I have a confession to make: As a cultural observer, I love chutzpah. I get a kick when someone has the unmitigated gall to point the finger at someone else for conduct that they wear like an albatross around their own neck.
And this year’s winner for Organizational Sports Chutzpah Award goes to the National Football League for a move that is over the top.
USA Today reported recently that visits to the disabled list because of concussions in Major League Baseball are up this year. To date, 18 players have been placed on that list because of concussions or head injuries. That’s five more than all of last season and seven more than 2011, when baseball instituted a seven-day concussion DL. The story reported that 10 of those visits were made by catchers, and that Boston’s David Ross has made two trips to the DL this season alone.
To be sure, that fact is somewhat alarming, and deserves some level of scrutiny. The question is who should be drawing attention?
You might think that an organization like the NFL, which just settled a lawsuit filed and joined by more than 4,000 retired players who accused the league of hiding what it knew about the effects of head trauma, would probably want to stay away from mentioning concussions.
You might think that a league like the NFL that agreed to pay less than 10 percent of what it takes in in a year to settle those suits and did so without acknowledging fault would want to stay quiet on this matter.
You might think that a league like the NFL, which allegedly brought pressure on one of its broadcast partners, ESPN, to get out of an upcoming documentary on concussions, wouldn’t have the temerity to bring up head trauma.
You would be wrong.
A link to the USA Today piece appeared on, of all places, the NFL’s website. A writer for the site wrote that quote “MLB is dealing with the same concussion culture that the NFL has been trying to change.”
And when, exactly, did that happen? The NFL has labored mightily for years not only to keep the issue of head trauma on the down low, but to minimize its own involvement.
Indeed, a number of news outlets reported that if the recent settlement hadn’t taken place, the NFL was prepared to argue in court that blame for football concussions should be shared among high schools and colleges as much as the professional ranks.
Oh, the irony.