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Quick Inside Slant: Week 11

Impressions of the 2012 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

San Francisco and St. Louis battled for 75 minutes only to end up with a tie but it was less like when Atlanta and Pittsburgh tied in 2002 after a game where neither deserved to lose and much more like when the Eagles and Bengals tied in 2008 after a lousy game that neither team deserved a win.

A professional football game ended in a tie this week. This happens every four to seven years like really poorly manufactured clockwork. You know what other professional sports end in ties?

Soccer.

That’s it. Not hockey, not cricket, not pickle ball. Just soccer, where a 3-0 game is considered a blowout. It happened once in the baseball all-star game and Bud Selig went out of his gourd and forced home field advantage for the freaking World Series to go through this silly exhibition game.

So why do we let this happen in football? I heard the argument that the players are tired after so much playing. Really, J.A. Adande? So players in other sports don’t get tired. You think those Flyers and Penguins in their fifth overtime were thinking “Well, thank God I didn’t decide to play football. I might have to play up to an extra 15 minutes! Of course, I’d only be playing for half that time anyway. And I’d really only need to be moving for about four seconds every minute. Man, we have it easy”? No.

And once again, we get to hear about how the players thought there was going to be another overtime. I lived in Cincinnati when the Eagles and Bengals played to a tie in 2008. I heard Donovan McNabb fully admit that he didn’t think a tie was “in the rules” and had to try to defend why he wouldn’t need to know that. And he is a professional quarterback with ten years of experience. I realize that none of them have probably tied in a long time because they play to a victory in college and high school and pee-wee and video games. But don’t the coaches talk to the players? Doesn’t this seem important information to give them? I know coaches control the play-calling and game management, but if I was a professional quarterback playing in an overtime game, my decision making would probably be affected by such news. I would also probably be driving a car where all the windows rolled down too, but that’s a story for another day.

So the Rams missed a chance to knock off the Niners and as a consolation prize, got to first base with their sisters, screwing up all the playoff scenarios with a tally in a normally dormant column. And they went and knocked out my backup fantasy quarterback when my starter is going on a bye. Maybe they should have taken RG3 after all.

Gray Matter Gray Area

Alex Smith is one of four starting quarterbacks who were knocked out of the game last week, along with Vick, Cutler and Roethlisberger. Three of the four of them sustained anywhere from “concussion-like symptoms” to “a concussion.” The other actually broke off a rib internally which is dangerously pointed right at his aorta just in time for his two games against the Ravens. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

My main issue isn’t with Big Ben’s sense of entitlement and sexually prolific past. It’s with the labeling of brain trauma. As of last year, the NFL now has procedures in place to test for concussions mid-game. Forty years ago, I’m not even sure if they knew what concussions were. I think they just called them “cobwebs” and they’d call a running play next. You know, to give the guy with the brain damage a minute to shake the cobwebs off. But the NFL is a different place now largely because the world is a different place now. Lots of old school fans criticize the current softness of the league. These, of course, are old school fans that don’t have to pull themselves out of a car wreck and immediately hop right into another car.

However, there are still those that try to skirt the rules. “Concussion-like symptoms” do not a concussion make. Also, apparently you don’t have to sit out a week if it’s only a minor concussion, as we learned from RG3 earlier this year. Coaches want to win to keep their jobs and players don’t want to be labeled as soft, so if a player is told to run with the “minor concussion” story, he more than likely will. This is categorically unfair to the guy with the cobwebs in his head. But there’s a reason I’m a little more sensitive to this situation.

My Concussion

My concussion occurred during a scrimmage for my full contact flag football game. To the uninitiated, I know “full contact flag football” sounds like “vegetarian meat loaf,” but that’s beside the point. I jumped up to make an interception and after contact, I fell to the ground with the ball cradled under my chest, which see-sawed my head into the ground.

This is all hearsay for the record, as I don’t remember any of this. Nor do I remember the 90 seconds of unconsciousness, using the football as a pillow, denying the request to bring an ambulance when somebody had them on the phone, getting helped to the bench or unsuccessfully trying to remember what day it was. After being asked the question, I just stared off into space. All I kept asking is “Are we on offense or defense?” Dude, you just intercepted the ball! “Great! Are we on offense or defense?” People who don’t even really know football know that when you intercept the ball, you’re on offense next. So if the 90 seconds of unconsciousness or the inability to remember the day of the week wasn’t enough, this made everybody realize that things weren’t quite right in my head. Literally.

When I came to, (the part that I remember), everyone told me that I gave them a big scare. Sorry. Ironically, I wasn’t afraid at all, as I don’t remember a damn thing. I remember becoming aware of my surroundings, which was about 10-20 minutes after everyone else thought I woke up. Strangely (or maybe not), my memory also starts exactly then. I was again asked what day it was. I had it narrowed down to 2 days, as I doubted I’d be ditching work with everybody else to play a football scrimmage. Then I remembered I wasn’t watching football and figured it out. Score some points for my deductive reasoning, but I don’t think that’s the process by which concussion patients are hoped to come up with that answer. I think most people just kinda know what day it is. All I really wanted to know was whether or not we were on offense or defense. For some reason, everybody laughed.

So What?

Granted this is a severe case, but I was up and talking and seemingly alive well before my memory starts. The same thing happened with Colt McCoy last year ago after getting thunderpunched by James Harrison, the real dirtiest player in the NFL. He didn’t even remember the play on being checked on the sideline afterwards. He told the coaches that he wanted to go back in and that he thought his head was right, but players always want to go back in and I even thought my head was right, despite losing consciousness.

Now What?

The NFL has since stopped leaving it up to players to police themselves. But how much weight do the team doctors really have when they have a coach in their ear who has likely given them their job and whose job relies on this win? And independent doctors may not be the solution either unless each doctor has a baseline exam on every player.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know. I don’t get paid to figure out the answer. But it was certainly a much easier question when they were just cobwebs.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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