Friday, January 27, 2017

Easy Local Super Bowl TV Story

ESPN says it in a headline that's a warning for every parent.
The Associated Press story on Chicago Bear great Jim McMahon encapsulates in a few sentences what playing America's sport - bash your brain - does.
Jim McMahon is 57.  He forgets how to find his own home.  
Zac Easter was only in high school.   But football had already rattled his brain.  For parents, and particularly for sports reporters (not pom pom wavers, actual reporters) the GQ story is an essential read.  The Concussion Diaries:  One High School Football Player's Secret Struggle with CTE should be mandatory reading for every high school principal.
For television reporters, it all adds up to one question that will produce a worthwhile story.   Go ask your university president and your high school principals:  "why do you support an activity that medical science has documented causes brain damage?"
Back when I was a kid, you could page through a magazine and find an ad featuring a doctor telling you what cigarette to smoke.   
But then, along came medical science.   Journalists reported.   The public was informed. Behavior changed.  With concussions, medical science came along again.   This time, journalists didn't report.   They played cheerleader.   
More than I year ago, I did a project with Brave New Films.   We contacted every Division I university president and asked all the presidents what they see for the future of football, a sport that causes brain damage and is spawning lots of lawsuits.  What was more surprising than the presidential answers was what we found when we examined the reporting.    Listen to what a first-rate researcher at Kent State University found when he checked for any news article where the reporter is questioning a university president about concussions.
So even though it may go against the pom-pom waving traditions of sports departments, think about being reporters instead of cheerleaders.   Go to your local high school, go to your university, ask the principal, ask the president:  why do you support a sport medical science has documented causes brain damage.  What would you say to Jim McMahon?   What would you say to Zac Easter?   What would you say to parents?  

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