01/20/13 9:21am

Football

The former Joan Giger Walker and I have not been seeing too much of each other recently. She’s been in one room reading books and doing crossword puzzles; I’ve been in another gorging on the NFL playoffs.

And let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: Football is a dumb sport that probably deserves to be supplanted by books and crosswords. It’s indefensibly violent and, at the professional level at least, populated mostly by muscle-bound, overweight, tattooed millionaires. It often seems to be a sport wherein the outcome of games depends largely on the skills of the medical personnel who treat the legions of bone-crushing, brain-deadening injuries that result from every game. (Recently, in upstate New York, I saw an entire broadsheet newspaper column devoted to the “NFL Injury Report,” all in 7-point type. That’s a lot of injuries.)

And yet … And yet I remain a fan of the sport some 47 years after I walked away from it in college. Then, it wasn’t a case of rejecting the violence or the coaches’ obsession with winning. It was a question of not being good enough to make the team and of having discovered an alternative sport, rugby, where beer drinking on the sidelines was allowed — nay, encouraged. (Rugby was, you see, a club sport at my college, and thus not overseen by the intercollegiate athletic department.)

But I remain a football fan with reservations. Surely, the excitement, athleticism and, yes, the violence attract, but no longer is it possible to sit on the sidelines and observe this sport without acknowledging the mounting evidence about football-related head injuries.

Just last week there was a report about the suicide death at age 43 of Junior Seau, the former All-Pro linebacker with the San Diego Chargers. According to ABC News, “A team of independent researchers who did not know they were studying Seau’s brain all concluded he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head.” And then he shot himself in the chest, leaving behind his wife and four children.

And it’s not an isolated case. More and more former football players are being diagnosed with CTE — and even the NFL has started to take notice, slowly adjusting its rules to forbid helmet-on-helmet collisions, below-the-knee cut blocks and other actions deemed likely to cause serious injury.

ANOTHER TAKE ON THE ISSUE

 

There’s even been talk of modifying or perhaps even eliminating punt and kick-off returns, the two football plays that result in the most serious injuries. And there’s another type of play that causes me to cringe every time I see it, whether it’s in a professional or college game, wherein a wide receiver runs over the middle of the field, keeping his eyes on the incoming pass, and is blindsided by a 220-pound free safety running at full speed in the opposite direction. It is precisely the sort of “hit” that turned New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley into a quadriplegic when he was tackled by Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum on Aug. 12, 1978.

Several years ago, I wrote in this space about my 9-year-old grandson’s decision, seconded by his parents, to give up Pee Wee football after two years. By the time he quit to concentrate on less violent sports like baseball, basketball and soccer, he’d already suffered a concussion that sidelined him for a game or two. And the only dissent expressed about his decision came from coaches and other parents associated with the youth league.

Assuming football — even in a modified, less violent form — is here to stay, I would advise parents to keep their children away from the sport at least until they’re in junior high school. By then, their bodies have matured to the point where they’re better able to withstand the punishment. And before then, they can learn the fundamentals of the game by playing touch or flag football, neither of which allows tackling.

So, OK, by this point you’re probably asking yourself how I can remain a football fan at the same time I’m decrying the violence and dangers of the sport.

That’s a very good question. Can I get back to you on that after the Super Bowl?

tgustavson@timesreview.com

01/04/13 5:00pm

TROY GUSTAVSON

If you have not already perused the business story on page three of the Reporter’s January 3 print edition, or seen this site’s last post, let me be the first to inform you that this week marks a changing of the guard at Times/Review NewsGroup.

Effective with the New Year, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have transferred ownership of the company and the three community newspapers it publishes — The Suffolk Times, The News-Review and the Shelter Island Reporter — to our daughter, Sarah Olsen, and her husband, Andrew Olsen, who has served as publisher since Joan and I stepped down as co-publishers in 2003.

This is, as you might imagine, a bittersweet time for the Gustavsons. We purchased the business from the Dorman family in November of 1977, and our 35 years as owners have been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began when I “published” The Coolidge Place Gazette as a 10-year-old in Hackensack, New Jersey. So this is the end of an era, and that’s the bitter part.

The sweet part is that Times/Review will remain in our family for the foreseeable future. Sarah and Andrew are ready, willing and able to take the helm, and Joan and I are confident that they and their amazing staff will continue to produce high-quality, prize-winning newspapers and websites. You can assess the Olsens’ qualifications for yourself in the aforementioned business story, but here’s one most people are unaware of: back in the late ’80s, before they were married, Sarah and Andrew were co-editors of The Quill, the newspaper jointly published by students from Greenport and Southold high schools. (Sarah went to Greenport, Andrew to Southold.) So, you see, they’ve had newspapering in their blood for a long time, too.

On January 5, 1978, as the new owners we published an editorial under a headline that read: “What We Stand For.” It appeared in both The Suffolk Times and The News-Review, and the sentiments expressed applied once again when we acquired the Reporter some 20 years later. We’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if those promises were fulfilled or not, as follows:

“The changing of the guard at The Suffolk Times hopefully will be taken for what it is: a natural evolution. Newspapers are bigger than their owners, and the Times will be here for a long time after we’ve all played out our part in its life.

“Nevertheless, the community has a right to know what we stand for. And that will be up to you — our readers — to determine over a period of time. What follows is offered to help you keep score in the months and years ahead.

“We stand for truth. The truth will always be our guiding light.

“We stand for excellence. There is always room for improvement, but we intend to build upon the record of excellence that has become the standard at the Times.

“We stand for fairness. If we fail to be even-handed in our reporting and editorial policy, we hope it will be merely because we are human and not in the business of grinding axes.

“We stand for self-determination. The right of the individual to determine his own fate — beyond the influence of outside forces — is supreme in our eyes. And that goes for outside forces who would overdevelop our diminishing farmland, supply power to points west by despoiling the North Fork’s natural resources and endangering its people, or bring interstate ferry service to a village that has serious reservations of that service.

“We stand for non-partisanship. It doesn’t matter to us whether someone is a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. Honesty, integrity and performance are what matters.

“That is what we stand for. Now it’s up to you to determine whether we live up to our word.”