter here.