Everything Else

Ok, not really, but it was a fun joke to make.

There is a great fear in football, which was there before Andrew Luck retired but is now only exacerbated, about a shrinking player pool. And that’s at every level. As you probably already know, the level of participation at the youth level has been dropping for years, as more and more parents have decided slowly killing their children is less than ideal. And at the top level, more and more players are retiring at younger and younger ages because they’ve made their money, don’t feel the need to ruin their later years, and can still get out with everything mostly intact or as close to it as they’ll ever be.

The other sport with concussion issues, or at least a lawsuit because of it (baseball probably has one too at least behind the plate) hasn’t had this rash yet. We haven’t seen a lot of players retiring early when in the peak of their careers unless there was no other choice. Nathan Horton didn’t have a choice. David Clarkson had piled up so many injuries he didn’t have a choice. There are other names who simply could not even consider playing again. But they’re a far bigger rarity than what we’re seeing in the NFL.

But with Andrew Luck being the biggest name to decide it wasn’t worth it (rightly) anymore, is this something the NHL will have to fear in the near future? I tend to doubt it.

One, and the big one that both sides of the brain-injury debate in football tend to miss, is the very nature of football is destructive to the brain. It’s not the blow ’em-up, wince-on-your-couch hits that are the problem, or THE problem. The arbiters of the game think it is, a lot of fans on both sides think it is, but it’s not the major issue. It’s the contact on every play. It’s the simple blocking and tackling, the sub-concussive contact that adds up over a game, season, career that does most of the damage. And you can’t measure that damage on the brain until it’s too late. It’s also that contact that leads to a ton of other injuries, the type that Luck decided he’d had enough of. Football is just a dull ache at best all the time, disastrous on the body at its worst.

Hockey doesn’t have that. It has contact all over the ice of course, but nothing like football. There are probably entire shifts players can go through without contact (cue Don Cherry losing his mind about Europeans here). Hockey’s injuries come from the big hits, and those are the ones that the rules-makers are ham-handedly trying to fix. You could actually get these completely out of the game if you weren’t so terrified about an old white man with a nose the size of Idaho and as red as Mississippi losing his goddamn mud over it. That’s another debate, but the rate of major injury in hockey just isn’t the same.

Second, hockey players just don’t have the safety net that Luck does.

We joke about hockey players being dumber than donkey shit all the time, but this does enter into it. Luck has a Stanford education, and while there are hockey players from Harvard, Yale, Michigan (it’s a seriously good school I’m not being biased here), Brown, Cornell, BC, BU, and a few others, the ones who stay all four years and graduate tend to be fringe NHL-ers anyway. Your major stars in the NHL are in college maybe a year, some don’t even go, and a ton aren’t in school past like seventh grade in reality. The only thing they can do is hockey. They’d be lost without it.

While a lot of football players don’t do much on campus (and actually we’d be much better off if too large a number only did nothing instead of bad), they have to be there three years. A good portion of them do get somewhat close to a degree if they want, and a good portion go back and get it even while playing, no matter how much of a star. Their options are a little more varied.

Magary covered this yesterday, but one thing hockey and football probably do have in common is searching out players whose life is only the sport they play. This is much easier for hockey scouts, and probably getting more and more difficult for football scouts and GMs. But you’ve seen what hockey minds think of any player who shows any personality or outside interests. Hell, we made fun of Jonathan Toews’s and his interest in green science, because it was fun to do so while also happy that he actually did have an outside interest. But do you think there were some in the Hawks front office who worried his new passions led to his dip in production? You better believe there were.

Unlike football, hockey has the ability to change the things that make it destructive. And at times, it feels like they want to but don’t know how. But it’s not as urgent as football, which is probably why they’ll stick with half-measures for the meantime.

Everything Else

Wow. There are moments as a sports fan where you can say “I was there when ______ happened”. The Cleveland Cavilers come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors. Keith Traylor returns a Mark Brunell interception 67 yards. Mick Foley gets thrown off the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets thrown through the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets chokeslammed onto thumbtacks. Andrew Luck solidified himself as the subject of a future bomb ass 30 for 30 documentary tonight with his 3rd quarter retirement from football. Dude’s 29 and has seen some shit, and you’ll see some takes about how disloyal he was to the franchise and the fans and blah blah blah. Don’t buy it. This team sucked for Luck, and then they fucked Luck, because Ryan Grigson is a schmuck. New Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano fucked him as well, since both oversaw what was essentially medical malpractice when the stud QB injured his shoulder in 2015 and the team allowed him to play so that the then GM and coach could keep their jobs. He doesn’t owe the team a goddamn thing.

That said, holy shit what a shocker. I’m assuming he didn’t tell the team what was going on, and it’s an almost Aaron Rodgers level of pettiness to be out there shooting the breeze with his teammates knowing he is checking out tomorrow, instantly taking them out of the AFC title hunt. I feel for the dude, I really do, but I feel the most for Jacoby Brissett, because he is the guy that’s gotta cover for the guy who quit mid-shift and now he’s filling orders for two packers because Jeff Bezos needs to keep his profit margins as high as possible.

Oh yeah, the Bears played too. Honestly, if this wasn’t a player who I liked so much that was screwed by his team, I’d be making more jokes about how he retired due to the @CaptAndrewLuck Twitter account getting absolutely ETHERED by Prince Amukamara this week, or because Deon Bush’s pure dominance struck an almost existential fear into the heart of America’s preeminent neckbearded athlete.

Other takeaways from The Luck Game:

-Deon Bush has played himself on the field for the regular season if you ask me. He’s gonna get some snaps, and if HaHa struggles I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start a game or two. I also think James Vaughters makes the 53 man roster, and YES MY BOY SMOKE MIZZELL LOOKED GREAT ON SPECIAL TEAMS. We all have those bubble guys that we root for, and seeing Taquan turn on those jets while covering punts and making tackles on kickoff returns was a thing of beauty.

-Eddy Pineiro crushed that 58 yard field goal and it was a thing of beauty, and nailed all his kickoffs and extra points. Can we stop with the kicker stuff now? Please?

-I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Kerrith Whyte makes this team, Marvin Hall doesn’t. Whyte is gonna get some burn during the regular season, too. Seeing his agility has me pumped thinking about using him in plays using pre-snap jet motion principles. Holy shit hurry up and be September 5th already.

-Nice Fact of the Week: Ryan Nall has a 69 yard run in a preseason game for the second time in two years. Nice.

-Nick Kwiatkoski played great, and I’m warming up to the idea of looking at a second contract for him, but there is no way he should be a starting ILB in 2019. I’m also all in on the idea of Josh Woods as the last ILB to make the roster. Dude has range and makes plays all over the field.

-The entire WR corps played like garbage. I’m still holding out hope for that Riley Ridley hype train to pick me up, but I hope he can play some special teams while we wait.

-The Bears shouldn’t have any tight ends on the 53 man roster for the upcoming season because holy fuck the depth chart after Trey Burton is literally Adam Shaheen and a collection of future suburban Chicagoland gym teachers.

-Duke Shelley is an interesting prospect, but he is not ready for meaningful football on the main roster this upcoming season. He flashes once or twice a game, but he was getting beat all night in coverage and in Pagano’s more man-to-man system, he needs time to hone his technique.

The Bears play their preseason finale next Thursday, and in the meantime I’ll be watching King of the Ring 1998. Hopefully Marcus Mariota survives the game, because if he doesn’t the Chicago Bears of the 2019 preseason will be knocking QBs out of the league at an unheard of rate.