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December 02, 2012

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I think it's important to distinguish between sports as a participant and as an audience. Participating in sports is not only valuable as a form of exercise; it can also be a valuable part of the educational mission of schools. Team sports are obviously a way of teaching kids about the importance of cooperation and teamwork in achieving something no single member can do as an individual. And any sport can teach about setting goals, designing a realistic path to achieving them, and putting the time and effort needed into follow that plan. Those are really important life lessons, and there are plenty of kids who pick them up from sports when they don't from regular classes. I feel that I learned more about hard work and persistence from sports, which were always a challenge for me, than from academics, which were often easy enough to be boring.

Sports as an audience really is more about artificial tribalism than anything else. If you believe that tribalism is learned, I can see that you'd see sports fandom as a malign influence, teaching people all those negative lessons about subordination to leadership and devotion to the tribe over the general good. OTOH, if you see tribalism as a basic part of human nature, sports may be more benign, with the potential to substitute an artificial and meaningless tribe for potentially more dangerous ones.

Chomsky seems to want us to live a rather joyless life. After all, what he says about sports,

For one thing because it -- you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about -- [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues.

could also be said about movies, music, theater, and so on. If he includes participation, then the indictment reaches further. I don't think I buy this.

I think it's important to distinguish between sports as a participant and as an audience.

That's a very good point. Sitting on your ass watching football does not actually give you a longer life.

Participating in sports is not only valuable as a form of exercise; it can also be a valuable part of the educational mission of schools.

If we're talking about a division 3 school, then sure. But if we're talking about a big-time division 1 football/basketball program, then no. There's nothing educational about those programs: they're just engaging in tax evasion and horrific labor law violations.

If Harvard decided to buy a pro-football team (and they could definitely afford it) and then pay the players $40K/year, we'd all understand perfectly well what was happening: they'd be screwing over their employees and abusing their tax free status as an educational institution to make tons of money. But since they scream "amateurism" that makes it OK I guess.

After all, what he says about sports, could also be said about movies, music, theater, and so on.

I don't know about that; people seem to devote a lot more time and energy to sports-watching than they do to movies, music, theater, etc. Obviously there are some die-hard folks completely obsessed with movies or music, but they're not catered to nearly as much in our culture; compare the amount of air time given to sports on TV versus movies or music or theater for example. Or column-inches for newspapers. There are plenty of sports bars, but not so many movie bars.

RE: Turbulence.
Movie bars? I think they're called movie theaters.

There are movie theaters now that serve drinks.

It's a wonder that more of them don't turn into shooting ranges mid-flick.

I went to a movie and a 3-D firing squad broke out in surround sound with special effects blood all over my shirt and everything. I thought the ambulance trip to the hospital was a part of the movie too.

I'm thinking lj's observation that football is more of a spectacle now (with exhibitionist praying too to leaven the concussions) a la wrestling is on to something happening to the wider culture with the intersection of media, money, and this curious American (others too, but we seem to take it to sociopathic depths) obsession with winners and losers and ranking and judging and dominating and now humiliating and dissing the losers.

The home-run steroid deal in baseball back in the mid-1990s and until recently was a market phenomenon much like the money shot in porn.

Other sports succumb to it too, but the curious case of the Food Channel being converted from an instructional entertainment wherein real chefs kind of show us how to prepare a dish into sharply time-limited gladiator competitions (the pantries and refrigerators located far off set so the chefs, some of them roomy in the hips, running, colliding, and struggling over ingredients) and the bizarre ingredients (snail slime extract, birds of a feather - with feathers - , a hot dog, candy corn, and a giant cassava root from northern BORNEO) interspliced with the contestants dissing each other and then the music modulated to darkly minor keys as the judges spit the food on the floor and tell the chef he or she can go clean the restrooms now, not to mention the shamefaced Trump-walk back to the Green for Envy Room caught on film by a backwards-walking cameraman.

Reality, baby.

Is it any wonder Linda McMahon has run for national office twice?

We would have daily body slams and unauthorized tag teams on the Senate Floor with CSpan featuring Congressman wearing Speedos going eye-to-eye at the weigh-in with, God help us, a scuffle breaking out before the main event filibuster.

It's right around the corner.

Because the market speaks.

I speak too.

F"ck you, market!

We subsidize the spectacle without knowing it and whether we like it or not.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/12/sports-tax-everyone-pays

I think it's utterly absurd that we pay adults good money to play children's games. I think it's beyond absurd that we tax people to subsidize it.

But I do wonder if our government would survive the end of the circuses; Would bread alone be enough?

"We would have daily body slams and unauthorized tag teams on the Senate Floor"

Al Franken IS in the Senate now, isn't he...

Those bench players and relief pitchers could be turning out precision-machined parts while they cool their heels waiting to get into the game.

It used to be children manning the machines and adults reaping the reward before government got in the way.

Now, children sit on their butts, some adults get paid billions to play children's games and adult machinists are offered, in the case we're discussing here, $10 bucks per hour to do what children might do for $3 per hour.

It's absurd all right.

Nothing we can do about it though.

re Al Franken, you elect "business" people like Linda McMahon and I'll elect comedians like Andy Kaufmann and we'll wonder if the neck braces are part of the show or ... what?

;)

The Citizen Legislature.


I had in mind a discussion of the things that makes one sport popular and another sport not, but I don't have anyone to blame for the fact that we are talking about the validity of pro sports in general but me.

Now, this isn't dismissing anything anyone has said, but a little pushback on the notion that sports is about tribalism. Roger notes that it may substitute for other forms of tribalism that may be actively harmful, which I think is true, but people dressing to the nines for an orchestra concert (or alternatively, dressing down for a grunge concert) seems to indicate that tribalism is shot thru any kind of mass gathering. Turb also notes that there are people who do absolutely who exercise vicariously thru watching sports, surely the worst of both worlds. But part of the thing about sports events is that people in general want events that allow them to share a feeling with other people. 2-1, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded and the grizzled veteran, or the rookie sensation, or even the player who just got called up, you have a situation that almost demands that you share the feelings of others (if you thought baseball was a crock, you probably wouldn't be there or have the set on in the first place)

Russell has often said he doesn't understand why people like sports, and I've always wanted to try and explain my love for them, but in a deep sense, it is irrational and therefore inexplicable. But going to a concert and having a piece played like you've never heard it before, or even walking by a street performer and hearing a lick that makes you stop and say 'wow!' partakes of the same feeling, and organizing these experiences so that feeling can be shared is a lot of the apparatus not only of modern sports, but all entertainment. That modernity or capitalism or whatever you want to call it finds a way to package it and make a profit out of it shouldn't really make sports the guilty party, I think that any kind of human striving can be packaged in a way that monetizes it (I always thought that the ABC show that pitted people from different sports doing athletic events was the precursor to shows like Survivor and trying to google the name of that show, I came across Battle of the Network Stars. The future was staring us in the face)

In the 1930s and 40' horse racing and boxing were the most popular sports in America. Some race horses achieved star status equivalent to Michael Jordan.

@Turbulence: If we're talking about a division 3 school, then sure.

I was thinking more about high school, which Chomsky referenced in his quote. I think that's about the level in sports where there starts to be an emphasis on sports as a spectacle for anyone beyond the families of the participants. I'd even say that it's the level where the kind of thing Chomsky is talking about is the most significant. Children are forced to attend school, and in many secondary schools they're coerced into being fans of the school team through things like pep rallies*. Primary schools don't usually make such a big deal about sports, and colleges are both voluntary and varied, so students who don't care about sports can choose a school that doesn't emphasize them. Professional sports fandom is voluntary, even if, as some posters have pointed out above, financial support of the local team isn't.

In terms of popularity, I wouldn't count football out. It's still the biggest sport in terms of revenue, and I see no evidence that questions about the damage it does to players are having much effect on its popularity. I fully expect football to finesse the issue in much the same way they've avoided most of the serious fallout from PED abuse that rightly should have come their way. They'll pretend to take the issue seriously, institute some rule changes to try to mitigate the most obvious parts of the problem, and declare that the problem is now solved. The media, which love football revenue, will happily repeat their claims that everything is fine and ignore future complaints about traumatic brain injury no matter how much evidence surfaces.

*My impression from talking to my parents is that the coercive aspect of school sports fandom may have been at its peak in the post-War years when Chomsky was in school. Some of the stories they've told me sure sound like the kind of thing that would discourage an interest in sports in anyone who wasn't already excited about it.

Turbulence,

people seem to devote a lot more time and energy to sports-watching than they do to movies, music, theater, etc. Obviously there are some die-hard folks completely obsessed with movies or music, but they're not catered to nearly as much in our culture; compare the amount of air time given to sports on TV versus movies or music or theater for example. Or column-inches for newspapers. There are plenty of sports bars, but not so many movie bars.

All true, but I don't think it changes the point. Chomsky's screed doesn't seem to allow for even a limited amount of time devoted to entertainment, nor does it recognize that some of us, like me for instance, enjoy sports in a non-life-consuming way.

And while movie or music obsession is far less common than sports obsession, there are many who are obsessed with activities they participate in that "keep(s) them from worrying about things that matter to their lives." To the extent that there are those who care a lot about playing chess or golf, for example, those games too seem to be subject to his criticism.

lj, I for one am not necessarily criticizing the sports themselves (you know I play ball ;) ) nor really the effort to package or monetize the human striving per se, but rather the way now, more than in the past, it seems, so much of the striving, and not just in sports, is couched in terms of making sure the loser becomes the spectacle and is accorded the proper humiliation.

Also, the packaging is lame. Attending a major league baseball game now is non-stop pretty dumb stimulation (a fan sent onto the field to catch a baseball shot out of a slingshot by the team mascot; silly interviews and trivia games with fans on the big scoreboard screen, etc. etc.) during moments (afforded us by the beautiful pacing of the game; yeah, I know, Proust and baseball, who can stand it? ;) ) when baseball fans used to sit and discuss what had transpired during the previous inning or just look out over the emerald-green field and enjoy one's own meditations amid the background noise of the crowd.

Now the sound system and the pyrotechnics and the little-league mosh pit at home plate on the walk-off whatever in every single game makes me want to vomit my $8 beer, if it had cost less and I felt I could waste it.

Baseball (and all other sports) has always been marketed. One of my favorite instances is Bill Veeck's hiring of 3' 7" inch dwarf Eddie Gaedal to pinch hit for his team's leadoff batter -- once.

That at least was interesting and fraught with the possibility that something could go dreadfully and hilariously awry.

Wikipedia explains:

"Gaedel was under strict orders not to attempt to move the bat off his shoulder. When Veeck got the impression that Gaedel might be tempted to swing at a pitch, the owner warned Gaedel that he had taken out a $1 million insurance policy on his life, and that he would be standing on the roof of the stadium with a rifle prepared to kill Gaedel if he even looked like he was going to swing.[9] Veeck had carefully trained Gaedel to assume a tight crouch at the plate; he had measured Gaedel's strike zone in that stance and claimed it was just one and a half inches high.[9] However when Gaedel came to the plate, he abandoned the crouch he had been taught for a pose that Veeck described as "a fair approximation of Joe DiMaggio's classic style,"[9] leading Veeck to fear he was going to swing. (In the Thurber story, the midget cannot resist swinging at a 3-0 pitch, grounds out, and the team loses the game)."

I love that Gaedal got into the striving for a moment and nearly queered the marketing. If he'd only laid down a perfect bunt and then avoided (by dint of size) the swipe tag at first.

Then you had the happenstance extra-curricular marketing of baseball (the only sport with a sense of humor IMHO) through its personalities -- Mark Fidrych, Bill "The Spaceman" Lee, Jimmy Piersall running the bases backwards.

Uecker. The best and funniest loser ever.

Once, Casey Stengel as a player in the 1920s secreted a bird under his hat and when he ran to his outfield spot he doffed his cap to the bleacher fans and away the bird flew.

He tried (or maybe he succeeded; I can't remember) once to secretly arrange for a plane to fly low over the stadium outfield and a confederate aboard would drop a ball out of the plane, which he would catch one-handed.

How would you score that?

I can't remember a recent funny moment on the baseball field.

Maybe the steroids and the now all-pervasive packaging leeched all of the humor out their systems.

As usual, none of this is on point.

Bad marketing.

Chomsky, alas, may have gotten this one backwards. The current structure and prominence of organized sports may meet a need of the many to belong because our sense of powerlessness and alienation is overwhelming at times.

Well that, and my chipping game sucks.

@bobbyp:

IOW, sports are replacing religion as the opiate of the masses.

I think Chomsky is overstating by quite a bit. There's no reason I can think of to assume that people, freed from the distraction of sports, would suddenly turn their attention to whatever Chomsky thinks is important.

On the other hand...I think the creepy aspect of footbll for me is the stadiums. Too evocative of ancient Rome, gladiators and so on. Also mass chanting of any sort creeps me out, as do uniforms. It seems like a slippery slope downhill to the lose of self into a groupthink.

I think there's an actual high involved in the loss of self in a group activity. Many people like to lose themselves into a mass activity like dancing or screaming or chanting.

People gotta participate in groups. It's our nature as territorial pack hunters and gatherers. The trick is to maintain one's own individuality within the group, rather than allowing oneself to be subliminated into it. So the creepy aspect of sports to me is the way some fans turn into podpeople for the duration of the game. But that's also the creepy aspect of a lot of group activites.

But that's just my personal reaction. I remember back iin highschool I asked a girl why she like football and she replied that she liked being able to stand up and shout out loud.

I think the Chomsky argument is being taken a bit out of context. He's specifically talking about sports in the context of mass media. And I don't think it makes sense to talk about high school sports in that context; I mean, if you look at the evening news on NBC or read the New York Times, do you find a lot of high school sports there? Here's the bit of the interview from just before LJ excerpted the earlier quote:

Now there are other media too whose basic social role is quite different: it's diversion. There's the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack -- that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people's brains.

This is an oversimplification, but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them. To get them to watch National Football League. And to worry about "Mother With Child With Six Heads," or whatever you pick up on the supermarket stands and so on. Or look at astrology. Or get involved in fundamentalist stuff or something or other. Just get them away. Get them away from things that matter. And for that it's important to reduce their capacity to think.

Take, say, sports -- that's another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view.

So yeah, Chomsky alluded to school sports as a way of fostering conformity to authoritarian systems, but his focus in that interview is a propaganda model about how elite media push ideas into the populace (consider the FISCAL CLIFF, which isn't a cliff at all for example). High school tennis doesn't intersect much with elite media as far as I can see.

And I really don't think that golf or movies have the same role in terms of consuming people's attention. Movies don't engender rivalries. We don't have movie radio talk shows in every city in the country where movie afficionados phone in and argue with the host about recent films. But we do have sports radio.

Chomsky is probably overstating it, but isn't football a very, well, militaristic sort of sport? I don't watch it at all, but I've heard or read secondhand that there are commonly jingoistic displays at NFL games. True or not true? I'm asking, since, as I've said, I never watch football.

Coincidentally our rector gave a sermon a few weeks ago about her husband's experience as a coach for the kids in the local community. He had made it a point that every boy on the team got to play, and it was all about sportsmanship and only secondarily about winning. But the team started winning anyway. It got to the point where they were playing for the local championship and the game was tight and her husband got caught up in the moment and told one of the boys "Nevermind what I told you about passing and sharing and not being a gloryhound--just do what you have to do to win." The kid gave him a funny look and instead played the way the coach had taught them all along. And they lost. Afterwards her husband apologized to the team for his lapse into the "win at all costs" mentality.

So I guess the sort of lesson kids are taught in high school sports depends on what sort of lessons the grownups want to teach.
And sure, if football were abolished it doesn't mean people would join a union and start discussing how society should be arranged, but that doesn't mean professional sports doesn't suck up a lot of time and energy and emotion. I even agree with his high school football experience--I remember telling someone in the tenth grade that I didn't care whether our high school team won or lost and this guy gave me a really ugly look. If one has a sense of humor about one's sports loyalties then it's harmless--otherwise maybe it is a way of teaching conformity or other bad values.

Some interesting points. The one I found most interesting was that the way sports were woven into the fabric of secondary education was probably different in Chomsky's day than it is today is obvious in retrospect, but something I didn't even think about until Roger noted it. At any rate, the way sports factors into things must be different for every locale and every high school, so it's a bit of a thin reed to use as an example of indoctrination.

"IOW, sports are replacing religion as the opiate of the masses."

No, they're the "Circus" part of "Bread and Circuses". Welfare is the "bread" part. Any time you see the phrase, "Bread and circuses", just read it to mean, "Welfare and professional sports".

It's a matter of context. I'm pretty sure Chomsky was addressing a group of former Jets fans.

I read this yesterday while watching Houston beat Tennessee and hoping Pittsburgh would beat Baltimore. Happy endings all the way around.

Plus, UT got beat, always a good thing, and the SEC championship game was everything a battle (go Military!) on the field ought to be. Yes, the language of football is very militaristic. However, fatalities are far more rare than, say, driving to work. There are no civilian casualties unless you count being on the losing side of a game or a bet.

Sports transcends race, politics, class, gender, what have you. It's fun stuff. Soccer is catching on big, major league baseball is dying and football is setting new heights. Want to strike up a conversation with a stranger? Mention the local favorite and comment on their season.

Common ground is a good thing. Much better than political parties.

Compared to any number of other obsessions, it's relatively harmless, the players are amply compensated and, not to overstate the point, it's fun and it brings lots of folks together.

I played high school football and loved it. My team was pretty awful, but it was still great, going out on the field and going head-to-head with the best that the other school could field. I wish I'd been big enough and good enough to have played college ball, even knowing that what residual physical damage I have would have been amplified considerably, most likely.

The line between passion and obsession is pretty gray. How one judges one diversion as worthy and another as not is, in most cases, just a matter of taste. Cage fighting is an example of an outlier that speaks to the worst in us. I can see where someone who does not understand football could see it as a less overtly violent subset of the same genre as cage fighting (if I'm using the correct term for that activity), but that is a product of ignorance. Every year, the quality of players' protective equipment goes up, new rules are adopted to regulate the form and manner of contact so as to mitigate injury.

It may not be your cup of tea, but it's a huge amount of fun form millions and millions. Unless, of course, you're a former Jets fan. Then, not so much.

However, fatalities are far more rare than, say, driving to work.

If we're going to ignore the horrific brain damage leading to dementia at ridiculously young ages, I guess that's OK.

There are no civilian casualties unless you count being on the losing side of a game or a bet.

Kasandra Perkins looks pretty dead to me. Does she count as a civilian casualty?

Turb, I don't ignore the past or the present. Which is why I mentioned improvements in equipment and rule changes calculated to mitigate injury. It's a physical game, involving controlled violence and occasional serious, and rarely, very serious injury. Still, compared to driving to work--or working, depending on the occupation--and considering the physical nature of the game, snarking because there is injury ignores the fact that life presents a near-infinite range of injury/death opportunities.

As for Kasandra Perkins, that is no different than any number of other tragic murder/suicides. You are confusing effect with cause. Last week, a college instructor was the victim of a murder suicide in Wyoming. Do you want to shut down colleges? Seriously.

Last week, a college instructor was the victim of a murder suicide in Wyoming.

Are college instructors required, as a condition of employment, to repeatedly get concussions in such a way that causes significant brain damage which has been linked to extreme depression and homicidal behavior?

Every year, the quality of players' protective equipment goes up, new rules are adopted to regulate the form and manner of contact so as to mitigate injury.

There's no reason to believe that equipment or rule changes will significantly reduce the degree of brain damage associated with playing football.

Turb, ok, you don't like football. Got it. Arguing by assertion isn't convincing. If marijuana were shown to cause impairment leading to industrial and auto related accidents, would your views on legalization change? Not likely. You pick your issues and take your positions, but consistency doesn't seem to matter. There are uncountable causes of injury, homicide, etc; singling out professional football is a product of bias, not meaningful analysis.

No, it's not O.K.

The foot dragging too by the football powers that be at all levels to employ technology and rule changes to reduce (the risk can never be eliminated) head trauma and its later horrific side effects is not O.K.

But have I missed something here?

Do we know yet that Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself because of neurological changes and damage resulting from head trauma sustained in his profession?

Do we have Belcher's autopsy results yet?

I'm usually one of the few around here who makes up stuff on the run, for my own reasons. Probably because I've been hit in the head one too many times.

I didn't expect that from you, Turb, not that it matters.

As an aside, and on a much smaller scale I play baseball and softball and there are those close to me (now farther away) who have suggested addiction to the sport may be at play here.

I say I'm addicted to sunshine and reading too, but alright, I get it.

Still, the high tech development of metal softball and baseball bats has had an appreciable effect on both games. In my own case, unless you are a professional softball player (I'm talking the top men's leagues), there are now sharp restrictions on the brand of bat you can use in a game in nearly all leagues.

Especially as we age (goddamned gravity), a 55-year old softball pitcher standing @50-feet away from a 210 pound Grendel wielding a piece of titanium sculpted by Northrup Grumman and launching high-speed softball surface to crotch missiles has resulted in a few dead 55-year old pitchers.

Our hand-eye coordination, especially at night under the lights ain't what it used to be, as we find out if we pitch when the line drive is already into the outfield before you can get your glove up to where the ball just grazed your ear going past.

Plus, as an outfielder, it's a little boring to stand there watching the entire opposing lineup launch towering home runs into the trees.

They've changed the construction of the ball too, which has cramped my style too (leadoff hitter usually, but I could always launch one -- still can on occasion given certain weather conditions -- when needed with my old bat and the old crisper balls), but I go with the flow.

Most smart softball pitchers in competitive leagues wear padding from head to toe like a hockey goalie.

Then, there's baseball with its outrageous velocities, but I play in a wood-bat league.

I think high schools and colleges are going back to wood bats too for safety's sake.

Of course, the pitchers have weaponry too in baseball, which you find out after taking an 85 mph fastball directly in the kidney and then hoping you don't spit blood once you hobble down to first (taking the long way around) yelling "Owey, owey" in your secret to-yourself inside voice.

"That's gotta hurt" says the first baseman, not making eye contact.

"Flesh wound", you croak, through your man-tears. You look around for Mommy, who suffers from Alzheimers now, as it happens, and not because of a football injury and who wouldn't have much sympathy at this point anywho.

The next day's bruise has every horrid color in the rainbow in it with an emphasis on bile yellow and eggplant purple. Greens, of all colors.

Call me crazy.

Um, McTex, did you read the Gladwell article I linked to? The magnitude of the effects I'm talking about are quite a bit higher than anything you've brought up. Do you really find that extremely high incidence of brain damage and early dementia in football players to be not a big deal?

I don't really feel inclined to follow you down a threadjack about marijuana and auto accidents because that has nothing to do with sports at all.

"keep(s) them from worrying about things that matter to their lives."

yes. that's why we call them "diversions", "pastimes [pass-time]", etc.. sometimes not worrying about things for a while is exactly what people need in order to later deal with the things that worry them.

fnck off, you boring old scold, Chomsky.

There's no reason to believe that equipment or rule changes will significantly reduce the degree of brain damage associated with playing football.

Often, such well-intentioned efforts may have the opposite of their intended effects. Football helmets are, at once, protection and weapons. (Pads, not so much - should they go back to leather "helmets," which were more head pads than helmets?)

Is it worse for boxers in the long run to wear gloves, resulting in fewer lacerations, maybe mitigating arthritis, but increasing the potential for brain trauma?

Anyway, rule changes might help football, but they'd have to be so radical that football would become rugby (or something). You just can't have large, fast men colliding at full speed that way without regular head injuries occurring.

I like sports. I know it's kind of pointless and silly, but I can't help it. Since it doesn't consume me, it's not a problem, anymore than, say, watching Boardwalk Empire is.

Um, McTex, did you read the Gladwell article I linked to?

No, the link didn't go through. I tried it, though. If you have a better link, I'll look at it, though it will likely be tomorrow afternoon before more time opens up.

There are few injury-free sports. Football less so than others. All are voluntary.

Sorry about that McTex, I screwed up the link. Here's the correct link.

You could also check this bit of wikipedia if you wanted the shorter version; I find Gladwell kind of tiring to be honest.

All are voluntary.

I have more than a few friends for whom not playing wasn't going to sit well with their fathers.

Either way, "voluntary" covers a lot of ground and doesn't excuse whatever voluntary activity one might attract people to with large sums of money. Why would you bother to bring up rule or equipment changes? The players are playing under current rules using current equipment voluntarily, no? So it's all good.

There are few injury-free sports. Football less so than others. All are voluntary.

But there are many where serious brain damage is rare and the result of events that do not constitute an integral part of the game. A batter might get beaned, but most go through an entire career without it happening.

"Voluntary" normally implies informed consent - full understanding of the risks - by an adult.

It's hard for me to see how a high-school kid under social presures, and maybe even urging from his parents, possibly being told that the risks of brain damage are exaggerated, can be said to be a "voluntary" participant in football.

Turb, how many millions of men have played some combination of high school/college/professional football plus hockey, boxing, rugby? What is the incidence of CTE among this population?

What you will find, without a doubt, is a much higher incidence of joint disorders among athletes, including joggers.

Do you have stats on injuries sustained by bicyclists? Motorcyclists? Playing on a trampoline?

The surprising news would be if there weren't very serious injuries associated with a sport like football. Cervical spine injuries producing quadriplegia are as bad as any I can think of and I've known two individuals who sustained this type of injury playing football. I can find the same in other sports and recreational activities, including bike riding. Or, horseback riding/jumping.

I have more than a few friends for whom not playing wasn't going to sit well with their fathers.

Fair point. That said, dangerous occupations, e.g. test pilots, deep water welding, etc, all command financial premiums and draw people for that reason. Trying to make any of these activities safer makes sense, regardless of current technology. We drove cars in the 70's that were relative death traps compared to today. We still did it. Voluntarily.

What is the incidence of CTE among this population?

We don't know because the gold-standard CTE diagnosis requires an autopsy.

But note that I was specifically talking about pro-football, not high school football and not baseball or basketball. Our best guess is that CTE is caused by repeated head trauma, so a player who racked up 20 years of intensive practice and play (high school + college + pro career) is going to have a much higher risk than some random guy who played a season or two in high school.

Again, I think the risks we're talking for pro-football players are just orders of magnitude higher than other sports or commuting to an office job or bicycling. Certainly, there are risks in everything, but when your risk of dementia runs 20 times the average (and that's likely an underestimate)...something has gone horribly wrong.

That said, dangerous occupations, e.g. test pilots, deep water welding, etc, all command financial premiums and draw people for that reason.

Those sorts of things have risks that are far more apparent. They aren't problems that may be hidden for years, but that ultimately ruin someone's life. And they aren't done simply for entertainment's sake.

That's not to say that no test pilot or deepwater welder has engaged in what ultimately was a wrong-headed or unjustified effort, but the argument for taking those risks is that there are significant material benefits to society to be gained from taking them. It's not just for fun, and I say that as someone who couldn't begin to guess how many football games he's watched in person and on television, often with great interest, sometimes evidenced by jumping up and down, shouting, high-five-ing complete strangers, and all that typical stuff.

We still did it. Voluntarily.

Sure. But so what?

More evidence in Turb's direction regarding Belcher and head trauma specifically:

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/12/the-death-knell-for-football-ctd.html

Still, I can't see a death knell (Sullivan goes off fully cocked again) for football because of this stuff. Not that it shouldn't be a death knell maybe and not that I care one way or the other about the sport, but .... money and people like the sport, and money.

I'd like to see soccer fan violence addressed more stringently too.

I'd like to go to a hockey game some time (no, I wouldn't, any sport that involves ice is not for me) and have government intervention breakout during the fighting.

The change in football will come from the bottom up (high school parents pulling their kids from the sport as evidence mounts and coaches and schools keep ignoring calls for change) and from the top (professional active football players' unions, foregoing the testosterone, saying "enough").

By the way, many high school sports coaches also encourage (usually by looking the other way) the use of supplements (creatine and such) by their players.

Arrest a high school coach and it'll stop.

You know, government intervention.

Some information from today's Globe.

Russell has often said he doesn't understand why people like sports

Just to clarify, the thing I don't really get is the mass-spectator thing.

I can definitely understand the appeal of playing sports. And I can definitely understand the appeal of watching sports that you actually play, or have played when you were perhaps younger and actually able to play.

But the mass-spectator thing, and the sort of social / cultural 'common bond' via rooting for your favorite team, I just don't really relate to.

Not just a sports thing, I'm that way with pretty much anything. Don't go to big arena concerts, have absolutely zero interest in big public events. I just don't have that gene.

I also have a thing where I'm just not that interested in things I personally don't actually do, or that I can't relate to something that I actually do. Probably says more about me than anything else, but there it is.

This post has made me think about why I find football, in particular, so uninteresting. At first I was tempted to say the level of violence, but I actually enjoy watching boxing, so that's kind of inconsistent.

I think what turns me off about football is that it just seems like an exercise in massed brute force. It seems kind of brainless to me.

I recognize that there is a strategic aspect to it, and that (at least in some positions) there is a need for thoughtful deployment of skill, but by and large it just strikes me as a bunch of really large people smashing into each other.

To me, it's not interesting.

It's also gotten to the point where every player's job is just extremely specialized, which also seems less interesting to me.

It just doesn't seem like a particularly thoughtful sport.

To each their own.

Personal preferences aside, I do also think that football has gotten to the point where anyone who plays it can count on serious physical disability in later life.

It's true that NFL guys get paid a lot, but that seems kind of FUBAR to me. It's a game, it's entertainment, it's a diversion. It's not worth a lifetime of pain.

And yeah, I like boxing better, but the same thing is true there as well.

I like Chomsky a lot, but he really does occupy the role of village scold. Every village needs one.

Rules changes regarding tackles could mitigate the worst of the damage: the Heads Up Tackle.

As far as shifts in sports, there's some indication that football (the real thing, what Americans call 'soccer' ;) may finally make the jump to being a top spectator sport in the US. If so, let's hope that the US pays attention to what Germany has been doing in the Bundesliga with the 50+1 rule and financial fair play. Would be much healthier for the sport than the portable charlie foxtrot that is the EPL financial model.

Don't go to big arena concerts, have absolutely zero interest in big public events. I just don't have that gene.

I do go to those sorts of events, but I get a feeling something like embarassment at any kind of top-down, organized mass participation - think national anthems, game, the popular song everyone is supposed to sing along with during a concert, fight songs, etc. It feels corny and phony, maybe even inorganic, to me and makes me uncomfortable, like I'm half an alien because I can't go all-in like (seemingly) everyone else. I become a spectator relative to the spectators, watching them rather than being one of them.

Just ignore "game" in that list. Editing error.

It feels corny and phony, maybe even inorganic, to me and makes me uncomfortable, like I'm half an alien because I can't go all-in like (seemingly) everyone else.

ditto.

peta dittos.

Whenever I witness an opposing baseball or softball team do a pregame all hands in the middle pep talk and Hooya! I want to headbutt the lot of them sans helmets, against doctor's orders.

Blech! Shut up and play!

Same with the little league walk-off celebration at home plate in every major league baseball these days.

Game over. Get off the field.

Save it for the Food Channel.

"By the way, many high school sports coaches also encourage (usually by looking the other way) the use of supplements (creatine and such) by their players."

I must confess, I find this remark a bit puzzling. Why would coaches have to "look the other way" when players use supplements such as creatine? They are, after all, perfectly legal. We're not talking anabolic steriods here, just components of food which have been concentrated.

I'm no expert, but in the case of creatine, specifically, there are ways of taking it that give a kid the weight and muscle gain he or she desires without harmful side effects, though the science is inconclusive.

Too much creatine, on the other hand, can suppress the body's ability to make its own and may cause kidney stones.

You wouldn't want a kid whose family has a history of childhood diabetes to be taking anything that would cause potential harm to the kidneys, which will be damaged eventually by diabetes.

So, at the very least, taking creatine and other supplements, especially for an unsupervised kid (some thick-necked high school coaches may not have the best interests of the kid in mind), should probably be done under a doctor's direction.

Yes, supplements are legal.

Anabolic steroids were legal too when Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Jose Canseco were taking them.

I notice though, despite the legality, these guys weren't broadcasting their use.

Plenty of cheating is legal, but not perfect.

For full disclosure, I'm from a family with three too many members who suffered from Type I diabetes, two of whom have said long goodbyes.

A teenaged nephew, who suffered concussions in high school football as well, is now taking creatine to buff up for vanity's sake. His Dad, who is my brother, and I were giving him the third degree a couple of weeks ago and counseled caution, given his family history.

The kid said his high school football coaches (he graduated last year) encouraged all of the kids on the roster to use creatine and other supplements without regard to individual differences.

I'm not his dad so it's beyond my business, but I would have been asking the coaches if I could see their medical degrees, the a*sholes.

"You wouldn't want a kid whose family has a history of childhood diabetes to be taking anything that would cause potential harm to the kidneys, which will be damaged eventually by diabetes."

You wouldn't want a kid in that situation to be consuming large quantities of sugar, either, but we'd never speak of a coach "looking the other way" when a kid was drinking a glass of sweet tea.

Coaches aren't doctors, it's not their responsibility to take into account ever metabolic peculiarity of the people the coach. At some point these things become the responsibility of the kid and his parents, and I'd say that, so long as the coach isn't doing anything which would harm an average person, they've fulfilled their responsibilities.

FWIW, my two cents:

It's freaking insane for kids to be taking supplements to bulk up for organized sports. Legal, illegal, whatever.

IMVHO it's freaking insane for pros to be taking supplements, but they're adults and it's their life.

And if there is anything on God's green earth that coaches of youth or high school sports should be concerned about, it's the physical health of the kids they are coaching.

Not everybody is average, and in fact almost nobody is average. If a kids' sports coach can't be aware of, and sensitive to, the unique physical requirements of their charges, they shouldn't be coaching.

If they want to coach adults, they can take their shot at coaching pros. If they want to coach kids, they are *absolutely obliged* to act in the role of the responsible adult in the room, and that includes being aware of and sensitive to the particular needs of the kids who are in their charge.

Seriously, WTF.

I get a feeling something like embarassment at any kind of top-down, organized mass participation

peta dittos.

Say what?

it's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in irrational jingoism.

Chomsky's a cranky old lefty weirdo, for sure, and in this country the kind of critical analysis that he traffics in kind of went out in the trash with everybody's undergraduate copy of "One-Dimensional Man" sometime around 1978.

But if you want to know what he's on about, consider HSH and cleek's comments upthread.

Right on on the sweet tea, for f*ck sakes.

Yes, the parents and kids should take responsibility. No kidding.

But, I wouldn't want a coach without machine tool training certification drill holes in my kid's head to let out the stupid either.

"I drill", they might say. "What leaks out is not my problem."

Coach, I'd like to introduce you to my kid's uncle, Joe Pesci. Coach ... Joe Pesci. Uncle Joe, this here is my kid's coach I was telling you about the other day.

If the coach is encourages supplement use among teenagers, then he or she had better account for metabolic peculiarities, unless those words are too big for them.

If the coach is looking the other way on supplement use, depending on the supplement I guess, then maybe he or she should at least be thinking about metabolic peculiarities among the idiots the idiot is coaching.

And "50 Shades of Grey" should be called "Two Shades: Black and White, Case Closed" for the obtuse among us.

I'd be a lot more sympathetic to libertarianism if it wasn't always presented as a total abdication of responsibility for anybody else on the planet.

Real life doesn't work that way. In My Very Humble Opinion.

If they want to coach adults, they can take their shot at coaching pros. If they want to coach kids, they are *absolutely obliged* to act in the role of the responsible adult in the room, and that includes being aware of and sensitive to the particular needs of the kids who are in their charge.

But the real exploitation happens not in pro sports (where athletes get paid tremendous amounts), and not so much with high school (although it does happen there, for sure, and russell is totally right), but in college, where kids are "adults" but, really, very exploitable. I'm totally with Turbulence on Division I college sports. (And agree with him, I think, that Division III is more what it should be about.)

"If the coach is encourages supplement use among teenagers, then he or she had better account for metabolic peculiarities, unless those words are too big for them."

Heck, if he's encouraging exercise among teenagers, he better account for the fact that some of them might have brittle bones. Or heart problems. Maybe they've got an aneurism ready to pop if they lift a weight.

Or maybe they're entitled to assume the kids they're coaching are standard issue, no out of the ordinary medical problems, until they're told otherwise, by the people who are actually in a position to know? The kids and parents?

After all, these supplements aren't crazy dangerous weird stuff, they're just concentrated foods. They're quite safe for normal people to use. Is the coach supposed to avoid using Gatoraid, for instance, just on the off chance one of the students didn't admit to being diabetic? These supplements are as safe as that.

No, libertarianism isn't about abdicating responsibility. It's about realizing where it actually belongs, instead of dumping it on third parties.

"Or maybe they're entitled to assume the kids they're coaching are standard issue, no out of the ordinary medical problems, until they're told otherwise, by the people who are actually in a position to know? The kids and parents?"

Maybe the kid and parents aren't that rich or sophisticated and so haven't had the kid checked for out of the ordinary problems that would be exacerbated by football.

If every kid who participates in football has to bring a signed and completed medical form from his guardian saying his history of concussion, health problems, etc, that seems like a good way of handling it (and may be how it's done). Why just assume everything is okay? Forms aren't that hard to make and hand out.

What's the deal with sports?

1) When I lived in Boston, I loved that I could walk into any bar in the city - any bar - and sit down next to a bus driver or a banker or a garbageman or a professor of composition and have an in-depth conversation about who should be hitting second. You can't buy that. Was I still rich/poor/whatever compared to my interlocutor? Sure. But for just a few minutes it didn't matter.

2) re: tribalism, above: sure. Also, for the vast majority of us, if everything is going well our lives are devoid of terrifying highs and lows. For the same reason that bored, comfortable persons create artificial drama (consciously or not), being a sports fan provides peaks and valleys beyond [not] getting to work on time, or [not] needing a new tire. That is non-trivial.

Also, too, on the same note: even the most "civilized" group activity (as mentioned: going to the symphony or something) has an important element of ritual and communal let's-set-some-time-aside-ness. This is also vital.

The part where it's a relatively safe surrogate for more violent/primal forms of tribal-belonging activities has some truth to it as well.

3) Games are outstanding. I'm really a baseball-football guy. I don't really like basketball (for example), mostly because I don't understand it very well. I like games (see also Wittgenstein, various Surrealists). Games create a sort of agreed-upon alternate reality-inside-reality, for the duration of which certain rules apply, and cleverness and guile and wit and, yes, athleticism are used to out-whatever the opponent to "win." Is it important? Of course not -- which is precisely why it is. It can afford to be crucially fncking important because it doesn't matter.

4) Just like anything else that one can be interested in -- for (personal) example: music, or pipes, or tea -- once I turn my full attention to it, my full analytical powers, or however else you want to think about it, there's an incredibly rich and varied number of things to ponder and discuss. I have the most wonderful weekly conversation with a dear friend of mine during the fall) the ostensible purpose of which is to pick the coming week's football games. Not for money. Just for analysis and discussion. and more often than not we also end up solving the problems of the known world at the same time.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn knows I'm not an athlete, but I am a sports fan/apologist.

I've even been learning to understand soccer ("football") for the past 6-8 years.

major league baseball is dying

Communist.

Anyway, not so. TV ratings are down, but attendance is very healthy.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121004&content_id=39483214&vkey=pr_mlb&c_id=mlb

Major League Baseball announced today that the 30 Clubs drew 74,859,268 fans in the 2012 regular season, representing the game’s highest attendance since 2008 and the fifth best single-season attendance in Baseball history.

I am a complete sucker for team sports: pro-baseball, footlball, and basketball. First of all, sports are aestheitically beautiful. (Translation: "they're cool to watch"). Not only the individual plays but the patterns of momentum that emerge wherein teams become more real than the individuals within them. Beautiful and engrossing: a distraction but also a cultural acheivement in it's own right.

Secondly, within the unscripted drama of winning vs. losing there is a chance to observe and celebrate human greatness, not so as to put the players on a pedestal but so that we can celebrate our greatness and see it reflected back at us (without, ya know, pillaging and stuff). I'm surrounded by talent, dedication, empathy, guile, etc but the context is so mundane and the achievements of ordinary people are taken for granted: my love for my species can be expressed in sport.

So sports is a religion: it allows me to observe and celebrate aesthetic beauty and personal aspiration that is non-fascist and non-deluded (no silly stories). And, as bob and others have said, it builds community.

Next season in celebration after the final football game, I'm hoping my nephew's former teammates dump canisters of creatine all over the coach instead of the customary Gatorade.

I wonder if I couched my points about supplements in the anti-public school rhetoric of one-size-fits-all indoctrination of our kids by unionized elites running government schools whether that might gain traction.

Or maybe instead of the coaches worrying over Gatorade addiction, what this country really needs is high school coaches carrying sidearms in the schools so that anyone requesting attention to metabolic peculiarities in their charges can be dispensed with on an as-they-come basis.

I don't spose either that there's any hope of blowing this thread up by bringing up Jovan Belcher's gun possession, or is it that guns don't kill people, in this case Belcher's girlfriend, concussions do?

And ya know, he could just as well have strangled her and then strangled himself in front of his employer.

Or maybe drowned her in a tub of Gatorade and then offed himself by aspirating the remainder.

Never mind.

I think I'll take up fantasy blogging.


How many people die each year of pistol whippings? You could at least have the sense to obsess about bullets, not guns...

Though I suppose it would be in order to admit that, were it not for OJ being able to buy that AK-47, Nicole Simpson would likely still be alive today.

No, seriously, I've got a 45 revolver in my closet at this moment, and it has to date never woke in the middle of the night and gone on a killing spree. Am I to suppose it's because it's one of the rare moral 45 revolvers? Just too nice a gun to do anything like that? No, it's probably because I keep it chained to the shelf; I enjoy the noise it makes thrashing around at night, it's rather like wind chimes...

We say guns don't kill people, people kill people, because it's true. No gun anywhere has ever committed a murder. Sometimes people do so, with guns, or tire irons, or what have you. But not guns. Without a person entering the picture, they just sort of sit there. Doubtless seething in homicidal fury, but at least it's impotent homicidal fury, until picked up by somebody of the same mindset.

Countme-in, this guy murdered this woman because he was homicidal. Why are you obsessing about the tool he used, instead of realizing the "he was homicidal" was the critical factor?

Obsessing?

No, merely commenting on a blog.

I was just experimenting to see what happens when a troll is fed creatine.

Actually, I do have an obsession against the use of "killing" and "spree" in the same lighthearted phrase, but never mind.

Well, not so much an obsession, but more of an obsession spree.

I've never been able to skip and shoot simultaneously.

No one else, I think, is in my tree.

It doesn't matter much to me.

I guess I do wonder, without obsessing mind you, if more homicidal individuals had to go to the messy trouble of hacking their significant others to pieces, a la O.J., instead of taking the lazy man's technological way out via guns, if the murder rate might drop further.

But then you'd say Tutsi and I'd say Hutu and we'd call the whole thing off and meet again in the next thread.

I wonder too if O.J. wished he'd opted for the AK-47 as he drove down the LA Expressway.

There's a racket coming from my closet too.

I think my AK-47 just found my golf clubs and doesn't want to pay the green fees.

Speaking of obsessions, what does it mean when a guy wakes up every morning with Clete Boyer's batting statistics from the back of his 1960 baseball card running through his mind?

Clete Boyer?

That can't be good productivity-wise.

If every kid who participates in football has to bring a signed and completed medical form from his guardian saying his history of concussion, health problems, etc, that seems like a good way of handling it

In my very brief organized youth sports career, this was the norm.

If you're the coach, you have assumed responsibility for the well being of the kids who have been placed in your charge, while they are in your charge.

Nobody expects you to be a mind-reader, but it's more than reasonable to expect you to be generally familiar with the particular health issues any of the kids might have, and also be attentive to how they individually respond to and hold up under physical stress.

If you don't want to do that, don't coach.

Also - my comments here reflect my views and my views alone. I recognize that lots and lots and lots of people - most people - enjoy watching, playing, and otherwise having to do with organized sports. I think that's more than splendid. It just ain't my thing.

The only reason I wanted to chime in about it was to maybe unpack LJ's passing reference to my general non-interest in sports a bit.

I can't name a single Red Sox pitcher, have no idea who the head coach of the Patriots is, and haven't watched a Celtics game since the Bird-Parish-McHale days, but I'll watch a weird old YouTube clip of Tony Williams playing the ride cymbal for, like, an hour, over and over. It's my version of game highlights.

See, like this. I've probably watched that thing a few hundred times at this point. It's a one-minute graduate seminar. Instead of the sports bar, I hang out at some local with a good organ trio and no cover, and we talk for hours about which finger Tony is using for the fulcrum in that clip.

And then we talk about how fulcrum-shmulcrum, it's Tony, and any finger would do. He'd kill with a broomstick taped to his forearm.

It still pisses me off that Elvin's ride cymbals are not in the Smithsonian.

Everybody's got their thing, it's what makes the world go around.

And with that, I will stop jacking a very nice thread about sports with my rude cranky interjections.

Me too, except to add that the Red Sox are too ashamed of their pitching to let you know who they are.

If every kid who participates in football has to bring a signed and completed medical form from his guardian saying his history of concussion, health problems, etc, that seems like a good way of handling it

My recollection from playing High School basketball (and for one brief, awful year, football) is that everyone had to have a physical from a doctor and bring proof of that to school before playing. Each year.

On encouraging kids to take supplements, legal or otherwise, my recollection is that most, if not the vast majority, of the medical literature on how these sorts of things affect one's body/metabolism/health/etc. is based on testing them with adults, for obvious reasons. Their affect on children/teenagers is thus generally unknown unless it can somehow be studied indirectly.

Brett: Countme-in, this guy murdered this woman because he was homicidal. Why are you obsessing about the tool he used, instead of realizing the "he was homicidal" was the critical factor?

I don't know what Count's thinking. My thought is that I've never heard of murder-suicide committed via knife or, really, any non-firearm (I'm sure it's happened, however). Shooting someone is much easier and more antiseptic than stabbing them to death. Indeed, my guess is the primary reason why there's a lot of suicide following murder via firearm is that it's way too easy to commit the latter.

John Cole's point in a post I can't find was that, sure, a homicidal maniac with a knife is going to kill someone. But he/she is not going to to be able to off multiple-persons in the kind of mass killing we seem to see a couple times a year here in the US.

John Cole's point in a post I can't find was that, sure, a homicidal maniac with a knife is going to kill someone. But he/she is not going to to be able to off multiple-persons in the kind of mass killing we seem to see a couple times a year here in the US.

Agreed. Someone intent on mass murder in a short period of time--as opposed to a serial killer, most of whom do not use firearms--can't get there without one or more repeating firearms.

So, depending on the scenario and the killer's intent, when there is such a thing, maybe a knife will do, maybe it won't. Guns are quicker, easier, don't involve risky hand-to-hand encounters, all of that.

I find the ongoing argument pointless. Even if you could reduce the murder rate by some percentage by outlawing every class of firearm, the number of guns in circulation renders the law meaningless. Forget the constitutional questions or the fact that no one is going to outlaw hunting rifles and shotguns (with a sawed off barrel, you get a handgun on steriods), there are so many guns out there that the discussion is entirely theoretical.

Violence, including gun violence, is a fact of life. There is very little, if anything, that can be done to mitigate it at this point. Debating whether a particular bad person would kill if he/she had no gun available gets us nowhere because that is just one very small, non-probative data point in a quite large statistical universe.

Look, gun owners exist on a continuum, we're not all alike. At one end, you've got batsh*t crazy mad dog killers, at the other end you've got the sort of people who actually go to trouble to evict flies instead of swatting them.

At the one end, most uses of guns are undesirable. Heck, even self defense by the MDK leaves the world worse off, because the MDK comes out of it alive. At the other end, essentially all uses of guns range from socially neutral, (Sports) to desirable. (Self defense, and defense of others.)

The essential problem here with gun control, and it was well known over 200 years ago, (And it's the reason gun control studies tend to be published in medical journals, not journals of criminology.) is that the continuum is very heavily weighted towards the harmless end of the spectrum, (The vast majority of gun owners never do anything wrong.) and the Mad Dog Killers are the last people gun control laws disarm, not the first.

So all the social costs come first, and the benefits come last, and it's essentially impossible to reach the level of gun control where the people you most benefit from disarming get disarmed.

So we're talking about a policy which is simultaneously impossible to effectively implement, AND harmful when partially implemented.

It's as if the only way you had of getting rid of the influenza virus got rid of flu vaccines before it got rid of the flu.

the party of No We Can't has spoken

"Look, gun owners exist on a continuum, we're not all alike. At one end, you've got batsh*t crazy mad dog killers, at the other end you've got the sort of people who actually go to the trouble to evict flies instead of swatting them."

You don't really think we must take into account this vast range of individual metabolic peculiarities, do you?

Why, if I had a nickel .... aw, never mind.

cleek, that's the kind of creative problem-solving that makes America great. Love it or leave it, my friend.

Maybe one day Brett can give us a foolproof guide to telling which law-abiding gun owner is going to not be law-abiding at some point. Since, you know, most mass killings are committed with legally-acquired firearms. And since, when some asshole shoots up a car full of teenagers because they wouldn't turn down their music, killing one of them, his lawyers says that "he acted as any responsible firearms owner would have." (Apparently, "being a responsible firearms owner" = "being a rage-fuelled psycopath" and "leaving the scene of a crime you just comitted." Sounds about right.)

McTx: Violence, including gun violence, is a fact of life. There is very little, if anything, that can be done to mitigate it at this point.

As with head injuries in football, one might say.

Guns are quicker, easier, don't involve risky hand-to-hand encounters, all of that.

And more seductive. The Dark Side, much like it they are.

Brett: So all the social costs come first, and the benefits come last, and it's essentially impossible to reach the level of gun control where the people you most benefit from disarming get disarmed.

And to McTx: I guess my point was that it seems there's something different about gun violence than, say, knife violence or hand-to-hand violence, and I'm wondering why that is.

The key to my football performance in high school was sweet tea. That might explain why I didn't play, but still....

There's a pretty wide continuum of potential gun control laws, once you consider the various types of guns that exist, how restrictively a given law might regulate a given type's ownership, and the geographical areas within which such laws might apply. The devil's in the details if anyone wants to do any serious evaluation of the social costs versus benefits of a given proposal, rather than assuming that any gun whatsoever a responsible person might possess will be taken from that person by some generic, imaginary gun-control regime.

Shorter version: How can society function without, frex, 100-round clips?

As with head injuries in football, one might say

Not comparable at all, actually, given the intent element in gun violence and the incidental nature of football and all other sports injuries.

And more seductive.

For a very small minority of actual perps, perhaps, though it would be hard to quantify. You can't seduce a mind that isn't already pointed in that direction.

I guess my point was that it seems there's something different about gun violence than, say, knife violence or hand-to-hand violence, and I'm wondering why that is.

I have no idea what you mean, given that there are a range of behaviors, circumstances and motivations in gun violence and in knife violence and in blunt instrument violence.

Brett,

So all the social costs come first, and the benefits come last, and it's essentially impossible to reach the level of gun control where the people you most benefit from disarming get disarmed.

That's quite an assertion. I suppose you actually have some evidence for it?

Anyway, I don't believe that gun types really care at all about keeping guns away from dangerous people.

Read this, for example.

Anyway, I don't believe that gun types really care at all about keeping guns away from dangerous people.

Read this, for example.

I suppose I could ask you for evidence to support the first sentence. The second sentence doesn't; the issue is whether a VA person can declare a veteran incompetent or whether there ought to be due process, i.e. what civilians get which is a judicial proceeding at which evidence is taken.

As for wanting dangerous people to not have guns, what reliable evidence do you have that a statistically significant number of 'gun types' don't care about this?

I own rifles, pistols and shotguns. I am happy to keep guns out of the hands of violent people and am open to any reasonable suggestions you might have.

I have no idea what you mean

I try to stay out of the gun debates because pretty much anyone who has an opinion on the topic is pretty well dug in.

That said, the freaking obvious difference between violence perpetrated by guns, as compared to almost any other means, is that it's really easy.

Point and click.

You don't have to come into contact with the victim. You don't have to put yourself at risk. You are very very highly likely to do significant damage to, if not kill, the person you are shooting.

If you want to kill someone with a knife, you have to walk right up to them and physically come into contact with them. Unless you know what you're doing, you might not actually do them all the much harm, and you put yourself at risk. Plus, you're going to get blood all over your clothes.

Same or similar issues for strangling, neck-breaking, throwing out of windows, suffocating with a pillow, etc.

Even running someone over with your car is harder.

You point the gun at the person you want to shoot and you pull the trigger. Mission accomplished.

Barring using a hand grenade or hiring somebody else to do the job for you, there is no easier way to harm or kill someone.

Maybe poison, but that normally requires some level of planning and subterfuge, which not everyone can pull off.

Guns are fast, and guns are easy. That is the difference.

Russell, I get that. In fact, I wrote upthread: Guns are quicker, easier, don't involve risky hand-to-hand encounters, all of that.

I am pretty sure Ugh is getting at something different, as in some kind of attitude or mental state or some other qualitative aspect of gun vs other violence. I am not clear on what he's getting at.

I'm a shooter. I know it's easier to hunt deer with a rifle than a bowie knife.

As for wanting dangerous people to not have guns, what reliable evidence do you have that a statistically significant number of 'gun types' don't care about this?

The fact that any criminal or lunatic or terrorist can buy guns at a gun show (or any private sale) without passing any kind of background check? I mean, this makes it very easy for criminals/lunatics/terrorists to acquire guns, but requiring background checks for private gun sales is politically impossible because gun owners won't tolerate it.

Don't you agree?

What Turbulence just said.

Well, Turb, my opinion is that, if a person has been properly adjudicated, with the right to a jury of their peers, to be too dangerous to own a gun, they belong in a prison. Because passing a law won't keep them from getting a gun, any more than it will keep them from getting pot. And because if they're too dangerous to have a gun, they're too dangerous to have a ball peen hammer, too.

Apparently you are satisfied that any criminal, lunatic, or terrorist, can get a gun without a background check, just so long as they're doing it illegally.

I just don't see the point in burdening a civil liberty to that extent, for only the illusion of safety.

The fact that any criminal or lunatic or terrorist can buy guns at a gun show (or any private sale) without passing any kind of background check? I mean, this makes it very easy for criminals/lunatics/terrorists to acquire guns, but requiring background checks for private gun sales is politically impossible because gun owners won't tolerate it.

Don't you agree?

This is not statistically reliable evidence. The NRA lobbied congress to exempt private sellers at gun shows from performing background checks on purchasers. Arguably, this is because private sellers cannot effectively do so. Whether I agree with this argument, the NRA's position is not demonstrated to be the representative view of 'gun types' unless 'gun types' has some kind of meaning other than 'people who own guns'.

Now, if you'd said 'the NRA' instead of 'gun types', I would not have commented.

BTW, I'm not unsympathetic on the gun show thing. The last time I went to a gun show, roughly 15 years ago (looking for a particular model of shotgun back when I did a lot of wing shooting), I took my son, who was then 20 years old and an avid hunter and shooter. After about 30 minutes of scoping out the clientele, my son suggested that maybe we needed to revisit the 2d amendment. I wouldn't go that far, but I'd require certified pre-clearance by the feds in order to purchase at a gun show. No doubt, gun shows are problematic.

I just don't see the point in burdening a civil liberty to that extent, for only the illusion of safety.

Which civil liberty? The right to keep and bear or the right to sell? One is in the constitution, the other is not. Nor is it implicit.

I'm not a big fan of the NRA. Attend a gun show anywhere in Texas and tell me you sleep better at night knowing who is buying high capacity pistols, semi auto assault-style rifles and high capacity 12 gauges with 18" barrels. It's beyond creepy. I'm fine with proof of citizenship/legal authority to be in the country AND a card saying the purchaser has passed a background check.

If you are OK with voter ID laws, it's kind of hard to complain that a gun purchaser experiences undue imposition by being required to show he/she is not a felon and is not insane (not so sure how you show the latter) and not otherwise disqualified from gun ownership. After all, both voting and gun ownership are civil rights.

I didn't think wondering about the trajectory of pro football in the public mind would get us to gun control, but there are a lot of things I don't think will happen and often do.

I have to say pretty much what Russell said, with an added emphasis on this:

I try to stay out of the gun debates because pretty much anyone who has an opinion on the topic is pretty well dug in.

If anyone wants an actual gun control post, write it up and send it to libjpn's space on the gmail servers and I'll put it up.

"If you are OK with voter ID laws, it's kind of hard to complain that a gun purchaser experiences undue imposition by being required to show he/she is not a felon and is not insane (not so sure how you show the latter) and not otherwise disqualified from gun ownership. After all, both voting and gun ownership are civil rights."

You know what? Tell me that when they start running everybody in line at my polling place through the NICS. And the administration gets it's jollies shutting the system down for "maintenance" on election night.

Tell me that when they start running everybody in line at my polling place through the NICS. And the administration gets it's jollies shutting the system down for "maintenance" on election night.

Never been to the Department of Licensing? Where the majority of people get thier ids?

You must be joking.

lol, guns.

sports today remind me of the Roman era. a method of crowd control and diversion from matters of high importance. that old bread and circus concept. Trojans, Gladiators, Lions, gosh the symbolism of Rome and the Empire is Football personified. a throwback or maybe a return to on purpose?

member reading years ago how with so much serious stuff going on in society, sports was a was to disconnect from reality. serious business going on was way beyond the average guys' range of possibilities anymore i gather. with the inability to stop the Elites doing what they have been doing for years now. thanks to our politicians, this as a diversionary tactic seem to be a perfect foil. lol

also heard it was a way for men to find some way of feeling connected to other men without being threatening, aka "inappropriately" whatever that means. homosexuality is such a bad thing, apparently can't have men get close except through "approved" measures. lol

also sports allow men to amass knowledge and data and feel able to talk like a "knowledgeable" human, in respect the vast size and scope of the "complex" social world we live in. one way of feeling "good" enough in this overwhelming flood of info.

what i have always not liked about sports was the Us vs Them concept that drives people apart, into separate tribes, that disconnect us into parts rather than "wholes." how competition is against men working together to achieve goals. the separation of men apart from one another, and also the inherent one upmanship involved. the encouragement of being winners and lots of losers. and all that stigmatization if you're not an athlete.

one thing i really cant endure about football is the noise. i could watch football if the noise level were lower, just so noisy i can't tolerate the decibel level that comes with it. i get a headache from TV football, without the sound i can watch football, otherwise, lol

also wonder why those of us in society have to pay for with our tax dollars so some rich men can be richer at others' expense. not like something for the common man, or society in general, unless you are a sport fan or one who will use the facilities everyone's tax moneys pays for.

one other point is the inherent "manliness" all males are subject to in the school system because of "collective" sports. "what, you don't like sports? " YOu some kind of sissy. and all the related non Male baggage that goes along with the Competitive Sports Society we are.

just so much unspoken and tacit approval for sports that barely ever gets brought to the fore. the crunching of human bodies and the injuries are just the obvious "topics" of most converstations though.

Hail Rome and the mighty Caesar!

Don't you agree?

Yes, in spades.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.

if a person has been properly adjudicated, with the right to a jury of their peers, to be too dangerous to own a gun, they belong in a prison.

This is freaking balderdash.

There are about 10,000 reasons why, as a matter of public policy, it might be a good idea for someone to NOT OWN A GUN, and yet not be jailed.

For a simple example, some people go to jail for acts of violence, and then, mirabile dictu, are released at a later time.

Some people suffer from mental disorders such as psychosis, severe depression, or mania.

We let these people have ball peen hammers because it's not actually that easy to kill someone with a ball peen hammer. For one thing, you can run away some someone with a ball peen hammer.

We also let them have ball peen hammers because there are many uses someone might make of a ball peen hammer other than doing physical harm to someone else.

If you want a gun, have a gun. Live your life, have fun, it really doesn't bug me either way.

But don't try to bullshit me that the prevalence of gun ownership in this country is, somehow, miraculously unrelated to the fact that Americans kill each other in remarkably large numbers.

We live with an unusually high level of gun violence, and that is so in no small part because we love guns and own them in astounding numbers. I don't expect to change that aspect of our culture overnight, or ever really, but I also am not blind to what it costs us.

Do what you want, but don't ask me to buy that NRA party-line horsesh*t.

You know what? I don't give a bucket of warm spit what our level of "gun violence" is. Unmodified "violence", maybe. But I don't really care how it's distributed across various categories of weapons. Dead is dead, you know what I mean?

The fact of the matter is that levels of gun violence, like fist violence, club violence, knife violence, and so forth, vary enormously from place to place. You miss that if you look at state level statistics. You even miss it with county level statistics. You need to get down to the level of neighborhoods before you get the full impact of it: Levels of violence vary by three to four full orders of magnitude between the most peaceful, and the most violent, localities, even when those localities are under the same gun laws.

So don't try to bullshit me that a phenomenon that varies by multiple orders of magnitude with gun laws, and rates of gun ownership held constant, is being driven by guns.

There are places where virtually everybody owns a gun, and you can leave your door unlocked in perfect safety. I used to live in one before I got laid off, and moved to someplace where guns were also common, and it was still a lot safer than the south side of Chicago.

There are places where lesser percentages of people own guns, and the level of violence makes most war zones look safe. They tend, perhaps purely by coincidence, to have had stringent gun control laws going back a long ways.

Gun controllers like to look at the crudest statistics possible, comparisons between whole nation states, because it lets them ignore those massive variations from place to place within nation states, and blame variations in violence which are trivial by comparison on just one of the many variables in play.

Don't ask me to buy the Brady Bunch's party line horsesh*t, in other words.

don't try to bullshit me that a phenomenon that varies by multiple orders of magnitude with gun laws, and rates of gun ownership held constant, is being driven by guns.

I actually have no disagreement with your point here.

I do not believe that the mere ownership of a gun someone transforms an otherwise peaceable person into a murderer.

What I do think is that American culture is very violent, and violent culture + guns means a lot of people get shot.

That's not necessarily an argument for or against gun laws. I imagine it would depend on the gun law. It might be an argument in favor of trying to change the culture, but that's a hell of a lot harder project.

I also think that people who are perfectly fine with doing violence to other people are also quite often interested in owning guns, and in this country it's extraordinarily easy for them to get them. I don't see that as a good thing, for anyone, at all.

What I absolutely think is pure folly is the idea that states and municipal governments may not make it illegal for folks who demonstrate an inability to behave responsibly, in any of a variety of ways, from owning a gun. Period.

People with, for example, significant clinical mental illnesses can arm themselves at a level approaching that of a military fireteam. That is insane, period, and the folks who enable that at the public policy level are, IMVHO, irresponsible bastards.

I'm sure that you and I are not going to agree on that point, probably ever.

So be it.

"What I absolutely think is pure folly is the idea that states and municipal governments may not make it illegal for folks who demonstrate an inability to behave responsibly, in any of a variety of ways, from owning a gun. Period."

The argument is not over whether they can, but how they have to go about it in order to satisfy due process requirements. My position is that permanent denial of any civil liberty, ANY of them, must require a process comparable to a criminal, not civil, trial, including a right to a jury. Because permanent deprivation of a civil liberty is a typical criminal punishment.

None of this taking civil liberties away on the basis of bureaucratic decisions or doctor's opinions, or boilerplate orders by judges. Or based on plea bargains decades ago, where the plea did NOT involve lose of civil liberties, just a minor fine. (Lautenberg act.)

You want to treat somebody like a felon? Do it by a process equivalent to convicting them of a felony. Not on the cheap.

My other point, of course, is that it's an utter fantasy to suppose that passing a law saying that somebody who's walking the streets can't have a gun, will actually keep them from having a gun. Really works effectively with drugs, doesn't it?

I imagine it would depend on the gun law.

Si!

Really works effectively with drugs, doesn't it?

That's because we have stupid drug laws. (That, and drugs don't usually come in the form of fairly large hunks of metal. Pills, little bits of powder, leafy stuff that looks something like oregano, all of which are consumed - these aren't durable goods.)

I should probably add that, if we didn't have stupid drug laws, we'd have a lot less reason to be arguing about gun violence.

"There are places where virtually everybody owns a gun, and you can leave your door unlocked in perfect safety."

Brett's point regarding regionasl disparities in the ratio of gun ownership to gun violence is excellent.

Anecdotally, where I live I think everyone owns a firearm of some type - especially guns for hunting. The crime rate is very low and we don't lock our doors unless we will be gone overnight. I can only recall two incidents of gun violence in the last ten years in the whole county. In one a hunter shot and killed another hunter (typical stupid hunting accident). In the other, a severely disturbed guy tried to commit suicide with a .22 pistol. He botched the job.

That's it.

Saying that the prevalence of guns causes the prevalence of violent crime cannot be a fair statement.

Even claiming there is a correlation is spurious *if* one uses detailed data points (like county level). Your R sq is going to be less than strong.

"What I do think is that American culture is very violent"

Apparently it is not (see above). Your statement might have more truth if you said American *urban* culture is very violent. Most gun violence is clustered in urban centers. There is a correlation between population density and gun violence.

However, even this qualification does not make for the most accurate statement. More to the point would be that heavily minority populated urban centers, where drug dealing is a prevalent feature of lifestyle, are violent.

Remove urban minority hard drug/gang culture and the gun violence rate in the US drops to unremarkable levels.

Yes, there are still some crazy outliers like Cullumbine, but statistically the mortality of these incidents is close to the mortality of litghening strikes.

So what do you want to do about it? What is the way of liberty, freedom, etc.

Disarm everyone? Or deal with the issues of urban/gang culture and lunutics having access to guns?

http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/gun-violence/

BTW guns are used in about 68% of murders. So, of course, other methods (especially blunt objects and knives) are used in the remaining 32%.

Is it so hard to imagine that if access to guns was restricted further that there would be at least a shift to about 50% homicides comitted with other methods?

And then there would be a liberal outcry demanding knives and ballpean hammers to be banned?

McTx: I am pretty sure Ugh is getting at something different, as in some kind of attitude or mental state or some other qualitative aspect of gun vs other violence. I am not clear on what he's getting at.

I'm not sure I'm getting at anything different. As I (and you/russell/others) noted it's very, very easy to kill someone with a gun. In fact, too easy.

What evidence do I have that it's too easy? Well, the number of murder/suicides via gun vs. other methods of violence. That is, there seems to be a great deal of "oh fuck, what have I done!!?!?" self-assessment associated with gun murders that then result in suicides as opposed to other kinds of murders.

There's also a certain "Respect My Authoritah!" associated with guns that, IMO, you don't see elsewhere, that tends to violence.

As there has been in England, by the way.

Disarm everyone?

Why would you ask such a thing? Has anyone suggested that?

Most gun violence is clustered in urban centers. There is a correlation between population density and gun violence.

Too bad places like DC and Chicago weren't allowed to deal with that situation.

per captia, the states with the highest amount of gun-related aggravated assaults? SC, TN, DC, DE, MO.

per capita, the region with the highest amount of gun-related aggravated assaults? the south (the old south and the southwest).

per capita, DC has the highest number of gun murders, followed by LA, MO, MD, SC.

data

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Whatnot


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