Everybody Hates a Tourist


I’m sure there’s nothing more annoying to football fans than drive-by commentary from someone who knows as little about football as I do, but I did watch the NFC and AFC championship games last night, and man was this a brutal hit. I don’t know what the NFL can do about head injuries associated with hits like this – there was no flag on this play.






57 replies
  1. 1
    Face says:

    Pollard has made a cottage industry in injuring Pats players. He blew out Brady’s knee in 08, and has laid huge licks on Welker, Gronk, and now Ridley.

    Needless to say, Pollard’s going to have some significant CTE 10 years from now.

  2. 2
    Dave N. says:

    There was no flag on the play because Ridley (the running back) was not defenseless at the time. In fact, Ridley lowered head head into Pollard and got knocked out for his effort.

    The refs were correct in not throwing a flag on that play.

  3. 3
    Just One More Canuck says:

    It looks like Ridley lowered his head and initiated the head to head contact. Don’t know Pollard’s history, but it’s hard to say what he did wrong on this play

  4. 4
    Brian says:

    It was perfectly legal. Nothing you can do unless everyone starts wearing flags instead. There were a few questionable personal foul calls on ‘defenseless players’ earlier as well.

  5. 5
    Robin G. says:

    Yeah, dude basically did it to himself.

  6. 6
    Richard R says:

    We’ve made lots of progress since the Roman arenas. We still have blood sport, but now the bleeding is mostly internal. Isn’t it fun to guess which player from every game will become seriously disabled for life.

  7. 7
    Nylund says:

    I don’t want to sound like a contrarian, but sometimes I think things would be better with less protective gear. I think more padding may make players more inclined to hit harder, or to use parts of the body as a weapon (eg. the head) rather than a part to protect.

    Then again, concussions is something the rugby world has started to worry more about as well.

  8. 8
    Unsympathetic says:

    There was zero worthy of a flag on this play. Pollard lowered himself to avoid hitting Ridley’s head well before the moment of impact, and Ridley led with his head.

    If anything, the play was a foul on Ridley.

    Back in the early days of the NFL [look up Marion Motley] the only “mask” on the helmet was a single bar across the bottom, like today’s kickers. That forced all players trying to tackle to square up and make every tackle a form tackle, rather than trying to use the head as a weapon.

  9. 9
    RP says:

    That was more bad luck than anything else. Ridley lowered his head to avoid the tackle and/or drive through Pollard and just happened to connect with Pollard’s helmet. Pollard wasn’t at fault in any way.

  10. 10
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Nylund:

    I don’t want to sound like a contrarian, but …

    Says the commenter on Balloon Juice. :)

  11. 11
    Schlemizel says:

    There was another hit in the game were a pats DB hammers a Raven receiver. initial contact was with the shoulder but helmets hit & the receivers head snapped back very violently. No flag on that on either. In both cases it probably was the correct (non) call by the rules they play under. In both cases you can see how the sport is designed to cause serious brain injury.

  12. 12
    Shrillhouse says:

    I dunno..looks like a “clean” hit to me.

    DISCLAIMER: I’m not a football expert by any means. Couldn’t tell you the last time the Celtics won a Superball…

  13. 13
    drj says:

    Still, it was weird to see Pollard strutting around like that after knocking someone out with a helmet-to-helmet hit.

    Can’t imagine it should really qualify as a sign of toughness.

  14. 14
    drj says:

    Still, it was weird to see Pollard strutting around like that after knocking someone out with a helmet-to-helmet hit.

    Can’t imagine it should really qualify as a sign of toughness.

  15. 15
    Legalize says:

    It looks like to me that Ridley knocked himself out by lowering his head into Pollard.

  16. 16
    sb says:

    There was no flag on the play and their shouldn’t have been. But I’m fairly certain that’s not your larger point; frankly, I thought you were going to write something closer to what Richard R wrote above.

    The NFL has been criminally negligent in the way they’ve addressed concussions and CTE. Thanks to the players and their families, pressure is mounting to change that and change is occuring.

    I think it’s entirely fair to challenge those of us who watch the games why we do so knowing the damage that is done can be lethal. If the players weren’t actively trying to change that–and successfully doing so–I wouldn’t be watching.

  17. 17
    FridayNext says:

    I agree with everyone else that this was a penalty on Ridley if anyone. For my money the more egregious no-call foul was Mayo on Pitta a play before the Ravens went ahead for good. Not to mention Brady’s weird kick out slide and what I thought was a clear Fair Catch violation (though I cannot find the clip online so will defer for now.)

    The Mayo-Pitta hit can be seen here: http://img.gawkerassets.com/im.....iginal.gif

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    Since nobody has commented since I posted this earlier today I want to note it again so people here can see it.

    They are having a fund raiser to raise money for Kate’s medical bills. In case yo have not been keeping up Kate was Gex’s partner and she posted here about some of the trials they have been going through with Kate’s cancer.

    There is a link in here to the site to buy tickets. If you feel you can afford to drop 20 bucks to help out it would be a nice thing
    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2.....nt-4153154

  19. 19
    Butler says:

    @Nylund: Nothing contrarian about that view, it’s generally accepted that the protection encourages more reckless behavior. Unfortunately it’s also become a key part of the game which would be hard to get rid of.

  20. 20
    flukebucket says:

    @FridayNext:

    Looks like the guy led with his shoulder on that hit. I think that was a good no call too.

  21. 21
    redshirt says:

    @Nylund: Agree 100%. Reduce the size of the shoulder pads and the helmet. Implement football wide (from pop warner to NFL) education programs about proper tackling techniques.

    The way they play the game today, there is no equipment that will prevent concussions. No magic technology can exist to prevent them. So, instead, the behaviors must change. And that won’t happen until the players are coached into a new mindset, and they don’t feel invincible behind all that padding.

  22. 22
    Ronnie P says:

    I think the Mayo-Pitta hit was legit as well. He’s clearly hitting with his shoulder.

    You could argue Flacco should have seen the defender and not thrown it. I’m afraid that sort of protection is getting lost now.

  23. 23
    gene108 says:

    If people want to reduce head injuries, it’s the other surgeries they need to get rid of such as arthroscopic knee surgery, repairing ACL tears, etc.

    In the old days, what are “routine” injuries used to be career ending. There was a natural limiting factor as to how long you could play and thus how many shots to the head you could take.

    You rarely had LB’s, like Junior Seau, hang around for 20 years or Ray Lewis for 17.

  24. 24
    rdldot says:

    @Schlemizel: why don’t you email one/some of the front pagers and ask them to put up a separate thread about that? It would get the attention it deserves that way.

  25. 25
    sb says:

    @Schlemizel: I read that Kate passed early yesterday. Deepest condolences to Gex, family and friends.

  26. 26
    FridayNext says:

    @flukebucket:

    Sure, I’ll buy that. I should have lead with the “I’m not an expert” disclaimer others have used and not used the word “egregious” but “questionable.” To me, as the non-expert, this play is much more in the gray area between call and no-call than the Ridley/Pollard hit.

    Still cannot find mention or clip of the Fair Catch violation, so maybe I imagined it.

  27. 27
    RSA says:

    I’m not a football watcher any more, but it all looks to be within the rules.

    On the larger point of whether head injuries are inevitable in football, I’ll note that in a lot of situations, like this one, the defensive guy is aiming to stop the ball carrier from moving forward rather than bring him down. So we see this huge collision with as much force as both guys can bring to bear. It’s hard to see how to reduce injuries without making drastic changes to the way the game is played.

  28. 28
    Irony Abounds says:

    They could cut down on the damage to the head by putting padding on the outside of the helmet, but then you couldn’t have your bright shiny logos on their, so forget about it.

  29. 29
    Danny says:

    The thing to remember in situations like this is that, while hits like this are horrible, they’re not what’s causing all the fuss. It’s the fact that all the sub-concussive head injuries add up over time. The “little” hits that knock your brain around a little.

    There’s no real way to protect against the sub-concussive injuries, barring some seriously revolutionary helmet technology, so I’m not really sure how football can deal with them.

  30. 30
    Svensker says:

    @Schlemizel:

    There’s also a GiveForward page. I don’t know if Gex has been around since Kate died, but I hope she knows we’re all holding her close.

  31. 31
    The Dangerman says:

    I agree with those that said the RB dropped his head and basically did it to himself. Much more important than the player knocking himself out (in the eyes of the teams and this is only slightly snark) this move was instrumental in the Patriots losing (a lot of money). Players are expendable (again, snark); possible trips to the Super Bowl are lost forever.

  32. 32
    jayackroyd says:

    @Nylund: Indeed. But the hurtling full speed contact is much of the games appeal.

  33. 33
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    Disclaimer: I rarely watch football.

    It seems to me that there are several things going on here:

    1) The game is structured and the culture around it (e.g. Madden’s blood-lust for violent hits) encourages violent tackles.

    2) The game is far too dependent on the officials catching violations of the rules. If players get away with it, it becomes standard procedure. “It was a good hit.” “He brought it on himself.” :-/

    3) The NFL management is not interested in technological fixes to reduce injuries. They know that gruesome hits gets more video time on TV and more people interested. They don’t want to put players in inflatable hamster balls. (I think that would be a great sport, myself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmjzHWIF61c (2:02 – SFW))

    4) The culture of the NFL encourages ever-larger players who are ever stronger, ever faster, and ever more oblivious to the damage they can do to themselves or their opponents.

    Until those things change, the game is going to become increasingly dangerous and increasingly violent.

    What can be done to fix it?

    How about something like requiring all tackles be made below the waist? Defenders flying through the air and smashing into people is what causes many/most of these dangerous injuries.

    But that would make the game boring and less warlike so it has about as much likelihood of being implemented as me walking on water, even with a hamster ball…

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  34. 34
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @FridayNext:

    For my money the more egregious no-call foul was Mayo on Pitta a play before the Ravens went ahead for good.

    As a notorious Ravens fan, I’m trying hard to be objective, but the more I watch that gif the more it looks like Mayo led with his helmet to the bottom edge of Pitta’s face mask–or at least hit him with the helmet at the same time as the shoulder. Contrast that with this video of Ray Lewis separating Dustin Keller from higher mental functions the ball in the 2010 Ravens-Jets game, widely cited as a textbook ultraviolent-but-completely-legal hit–Ray’s head goes to one side & his shoulder comes in at roughly the center of mass.

    Note that the play immediately following was a Flacco TD pass to–Dennis Pitta. Scoring well is the best revenge.

  35. 35
    The Dangerman says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    My $0.02.

    Your last line reminded me of something previously overlooked. Still on first cuppa caffeine on West Coast, always a dangerous time.

    Players are paid extremely (insanely) well to take the risks they do; until some of that incentive is removed, they’ll still take those risks. Economics drives everything in the end.

  36. 36
    2liberal says:

    pollard has exceeded his lifetime limit on injuring Patriots. He should get a lifetime ban from the league.

  37. 37
    flukebucket says:

    I also do not think it is necessary to say you are not an expert or that you do not watch much football. The more you watch football the more you see the inconsistency in the calling of penalties like that. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t and there is no damn way to predict when they will and when they won’t

  38. 38
    hoodie says:

    That hit looked mostly accidental, the running back happened to lower his head at the wrong time. The defensive players deservedly get a lot of grief on dangerous hits, but this case is an example of how offensive players, particularly big running backs, often initiate dangerous contact. The hit on Pitta should have drawn a flag, because that was pretty flagrant.

    You might get a better handle on this type of hit if it were treated like yellow and red cards in soccer, e.g., yellow card for both players after hit like the Ridley hit, red card on the defender for something like the Pitta hit. One red or two yellows and the player is ejected and suspended for at least a game. Would create an incentive for teams to work on tackling technique instead of just kinetic energy. There are reason to dislike Ray Lewis, but he does use good technique tackling and, consequently, doesn’t miss many tackles. You see a lot of secondary players,however, that try to make kinetic hits instead of wrapping guys up, and missing a lot of tackles because of it. This is probably because the receivers now tend to be huge and hard to bring down, while the defenders tend to be lighter in order to keep up with the receivers without committing interference. Might need to loosen up on the rules for pass interference and let slower, stronger dbacks jam big receivers further away from the line.

  39. 39
    Cacti says:

    @Nylund:

    I don’t want to sound like a contrarian, but sometimes I think things would be better with less protective gear. I think more padding may make players more inclined to hit harder, or to use parts of the body as a weapon (eg. the head) rather than a part to protect.

    I’ve thought that also.

    The modern helmet is used as a weapon as much as a protection.

  40. 40
    max says:

    The NFL is run by dicks. I watched the video once, and then went back to watch it again and it had been pulled for infringing. (I’m suspecting that infringing translates as ‘bad PR’.)

    I’m sure there’s nothing more annoying to football fans than drive-by commentary from someone who knows as little about football as I do

    {raises eyebrow} Given the neutron star-levels of density of the assholery in the football threads yesterday, I’m not sure that it matters.

    I don’t know what the NFL can do about head injuries associated with hits like this – there was no flag on this play.

    Well, our ball carrier spun away from a tackle, and it appears he decided to drop his center of gravity to avoid falling to oncoming tacklers. Maybe. So he dropped his helmet way down and hit Pollard who had already fallen and thus was still lower than the ball carrier. Maybe he deliberately was trying to aim his helmet at Pollard, but it didn’t work, since he wound up trying to drive Pollard’s head into Pollard’s spine, which is the axis of the skull which can take the most loading. Unfortunately the ball carrier did it with his forehead, so he must have bounced his brain around real good. (The helmet may stop moving, and then the skull is stopped by the padding, but the brain is going to keep going inside the skull. Squish.)

    It’s not a clothesline, a facemask, a late hit or anything like that. It could have been called as spearing, I guess:

    In American and Canadian football ‘spearing’ or ‘spear tackling’ refers to a player using their body as a spear (head out, arms by their side), whether it be in attack or defence. It is considered legal as long as players do not make initial contact with their head. Illegal use of a spear in gridiron results in either a 15-yard penalty if the offensive player commits the foul or an automatic first down if it is the defensive player. It is a common cause of catastrophic cervical spinal cord injuries, which result from axial loading. Recognition of such injuries resulted in rule changes in 1976, after which incidence of these injuries dropped significantly. For example, incidence of quadriplegia decreased from 2.24 and 10.66 per 100,000 participants in high school and college football in 1976, to 1.30 and 2.66 per 100,000 participants in 1977.

    So, the runner maybe tries to spear the opponent, knocks himself silly, fumbles the ball, and then they maybe call a penalty on the ball carrier? (It’s hard to say he did that deliberately.) The booing would’ve been audible for miles. Of course, the results would’ve been the same if he had tried to avoid a tackle by a coke machine using the same methods.

    Seems like the NFL has gotten so good at protecting players from external injuries that they can keep playing for long enough to accumulate serious brain injuries.

    max
    [‘There is no cure for Newton’s Third Law.’]

  41. 41
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Maybe some of the BJ’ers from Oz can comment, as I don’t live there, but I visited a few years ago with some rabid Aussie rules football fans at a time when their championship was being played, and those guys wear less protective gear than Euro football (i.e. soccer) players. And yet the games seem plenty exciting, probably more so than American football. Are career-ending injuries common? I have no idea, but when you are, for all practical purposes, naked, you’d play differently than wearing a suit of armor.

  42. 42
    Brachiator says:

    @Nylund:

    I don’t want to sound like a contrarian, but sometimes I think things would be better with less protective gear.

    Not really. Big players running fast and running into other big guys generate a lot of force.

    [‘There is no cure for Newton’s Third Law.’]

    Yeah, pretty much this.

  43. 43
    oceanic dude says:

    “That was the turning point of the game,” John Harbaugh said of the Pollard hit on Ridley. “It was a tremendous hit, football at its finest, as good a tackle as you’re ever going to see.”

    Think the hit was unavoidable, players going full speed, but think the culture has to change re: head injuries. Players going limp from head injuries is not good for the game. Earlier Ray Lewis looked dazed. This after an all time beloved player, Junior Seau, shoots himself in the chest thereby preserving his brain. Later dx with CTE. So if hits like this lead to CTE is it really football at its finest?

  44. 44
    Schlemizel says:

    @Svensker:

    Thanks!

    @rdldot:
    I will do that but I have never gotten a response from an FP (not that I have written much & never to whine) so it didn’t occur to me to try that but I will

  45. 45
    balconesfault says:

    If you want less brain damaging hits – limit substitutions.

    The way the game is currently played, guys are coming off the bench all the time, which means they’re primed to explode at maximum speed play after play after play.

    And mass times speed is going to result in brain damage.

    Given how good people are at doping, I don’t think there’s any way you turn back the clock to when Bubba Smith was considered a huge football player. But if you make them stay on the field more of the game, they will slow down as the game goes on.

  46. 46
    Ken J. says:

    I started getting upset with injuries in football back in 1984, when I was listening on the radio as Detroit Lions’ great running back Billy Sims ended his career with a knee injury against the Vikings. Eventually I realized that it was not possible to play a NFL or major college football game without sending someone to the hospital.

    The disquiet accelerated over the last few years as the concussion storyline began to build, and about 2-3 years ago I stopped following football except for the Michigan-Michigan State game (which was programmed into me over fifteen years in East Lansing). Now I barely even follow that.

    I’m tired of seeing players maimed for my entertainment.

    Baseball has injuries, but the crippling ones are much rarer and they are not generally seen as an object of the game. I like that in baseball, you regularly see obituaries like “Stan Musial, aged 92.”

  47. 47
    amcoco says:

    @drj: FWIW, Pollard clearly didn’t realize Ridley was knocked out when he got up and started showboating. He was at the bottom of a (very heated) pile immediately after recovering the ball and hadn’t had a chance yet to realize Ridley was still on the ground. I’m sure if the camera had continued panning to the sidelines you would have seen the “oh s*$t” look on his face after someone filled him in.

  48. 48
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: Let me respond to your points in some detail:

    1) The game is structured and the culture around it (e.g. Madden’s blood-lust for violent hits) encourages violent tackles.

    There is strategic & tactical value to hard hitting by the defense–a ball carrier who gets hit hard enough to feel pain will naturally try to protect himself from further pain the next time he has the ball (since pain is nature’s way of saying “Don’t let that happen again”) & he loses focus in the process. No one likes to play the Steelers or Ravens because they make opponents pay in pain for every play they make–win or lose they end up one large bruise by game’s end. (& note this has nothing to do with intentional injury–bruises heal.)

    In fact some of the most spectacular “highlight reel” hits are not so dangerous to the brain, because the damage is done when the brain smacks hard against the inner irregularities in the skull. When you see the player’s head flying forward, the spine & neck muscles are absorbing a lot of the change in velocity. Helmet-to-helmet hits are a problem because there’s nothing there to absorb the delta-V except the helmet lining, & there ain’t no room in there for an airbag.

    2) The game is far too dependent on the officials catching violations of the rules. If players get away with it, it becomes standard procedure. “It was a good hit.” “He brought it on himself.” :-/

    But that’s true of all illegal conduct–it’s a truism that the zeebs could call offensive holding on practically every play if they cared to. Even so, I wouldn’t object to an official in the booth who can call penalties for Whines Hard ;) Hines Ward-style blindside cheap shots away from the main action–but those aren’t a major injury concern anyway.

    3) The NFL management is not interested in technological fixes to reduce injuries. They know that gruesome hits gets more video time on TV and more people interested. They don’t want to put players in inflatable hamster balls.

    Again, the proximate cause of brain trauma is contact with the inside of the skull due to rapid changes in velocity. There is very little that can be done about that short of hamster balls–even with an intrahelmet airbag you still have a largely free-floating gland decelerating from something like 7 m/s to zero in the span of something like 1/20 sec–without eliminating all helmet contact, which is pretty much impossible short of going to flags or 2-hand touch.

    FWIW I think the NFL is caught between a rock & a hard place here–they’ve backed off from making “jacked-up” highlight reels but there isn’t much they can do to prevent anyone who gets off on vicarious violence from posting screen-caps on YouTube short of active prosecution for copyright infringement. They’d dearly love to attract more viewers from the ranks of those who are turned off by the violence, but the more careful they are to take care of injured players the more they drive those folks away–every time play stops for 5 minutes while the victim is immobilized & carted off the field they underscore the violence.

    4) The culture of the NFL encourages ever-larger players who are ever stronger, ever faster, and ever more oblivious to the damage they can do to themselves or their opponents.

    Sorry, it’s not the culture, it’s the nature of the game. Bigger, faster players have a better chance of scoring or preventing the other team from scoring. Culture can be changed but the simple laws of physics cannot.

    I wonder whether there might be a market for a league where all players must weigh in at under (say) 200 lb?

    What can be done to fix it? How about something like requiring all tackles be made below the waist? Defenders flying through the air and smashing into people is what causes many/most of these dangerous injuries.
    But that would make the game boring and less warlike so it has about as much likelihood of being implemented as me walking on water, even with a hamster ball…

    No tackling above the waist will increase the chances of knee injuries, which are prime candidates for ending a career in a second. They’ve already outlawed “horse-collar” tackling due to the ugly career-ending injuries it can cause. Besides, hits to the torso aren’t any more dangerous than that–it’s the blows to the helmet.

  49. 49
    Yutsano says:

    “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by the NFL.”

    Oopsie.

  50. 50
    Lex says:

    @Nylund:

    Then again, concussions is something the rugby world has started to worry more about as well.

    It ain’t just American football and rugby, it’s the other football (soccer to us Yanks) as well. My 14-year-old daughter sustained a concussion this past fall when she got hit just above the right ear by a shot taken on goal from point-blank range (she was between the shooter and the keeper, intending to block the shot with her body).

    Her concussion wasn’t the league’s first of the season, and it wasn’t the fifth. My understanding is that the board of directors is discussing banning headers, at least among the younger kids.

    My daughter is a straight-A student and has been competing in organized soccer since she was 4, but she wasn’t right physically or academically for more than two weeks after the incident. (Yes, she had X-rays and an MRI. We’re blessed with decent health insurance.) All I could think was, “Thank God it was the ball and not the shooter’s foot.”

    As for the play that started this thread, I saw the helmet-to-helmet contact in real time when it happened but couldn’t tell from the angle whether Pollard had led with his helmet or not. After watching the slo-mo at NFL.com several times, I concur: Ridley lowered his head to make helmet-to-helmet contact. I’m no fan of Pollard, but he committed no foul on this play.

  51. 51
    MikeR says:

    Big props if the “Everybody Hates a Tourist” title is from Pulp’s “Common People.”

  52. 52
    Crop Dusted says:

    The NFL is our modern day gladiators and why are you surprised at perfidy and injuries and violence?

  53. 53
    David in NY says:

    @Yutsano:
    “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by the NFL.”

    What happened to fair use? This is when copywright becomes censorship. It’s not like anybody showed the whole game — just a brief, incidentally newsworthy segment of it.

  54. 54
    JWL says:

    MrMix: Your probably the perfect person to comment on the game’s inherent violence, precisely because you don’t sit like a potted plant in front of a TV every weekend during the season (like I do).

    As any informed fan will tell you, big changes are in the offing. I predict that players careers will soon be limited to a certain number of seasons, and then they’ll be forced to retire. But it’s a shockingly violent game, and it always will be. There is only so much fine tuning that can be imposed without turning it into flag football.

  55. 55
    mclaren says:

    How about shutting down professional football?

    Just end it.

    End this travesty. Get rid of it, before the mother of all class action suits ends it in a blizzard of civil and criminal liability and a Himalayan mountain of cash reparations from the greedy billionaire owners who profit by this kind of human destruction.

  56. 56
    Paul in KY says:

    @Gin & Tonic: They have tackling rules that prohibit the hitting-like-a-missile tackles that are legal in NFL.

  57. 57
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: Thanks for your comments. I understand the logic of the rules and how the game has developed. I don’t like the game for those reasons. No sport should be structured so that players are guaranteed and encouraged to suffer traumatic injuries. (I stopped watching boxing when I was about 10, and “professional wrestling” when I was about 8 for similar reasons.)

    While few will see this, I wanted to pass along TNC’s comments on a Frontline show – The Impending Death Of Pro Football.

    Flag football isn’t so bad. People watch golf for FSM’s sake. ;-)

    Cheers,
    Scott.

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