Sports media column version 09.06.13 — Brainwashing and beyond, exposed in the “United States of Football”

thebos_usofUPDATED: FRIDAY, 2:30 p.m.:

What was good enough to get onto the website and print version:

A version of the blog post we did Thursday about the NFL concussion discussion and how it pertains to former players who work for the media and have had issues in the past.

What could have but didn’t have enough juice behind it:

== The trailer above for the documentary “United States of Football” should hopefully inspire you to find a theater that has managed to squeeze it into marquee this weekend, as it hits national distribution in 140 theaters across the country. It recently finished a week-long run at the Landmark in West L.A. but has time set aside for it at the Regency 8 in Agoura Hills (Saturday, 4:10 p.m.), the Regency 9 in Granada Hills (Saturday, 4 p.m.), the Plant 16 in Van Nuys (Saturday, 4 p.m.) and the Foothill Cinema Stadium 10 in Azusa (Saturday, 4:50 p.m.).

Otherwise, look for it on Video On Demand starting Oct. 6. Pre-orders for the DVD are at the official website: http://theusof.com/
la-et-mn-us-football-review-20130823-001It’s a fascinating evolution of attitude for writer/director Sean Pamphilon as he concerns himself whether to let his son, Alix, now a sophomore in high school, become part of the decision on playing flag football on the junior high level. Pamphilon says he was the dad who enjoyed watching his son play the game on a level he never attained, but now that he knows today about repetitive brain injuries suffered from helmet hits, it’s a whole new discussion.

Pamphilon admits that when he was a 23-year-old getting into the business and cutting highlights at Bristol, Conn., for ESPN shows, he was “told to focus on big plays, bit hits and don’t cheat on the reactions. My job was to make sure fans like you were titillated … and desensitized.” It led to that ESPN “Jacked Up” segment that anchors Chris Berman and Tom Jackson so loved to do the voice over work for, screaming about a player who got a helmet knocked off by a huge hit in particular.

“I said many times this was about as stupid as something I’d ever seen,” Bob Costas says in the film about that ESPN now-defunct segment.

Pamphilon said Thursday in a phone interview that, looking back on his ESPN days, “I was just doing what I was taught. I thought it was awesome. It was far away from what I remember the game as when I was 7, when I was upset that I’d miss a game because of Sunday school, when players were knocked down but there was a gentleman aspect in a brutal game when other players would help them up. Now you just see guys destroying each other, knowing where the cameras are and how to get on TV. I know ESPN changed college basketball — it eliminated the mid-range jumpers (because of the highlights featuring dunks and 3-pointers) — and now with football it eliminated simple tackling. It changed the game, not for the better.”
jadeveon-clowney-hit-apOne highlight in particular that still defies logic in Pamphilon’s mind is that hit South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl. That alone seemed to vault Clowney into this year’s Heisman Trophy talk.

clowney3s-1-web“It’s sickening, especially when you listen to the broadcasters in that game sound as if they’re getting erections from seeing it,” said Pamphilon. “It’s staggering to me in a culture where we understand it’s a hit that can cause long-term damage, that doesn’t resonate. That hit was the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter seemingly forever, and it may have even won some ESPY Award.

“I was listening to ESPN Radio on the day the NFL concussion settlement came down, and the discussion was about how this could next transition into the college game. Some of the hosts of the show were talking about when they saw high school tape of Clowney playing, it was ‘like a wildebeest among a bunch of little rabbits.’ I couldn’t believe he said that. These are people with a huge disparity of prowess and talent, kind of like that kid in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High.’”

In a somewhat Michael Moore kind of dogged pursuit from “Roger and Me,”  Pamphilon is also in a 16-month challenge to seek a response from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to talk about the concussion issue with the pointed questions he has about people and families he’s met from the NFL family who continue to haunt him.

The film makes no bones about the fact that the NFL is acting a lot like the tobacco industry in waiting too long and too late before talking about safety. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, representing the 38th district of California (Cerritos-Pico Rivera-Whittier-La Marada-Norwalk area) is also featured for the way she questioned Goodell during a hearing on Capitol Hill about brain injuries.

gladhOne quote from best-selling social science author Malcolm Gladwell seems to ring prominently in all this: “What I suspect we will do is we will go to a middle position where we disclose the risks and essentially dare people to play anyway. That’s what the Army does. Football becomes the Army.”

And as for Pamphilon’s son Alix: He’s taken to baseball and playing the guitar. No where near the football field.
“We empowered him by letting him make the decision, taking in all the information,” said Pamphilon. “He values his intelligence. You see stories about kids whose GPA goes from 3.5 to a 2.1 after having football-related headaches, taking years to recover. If a kid is out just two weeks because of a concussions, that’s also two weeks out of the classroom.”

== More to come with a Q and A we did with Kyle Turley, the former New Orleans Saints offensive lineman who is a focal point of “United States of Football” for the way he lives today with a CTE diagnosis and how that scares him living with his wife and two small children.

== While our media column indicates that neither Troy Aikman, John Lynch nor Boomer Esiason have filed lawsuits against the NFL as they continue to work in the media covering the game, the L.A. Times discovered that NFL Network employees Deion Sanders, Brian Baldiger, Willie McGinest, Darren Sharper and Bucky Brooke have pending claims with the California Workers’ Compensation seeking money for their NFL-related concussion-impared condition. The irony pointed out in the story is that Sanders has been vocal on the air criticizing those who could seek financial benefits from injuries. Neither Sanders nor his lawyers would comment on the situation. When we pursued a story last week about the NFL’s settlement with 4,500 plaintiffs seeking concussion-related compensation, McGinest, the former USC star, declined comment.
== If you need the complete NFL TV guide treatment, with all the details on who’s changing roles where, we defer to the gentleman from Sports Illustrated and his MMQB connections, as well as what he charted out a week earlier.
Amidst all the new Sunday morning pregame festivities: “Colin’s New Football Show” with Colin Cowherd launches Sunday at 6 a.m. on ESPN2, covering both college and pro football in an hour’s time. To make it more viewer-friendly, the set is designed as a kitchen and living room.
Also pay attention to what former Raiders CEO Amy Trask has to say during her break-through appearances on “That Other Pregame Show” that CBS Sports Network will air Sundays from 6 to 10 a.m.

== Seriously, we need a well-traveled scribe from Boston to tell us how good Vin Scully is?
“Ted Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Russell, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jim Brown, Winston Churchill, Bobby Orr, Yo-Yo Ma, Muhammad Ali . . . And Vin Scully. The best who ever lived.”
And, with a gig as the Grand Marshall for the ’14 Rose Bowl parade and game (you may now flip the coin)

== Rick Waltz and Eric Karros call Saturday’s Dodgers-Reds game from Cincinnati (10 a.m., Channel 11), going to 37 percent of the country. The majority — 54 percent — get Boston at N.Y. Yankees (with Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver).

== If you’re still bitter that you couldn’t see UCLA’ s season-opening win over Nevada last week and probably won’t see USC face Boston College next week — both were/are on the Pac-12 Network, inaccessible by DirecTV subscribers — here’s another enhanced slant on why this will continue to play out as a stalemate.

0222sexes== The latest installment of “American Masters” on PBS SoCal (KOCE Channel 50, Tuesday, 8 p.m.) focuses on Billie Jean King, 10 days before the 40th anniversary of her famous “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs. King tells her story — the first sports figure highlighted in this “Masters” series — with perspective added by Rosie CasalsChris Evert, Venus Williams, Gloria Steinem, Elton John and Riggs’ son.

== NBA TV has coverage of the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies from Springfield, Mass. (Sunday, 11 a.m.), hosted by Ahmad Rashad. Among the 12 honored this year are former UNLV coach (and Long Beach State coach) Jerry Tarkanian and one-time Laker (and current Fox Sports Live studio crew member) Gary Payton.

== RIP, Fox Soccer Channel, or, just go away.

617uc4gjydL== Karl Hubenthal, whose work at the old L.A. Herald-Examiner from his Encino studio until his retirement in the early ‘80s stood as the standard for Southern California sports media art, considered Willard Mullin his mentor. Bob Staake, the Redondo Beach native and USC alum whose award-winning cartoon editorial work anchors the pages of New Yorker magazine, says Mullin “defined the modern sports cartoon by combining representative portraiture, cartoonish doodlery, and editorial commentary—part news account, part personal observation, his cartoons celebrated sport for its entertainment, cultural, and artistic value. . . .The sports cartoon has been dead for years, traditional newspapers themselves doing their best to cling to dear life. But Williard Mullin remains the high benchmark of the art form, a historical touchstone.”
At last, a retrospective of Mullin’s work has been released in an oversized book: “Willard Mullin’s Golden Age of Baseball: Drawings 1934-1972” (Fantagraphics Books, 240 pages, $35, edited by Hal Bock and Michael Powers, with Staake writing the introduction, including a confession that he stole a Mullin’s “Junior Encyclopedia Of Sports” book from the Torrance Library when he was a kid in 1971, and was able to keep it for six months until his mom made him return it – but he later bought 66 original Mullin pieces of art from the book in 2012). “Golden Age” goes far beyond the famous Mullin depiction of the Brooklyn Bum, his 1939 character that represented the downtrodden Brooklyn Dodgers at the time. Staake has remained one of Mullin’s greatest fans, devoting a section of his own website to Mullin’s works.

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