Re: GO(A=A)L!

1

If you have ever been within 1000 yards of 10 year olds playing soccer, you are well aware of the fact that no one gives a shit about the whole enterprise except for the parents.

This is wrong. When I was 10, 95% of my peers cared about nothing else. Not only did we play football in games lessons, we played it during break in sides of 30 and more. A lot of kids played it in proper football clubs, and outside their front doors. And there were plenty of kids who didn't get enough football from games and break and football clubs and Match of the Day, who would spontaneously break into football whenever they were unsupervised for a moment near an approximately flat surface and something approximating a football.

And these were people who had Super Nintendos at home.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:49 AM
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an approximately flat surface and something approximating a football

For example, a steeply sloping, cratered loading bay or a scree slope, and a rolled up school uniform sweater, bag of rubbish, or five-year old kid brother.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:52 AM
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1 is exactly right.

I was, by local standards, a bookish non-sporty child. I still played football [soccer] ever morning break, every lunch time, every afternoon break, and for at least an hour a day, every day, when we got home. We'd play more or less until it got dark, or we were made to go home. Even when we were old enough to have discovered drinking and girls, you could still find us booting a ball around on a bit of grass near someone's house at least a couple of times a week.

It's not true anymore, though. I, despite being a fat late-30s bloke who was never any good at football in the first place, could play rings round my brother and nephew as they never had that relationship with football [or any sport].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:54 AM
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See:

http://www.brookmyre.co.uk/extras/short-stories/playground-football/

for details.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:56 AM
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When I was little, we would cut up footballs to use them as sweaters.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:58 AM
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The article in 4 is sociologically accurate to the finest detail. It's uncanny.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 6:58 AM
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1,2,3,4: Football is called soccer in the U.S. and it has a completely different place in the natiional psyche. Parents want their kids to play in soccer leagues here, because it is seen as higher class. Kids mostly don't play it on their own.

It's crazy.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:01 AM
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it has a completely different place in the natiional psyche

Outside of the Spanish-speaking groups, it barely exists in the national psyche.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:03 AM
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1: I bet that would have been quite different if your parents were relentlessly pushing you to play, always emphasizing the importance of winning at any cost, and you had an organized team with a coach who shared that attitude.

There is something about the US attitude towards school sports that simply sucks the joy out of it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:06 AM
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Inside of the Spanish-speaking group, it's to dark to play soccer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:07 AM
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4: From now on, if anyone here criticizes one of my comments, my response will invariably be: "it's no a full-size pitch".


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:08 AM
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8: Really? Does that still seem true in your neck of the woods?

I remember a few years ago riding in an elevator, and hearing a woman say that she wanted her son to play soccer, so she could be a "soccer mom."


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:10 AM
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re: 9

Oh some poor buggers play for local teams that have a bit of that going on. You'd see the odd grumpy father on the touchlines at N .o/r ht Br00mage C0lts games.* But there wasn't much of that pushy parent culture where I grew up -- benign neglect ["fuck off out and come back when you dinner's ready"] was the order of the day.

* googling, I find that someone from our housing scheme plays for Newcastle these days.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:10 AM
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"fuck off out and come back when your dinner's ready"

Still strikes me as a profoundly civilized approach to child rearing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:14 AM
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It's sort of a parable of existentialism,* if one wants to eke out an easy 700-1000 words for the Sunday Times. Cough David Brooks cough chuck in a few quotes from mid-century Atlantic writers and watch the Bobo hate fly cough maybe a little dustup with Paul Krugman if one mentions Obama in the last paragraph, too cough.

* Meaningless activity, vacant shadows in a void, J.G. Ballard-esque development of a personal mythology, that "Choose" line from Sartre, Bob's your uncle.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:14 AM
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Does that still seem true in your neck of the woods?

There are plenty of kids playing Little League soccer (hell, I grew up playing rec league soccer), but I would guess that 95% of Americans couldn't name even one American college or pro soccer player, and could only come up with David Beckham and Pele if allowed to choose from the rest of the world.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:15 AM
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12: In my area, soccer is a big deal for kids from swipple families and there is very little Spanish speaking population. However, the smaller kids are where the energy is. You don't see as many 14 year old boys into it as you do six and seven year olds.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:16 AM
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9: Oh, we had plenty of simian sports teachers, but their bag was cross-country running, resented both for being fucking unpleasant up a hill in the depths of a Yorkshire winter and also for cutting into valuable time you could otherwise spend playing football.

Also, Crazy Sports Dad is pretty common as well and notorious for mistreating referees. The worst of it is that some of them get the committee virus, set up as sports politicians, and end up waging byzantine struggles for control of the league. Manchester Airport employees in the 1990s were divided into two bitterly opposed camps when it came to football...but it wasn't United and City fans, it was the two factions in the youth league committee, who were willing to fight out their differences in any way conceivable other than just having a football match.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:17 AM
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16: Yes, it's a very strange sport in the U.S. It's not at all important as a spectator sport, but kid's leagues are everywhere.

I think that has something to do with why kids aren't excited to play it. A lot of the thrill of sports for kids, I think, has to do with pretending they are the star athletes on TV.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:20 AM
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re: 18

Yes, re: cross country running. Our school had a notorious 'chocolate staircase'* which was a 20 or 30 metre 45 degree slope part way through the course that always turned into 6 inch deep icy mud down which some poor buggers would always slide, taking out the people behind them like skittles.

One of our PE teachers at school was the Scotland under-18s, and I think [for a while] Scotland under-21s coach. He was a surprisingly mellow chap -- had a bit of a sarcastic tongue on him, and no-one wanted him to give them the belt, but he certainly wasn't among the more simian [good choice of term] of our PE teachers.

* I expect the term is commonly used


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:21 AM
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Referentially on topic: Dana Milbank bleats out a column.

Democrats in the House are set to keep the same three leaders - Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn - who led them to their historic wipeout. This is the preschool-soccer theory of accountability: Nobody keeps score and everybody gets a trophy. The fallen House speaker seems to speak for a number of her colleagues when she says she has "no regrets" about the past two years.

No good deed goes unpunished rev 2010.
Fuck the fucking Senate!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:22 AM
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I'm suddenly reminded, we had one PE teacher who had long blonde hair, and a big Chuck Norris 'tache. He used to take his top off every time he had the chance.

"Right, it's shirts versus skins, lads."

He also had a very attractive foreign girlfriend and drove an Alfa.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:23 AM
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OT: A woman's orgasm leaves her temporarily impervious to pain. New post-op treatments for women will involve pescriptions for frequent orgasms. "The doctor said you had to, honey."

http://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/female-orgasm-overwhelms/story-e6frg3pl-1225949330869
(via Tia of course)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:23 AM
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Inside of the Spanish-speaking group, it's to dark to play soccer.

Time flies like a soccer ball. Non-Spanish-speaking fruit flies prefer a curling stone. If it is made of bananas.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:24 AM
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Football is called soccer in the U.S. and it has a completely different place in the natiional psyche. Parents want their kids to play in soccer leagues here, because it is seen as higher class. Kids mostly don't play it on their own.

Yes we did, I seem to remember. This generalization by Ginandtacos struck me, when I read it last night, as their least accurate generalization ever.

And when I was a kid playing soccer, I and my friends could name a few living and active soccer players, by dint of the 1994 World Cup. Roberto Baggio, Jurgen Klinsmann, Gabriel Batistuta, and the heroes of the US team like Tony Meola, Joe-Max Moore, Cobi Jones and Alexi Lalas.

This wasn't true before the 1994 World Cup, since we knew nothing about pro teams. I'm guessing more than 5% of Americans could say "Landon Donovan" or "Clint Dempsey" right now. Certainly more than 5% of teenage boys.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:26 AM
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That's "I and my friends from the youth soccer league", not "kids in general".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:28 AM
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17: Pittsburgh actually had a long history of immigrant-dominated teams and coal mine area soccer hotbeds. But it is mostly UMC plus university/UPMC immigrants driving it these days. Although there is some residual coal mine soccer culture traces at the school level, and the best travel/cup team in the area, Beadling, is rooted in that culture (but UMC suburb Upper St. Clair has grown up around the old mine and most of its players are suburban kids with parents willing to shuttle them from distant parts of the metropolitan area to be on the "best" team).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:30 AM
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Boy, that brings back memories. Except, being an East Coaster, I did cross-country running (and horrible it was too) when the ground was frozen too hard for rugby. (We still played football in our spare time, mind.) The acceptability of the turf for rugby was determined, as far as I could tell, by experiment - when kids started to bounce and/or splinter rather than splatting, it was too hard.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:32 AM
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OK, maybe it was just me who was into Joe-Max Moore. His name fascinated me. Also Hristo Stoichkov.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:35 AM
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re: 28

We played rugby. As I'm from Stirlingshire the local culture is fairly East coast. Rugby was banned at our school for a while, though, as there was a particularly bad tempered match with the local Catholic school that ended badly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:38 AM
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A lot of the thrill of sports for kids, I think, has to do with pretending they are the star athletes on TV.

A friend told me that when he was little he would sometimes run around the bases of the baseball diamond in the park, alone, quietly making his own applause sound effect. He demonstrated--it was sort of an extended, breathy "Kkhhhh."
So sad.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:39 AM
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27: I've been trying to get the East End youth soccer leagues to mine coal, but mostly they just want to run on the grass.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:41 AM
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A friend told me that when he was little he would sometimes run around the bases of the baseball diamond in the park, alone, quietly making his own applause sound effect. He demonstrated--it was sort of an extended, breathy "Kkhhhh."
So sad.

I think I told you that I stopped doing that when I turned 40.



Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:43 AM
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Outside of the Spanish-speaking groups, it barely exists in the national psyche.

I think this is class- and background-dependent. I never really encountered anyone with an interest soccer until high school, but it was all my lab partners in 9th grade science ever talked about. They were upper-middle-class and two of the three were children of immigrants.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:45 AM
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Also, Crazy Sports Dad is pretty common as well and notorious for mistreating referees.

Both of my sons did a lot of youth soccer reffing (and my wife was a ref assignor for the local club for years). If you really want to test your ability to control your emotions go watch your young teen children doing there best to do their job while some adult creep on the sidelines heaps abuse on them.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 7:53 AM
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I can't adjust to thinking of soccer as an upper-class sport, since it's a complete reversal from when I played youth soccer in the 70's. In our UMC New Jersey suburb, football had all the status and soccer players, like basketball players, were from the other side of the tracks one way or another. The coaches were all foreigners with thick, mutually incompatible accents: Holocaust survivors who worked in retail, Italian and Greek-American landscapers, and a few German and Scandinavian executives temporarily stationed in New York City. None of the non-immigrant parents knew or cared about the game. The travel teams played mainly against Puerto Rican and Portuguese kids from the urban districts, who could communicate with their coaches but not with us or the rest of America. We had a grand time.

Youth soccer teams could get almost free tickets to see the new professional league play, and I saw an over-the-hill Pele at the Meadowlands at least a dozen times.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:00 AM
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A friend told me that when he was little he would sometimes run around the bases of the baseball diamond in the park, alone, quietly making his own applause sound effect. He demonstrated--it was sort of an extended, breathy "Kkhhhh."
So sad.

Sad because he was alone, or because you see it as a longing for TV celebrity?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:01 AM
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Newt just got actually interested in soccer this year (he's 9). He'd played in the little kid league for two years prior, but spent most of it wandering around looking confused; this year his whole team is fairly interested.

But there's no random playground pickup soccer, which makes me sad. I could kick him out after school with a soccer ball, but there wouldn't be other kids in the park.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:03 AM
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He also had a very attractive foreign girlfriend and drove an Alfa.

Well, those are the basic stereotypes - vicious bastard or himbo.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:03 AM
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37: Maybe it's the combination. And he had been an unathletic kid in a sport-loving ohio factory town. I guess the context matters.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:05 AM
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40: But sort of adorable at the same time, which I'm sure is why he told the story.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:06 AM
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31: I thought that practice was so widespread as to amount to a cliche of youth sports practice.

Now, if you want sad, there was an interview [now apparently vanished down the hoohole] with SF writer Simon Hawke, who emigrated from Russia in his early childhood, where he talked about how he started writing. None of the other kids at his US school wanted to play with him or talk to him, so he would write stories about an alternate version of himself who had lots of friends and got along well with people. Dee-pressing.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:09 AM
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36: Yes, that was my wife's experience (a few years earlier) Bergen County experience and her father was a coach, one of those Holocaust survivors who worked in retail wholesale garments (although coming to the US in his teens he acquired a classic Brooklyn accent). He played semi-pro for a few years in the late '40s/early 50s, playing against mostly immigrant teams along the Eastern seaboard from Baltimore to Boston.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:12 AM
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27: I grew up in Upper St. Clair a long time ago (Go Panthers! Beat Lebo!) and Beadling soccer was thriving way back then. Although U.S. football has always dominated western Pennsylvania sports culture.

As to the OP, when I was a senior in high school, our sports obsession was street hockey, played on outdoor basketball courts with homemade goals. The Penguins had shown signs of life and nobody knew how to ice skate, so playing on dry ground was as close as we could get to real hockey. I went through several sweatshirts getting checked into a chain-link fence.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:12 AM
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44.1: Go Panthers! Beat Lebo!

Ha. USC plays North Hills tonight (football) in the WPIAL quarterfinals and if they win and Mt Lebo gets past Woodland Hills that will be the semifinal matchup. And last year those two were the big school WPIAL soccer championship finalists. Both out of it this year despite Lebo having the best Western PA player I've seen since I've been watching (and who plays club for Beadling). Actually, Peters Twp. has been the best soccer school around here for the last half-decade.
</no one else gives a shit>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:21 AM
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45.last: I know where all of those places are and I don't give a shit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:25 AM
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But, I'm vaguely glad somebody cares as I'd rather my son play a sport with less potential for head injury that regular football.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:25 AM
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46: Ooooh ... so transgressive.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:26 AM
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47: Oh yeah, be conciliatory in the next comment. Now I have guilt.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:27 AM
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And when I was a kid playing soccer, I and my friends could name a few living and active soccer players, by dint of the 1994 World Cup. Roberto Baggio, Jurgen Klinsmann, Gabriel Batistuta, and the heroes of the US team like Tony Meola, Joe-Max Moore, Cobi Jones and Alexi Lalas.

This was my experience as well, and as you say we didn't have the benefit of very much televised professional club soccer growing up. These days, I see tons of college kids walking around UT Austin with the big European club jerseys/kits on the days when there is Champions League football, but I don't know what percentage of them are international students.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:27 AM
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49: Guilt is a soccer emotion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:28 AM
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42.2:Anthony Trollope had pretty much the same story in his Autobiography: his family was upperclass but broke, and so he was poor and awkward and nobody liked him and he had no friends, and developed this huge complex fantasy life about being popular and beloved and having enough money to keep up with his friends. If he'd known the word Mary Sue, that's how he would have described -- he's very hard on himself about it. But the practice in creating and sustaining narrative got him started writing for real.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:30 AM
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51: NO, I AM A SOCCER PHENOMENON!


Posted by: OPINIONATED RUUD GULLIT | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:31 AM
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If the semi-pathetic realm of huge complex fantasy life is at all your thing, definitely go read Brautigan's Dreaming of Babylon (its a quick read and "detective" novel set in 1940s San Francisco).

Still another tapestry showed me accepting a bowlful of jewels from Nebuchadnezzar for finishing the 596 B.C. season with an .890 batting average.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:42 AM
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My son's very ambitious soccer coach this Fall was from USC--they don't have a preschool league, so he had to come north to Mt. Lebanon. They supposedly do have a preschool lacrosse league there, though, which tells you all you need to know about the difference between USC and Lebo.


Posted by: JWP | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:50 AM
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55.last: Which from the perspective of anyone outside of those two communities fits the Unfogged theme of the narcissism of small differences.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:56 AM
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I played (U.S.) football at Upper St . Clair and we were truly dreadful. Our coach, a bleak, mean-looking guy, told us one training camp that we were going to run a "ball-control" offense (even then we laughed) designed to gain 3 yards per play. One of my buddies piped up and said, but Coach, that's only 9 yards in 3 plays (subtextual explication note to Unfoggedariat - roughly speaking, an offense is supposed to gain 10 or more yards in 3 plays to be successful in football). My buddy had to run some laps, but his arithmetic was correct and our offense was miserable.

Later it turned out the the coach was a decent man who just maybe was in over his head as a head football coach. We always had plenty of water breaks at August camp - this at a time when high school fb players around the country were dropping like flies from heat stroke, dehydration, etc.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 8:59 AM
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43: Please send my compliments to your wife on her Bergen County roots. Both my parents grew up in Teaneck with tons of extended family. (These days, we go up there mostly for funerals.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:03 AM
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55: I thought USC was the fancier place, possibly because I never go there. Mt. Lebo is pretty much a standard issue inner suburb, except that it forgot to decline.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:04 AM
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I'd rather my son play a sport with less potential for head injury that regular football.

I'm on a crusade to prevent my friends from letting their kids play football.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:05 AM
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^American


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:05 AM
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I feel like (American) football is such a shame, because I really do enjoy it. I loved playing it growing up, and I like watching it now. I really don't know how it can be salvaged and be safe.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:06 AM
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60: Because of concerns about injuries or just out of a general distaste for America?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:07 AM
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63: She just doesn't want to be the Robert E Lee of 2010.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:08 AM
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63: The latter, I assume. All the cool people hate America. I'm blowing my nose on a flag right now.

Honestly, urple.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:09 AM
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I'm not sure what it says about me that I have tremendous Pittsburgh envy. Oh yeah, that I grew up in Cleveland. Still, Pittsburgh! What a great city!


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:10 AM
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62: I haven't thought deeply about this, because I just don't have the knowledge, but I wonder what happens to the sport if you take the pads away (and make the helmets soft again)? The transition would be awfully tricky, and the sport would change a lot, but it might end up safer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:11 AM
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My wife is a brain scientist by training, and as a result, the sports she really doesn't want our kids participating in* are boxing, football, and (perhaps surprisingly) soccer. Repeatedly heading soccer balls apparently does more damage to the prefrontal cortex than most people realize.

(*Any of them at the jr. levels are fine, it's getting into high school levels that they start to get dangerous.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:12 AM
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We've told our older son that we have only three ironclad rules for him: no motorcycles until he's on his own, no smoking cigarettes until we're dead, no playing American football ever. No, really, huff all the glue you want, kid!


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:12 AM
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66: Meh. It's O.K., but I'd rather be in Omaha.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:13 AM
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Omaha

Have you ever been? It's really quite awful, one of the worst urban places I can imagine to live in this country. Well, maybe one worst urban places outside of the South.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:15 AM
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Repeatedly heading soccer balls apparently does more damage to the prefrontal cortex than most people realize.

What I always want to know is, is the damage independent of whether or not you head the ball correctly? I personally refuse to head crazy sky-high punts, but my technique isn't good enough to guarantee that I won't end up dizzy with a headache, or jamming my neck, (which I've done, and that was the worst repercussion ever.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:15 AM
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"The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that the contact that occurs while playing soccer is at the same level as during boxing, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rodeo and wrestling and field hockey."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:15 AM
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re: 72

Also, a lot of the research on this was done in the era of much heavier balls. So I wonder how much it holds true for modern balls?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:16 AM
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69: I certainly won't forbid him from playing football, even in high school. He's very unlikely to be big enough to play well, so I'm not going to encourage it. (I agree about the motorcycles and the smoking.)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:16 AM
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67: One step further and you have Rugby. My experience, more cuts and scrapes, less blown out knees and the like. Heads ... eh, neither are so good. In fact soccer is pretty bad for the head, both long-term effects of repetitive heading and head-to-head clashes while going up for headers.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:16 AM
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67: I don't know a ton about it, but my understanding is that it would possibly be safer on balance (or, possibly not, but it's certainly not clear that the protective gear is helping to make the game as much safer as one might think), but that it would also dramatically change the nature of the injuries that do tend to occur. Many more serious shoulder injuries, for sure. Whether or not it would better protect heads, which seems to be most people's primary concern, is, afaik, an open question.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:16 AM
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Our coach, a bleak, mean-looking guy, told us one training camp that we were going to run a "ball-control" offense (even then we laughed) designed to gain 3 yards per play.

1. 3 yards.
2....
3. Profit! er, first down. er, punt?

This reminds me of someone saying that (IIRC) Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn side were "clinging on to a 1-0 deficit".


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:17 AM
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71: You have to know the right people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:17 AM
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I haven't thought deeply about this, because I just don't have the knowledge, but I wonder what happens to the sport if you take the pads away (and make the helmets soft again)?

Yeah, I don't know. Maybe returning to soft helmets would be enough to mean that you can't do so much damage anymore.

Would players be nuts enough to clank skulls together hard enough to give concussions?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:17 AM
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71: also, the beach sucks.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:18 AM
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So very pwned.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:18 AM
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The most common cause of concussions in soccer is a player's head hitting another player's head. The second most common source is taking a point-blank kicked ball to the head.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:18 AM
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83: The third most common is getting kicked by a gnu.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:19 AM
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57/78: if you're confident you can get them, gaining 3 yards per play would be ideal.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:20 AM
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Would players be nuts enough to clank skulls together hard enough to give concussions?

At the speed players are moving, heads will clank together frequently, even if they're actively trying to avoid it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:21 AM
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re: 77

I'm sure someone's done a comparison of injury rates between rugby and American Football, no?

And indeed they have:

http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/31/3/587.full


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:22 AM
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I have not idea about 74, and don't really know about 72 but I suspect not, but also (as Apo has already helpfully added), it's not really just about intentional heading so much as the total amount of head-contact that occurs. Regardless, from a brain-safety perspective, it's a much worse sport than many people realize.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:22 AM
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The reason football went away from soft helmets was because of frequent skull fractures, which are more immediately worrisome than concussions. These have been practically eliminated.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:23 AM
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re: 78

Ironic in a team containing both Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:24 AM
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So we need new helmets which are padded, then have a hard shell, and then a squishy padded layer again. The goal is for football players to look like The Great Gazoo.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:25 AM
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87: Sure, I've seen.. maybe not that sutdy, but certainly some like it. That's what I was referring to in 77--I wasn't just ad libbing all that based on gut instincts. My impression is that research indicates padding reduces the number of injuries overall but tend to make the injuries that do occur more severe.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:26 AM
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89: but weren't the rules different then, too? (not that hard helmets are good at protecting against skull fractures.) you could police helmet hits as they do today, even with soft helmets.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:29 AM
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not that hard helmets areAREN'T good at protecting against skull fractures


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:30 AM
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93: I don't see how hard helmets could fail to be better at protecting against skull fractures than soft helmets unless you put spikes on the inside of the helmet instead of padding.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:31 AM
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87: Huh. I would have thought rugby had an advantage in terms of number of concussions -- more lacerations and so on, but fewer hard hits to the head. But I'm wrong about that.

So maybe taking away the helmets wouldn't help.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:32 AM
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94: Nevermind.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:32 AM
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Of course, sometimes your skull needs to fracture, and the hard helmet might be preventing that.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:36 AM
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re: 96

I wonder how much of that is 'handbags', e.g. in rugby people are much more likely to punch each other, and how much is stuff like being stamped on during rucks.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:36 AM
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Repeatedly heading soccer balls apparently does more damage to the prefrontal cortex than most people realize.

I seem to recall you have to head a wet ball a lot over many years before it becomes a problem, and even then it's mainly down to genetic luck. Stanley Matthews was fine up to his death, and he played for 40 years.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:36 AM
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100: he is the only player to have been knighted while still playing

I have this great image of the Queen tearing around a soccer field after him with a sword.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:37 AM
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Touch football is a great sport. Its really too bad kids are encouraged to play tackle.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:38 AM
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91: They kind of already do. After not watching any football for years, I recently caught a game and was struck by how much they look like giant children.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:38 AM
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Yeah, in the soft helmet era, college football was almost banned due to the dozen or on-field deaths that would happen every year. The majority of concussions aren't coming from helmet-to-helmet hits anyhow. The huge majority are from heads hitting the ground, and I'll bet taking a knee to the helmet during a tackle is also a more frequent cause than helmet-to-helmet strikes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:39 AM
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Its really too bad kids are encouraged to play tackle.

If you don't encourage them to play tackle, everybody wants to be quarterback or wide receiver.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:39 AM
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100: well, some professional boxers are cogent into old age as well--that doesn't prove much.

Again, this isn't really something I know that much about, but my impression is that there is detectable damage to the brains of soccer players on a level higher than many other sports, that puts it in a league closer to football or boxing than to baseball or basketball. And that this is an issue even for high school players, not just pros. Of course, there are plenty of people who play soccer and are just fine for it, but that's true of anything else as well.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:40 AM
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104: I wasn't thinking so much that hard helmets would be an independent source of concussions (i.e., helmet to helmet strikes), but that players wearing hard helmets wouldn't instinctively protect their heads the same way someone wearing a softer helmet might. But the rugby evidence suggests either that I'm wrong generally or that rugby players are really vicious.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:41 AM
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One of the best U.S. woman soccer players, Lori Chalupny, is NOT cleared by the U.S. Soccer Federation to play for the U.S. national team because of her history/risk of concussions but IS cleared by Women's Professional Soccer to play in the U.S. pro league, which she did all summer.

This is is perplexing because the U.S. national team is in mild disarray and the World Cup is approaching in 2011. No one wants to see her hurt...but she apparently wants to play and the U.S. could really use her on the pitch.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:42 AM
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106: Wahh. Newt's liking soccer a lot. Not that I'm going to worry about it for a couple of years yet, but maybe I should look for a nice basketball league. If he takes after Buck, he should end up with a wingspan like a gibbon, so soccer is a bit of waste on that front...


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:43 AM
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My 11 year old son just finished his flag football season. I had foolishly volunteered as coach. The rule was that every player had to have a starting position. That was enough to make the teams pretty even. Some teams were more competitive than others. To Mr. Rubin's point, trying your best to win is not the same thing as win at all costs.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:43 AM
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Shorter 107: Contact sports involve a higher risk of impact related personal injury than non-contact sports.

That's controversial?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:44 AM
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wingspan like a gibbon

Goalkeeper.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:44 AM
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But the rugby evidence suggests either that I'm wrong generally or that rugby players are really vicious.

Or both. Having worn the helmet, I'd have to say that it didn't make me want to protect my head less. Maybe I'm just funny that way, but the thing is getting hit in the head while wearing a helmet still hurts a great deal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:45 AM
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wingspan like a gibbon

D-man in hockey.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:46 AM
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111: I think what's unappreciated by many people is the extent to which soccer is a "contact sport", especially with respect to heads.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:46 AM
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Star Rugby Player Quits Team After Sex With Dog

A star Australian rugby league player has quit after a photograph of him performing a sex act with a dog was distributed on the Internet.

Joel Monaghan played with the Canberra Raiders in Australia's National Rugby League, the highest level of professional rugby in the world -- a league as popular in parts of Australia as the NFL is in the United States.

Monaghan was attending an end-of-season house party with up to 30 Canberra players and friends when someone snapped a photo of the star player with a teammate's Labrador dog.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:47 AM
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Further to 113: The coach would say things like, "You've got to stop that linebacker" and you weren't allowed to say, "But every time I try, it really fucking hurts and he still gets past me." You weren't allowed to say it, but it was true. (I stopped after junior high realizing that I was not going to get any playing time and that if I did I would suck.)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:48 AM
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I really don't think US youth soccer players start doing things fast enough, or intensely enough, to start smashing their heads against each other until age 15 or so. As for heading the ball, the ball we used was basically the same size and weight as a volleyball, and didn't get waterlogged in any way. Studies done on Italian professionals in the 1980s are not very applicable.

I find it hard to imagine why youth soccer would be more dangerous than youth basketball. Maybe it is.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:49 AM
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In summary, Kraab just hates America.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:50 AM
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118.2: Higher top running speeds, maybe?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:51 AM
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112: That's what he's doing now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:51 AM
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why youth soccer would be more dangerous than youth basketball

The ball's moving waaaay faster when it hits you in the face.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:52 AM
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120: I had the same thought.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:52 AM
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Studies done on Italian professionals in the 1980s are not very applicable.

Again, not my field, but my strong impression is that this is not the only demographic that has been studied.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:53 AM
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Anyway, Newt lives in a city. He should be playing basketball.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:55 AM
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Yeah, there's no comparison in power between a well-thrown basketball [although I broke my finger mis-catching one] and a football kicked by someone who puts a bit of power in it. Footballs [soccer] can travel at 70mph.*

* quite a bit faster than that when delivered by pro- free kick specialists, but that's not really relevant at high school level.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/feb/14/theknowledge.sport


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:55 AM
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125: True fact. And I'd rather watch basketball than soccer. Sadly, though, I don't know of any organized basketball for his age group around here --my impression is that there's gym class and the playground at school, and then in middle school there start to be school teams. So if he wants to play basketball, that's up to him, there's not much I can do to encourage him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:58 AM
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#99: I'd be very surprised if there were material numbers of concussions coming from fighting in rugby. Stamping will play a part but I'd guess that the vast majority will be a) hard tackle at speed, goes flying and lands on head and b) attempts to tackle someone running at speed, gets kneed, kicked or handed off (the broken neck as a result of the hand-off is one of the most horrible sports injuries you will ever see).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:59 AM
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126: And the whole "Being allowed to use your hands to, among other things, protect your face" is a big difference as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:59 AM
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I'm not sure what it says about me that I have tremendous Pittsburgh envy. Oh yeah, that I grew up in Cleveland. Still, Pittsburgh! What a great city!

I know, right? If I got a job there I think I would explode with delight.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 9:59 AM
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Yeah, there's no comparison in power between a well-thrown basketball...and a football kicked by someone who puts a bit of power in it.

As I mentioned back when it happened, a fifth-grader at my wife's school died when he took a punted football to the chest a couple of years ago.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:00 AM
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Hmm, I'd guess the minimum age at which basketball can be played is higher than soccer.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:01 AM
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... and to note that while the comparison of college football vs club rugby is probably a valid one, at the professional level I would guess that the risks of rugby stay about the same while those of American football would be a *lot* worse, simply based on the size and strength of the players.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:01 AM
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Sure, soccer players get broken noses more often. But otherwise...Asphalt/wood court vs grass? Everybody jumping in the air all the time in a confined space, instead of occasionally, thus leading to more chance for landing awkwardly?

My soccer leagues always had strict rules against, basically, tackling in general. Try to get the ball away from someone without staying on your feet, you're out. Do anything at all while laying or sitting down, instead of trying to get back up, and you're out.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:01 AM
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as a result of the hand-off

I had to look this up. In American English, that's a stiff-arm. The hand-off is just when the quarterback gives the ball to the running back and I had a moment of "how badly would you have to botch a hand-off to get a broken neck?"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:02 AM
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I had exactly the same reaction as 135, except I didn't bother to look it up, so I'm glad apo clarified the situation.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:03 AM
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I tried to avoid too much discussion of the stiff-hand-off, which is ust the thing to warm you up on a cold afternoon in Neath.

There's the apocryphal tale of a Welshman from Llanelli who was trampled to death by a rhinoceros, the reaction when the news came home being "I always said that Geraint had a weak hand off".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:04 AM
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I think the stiff arm is illegal in American football isn't it? Although actually the helmet and padding gives a lot of protection to the neck too. Maybe it's also been banned in rugby since the 80s - there are certainly a lot fewer deaths than there used to be and this (plus broken necks in collapsing scrums, where there have been loads of rule changes) was one of the main sources.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:06 AM
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Studies done on Italian professionals in the 1980s are not very applicable.

Italian professional footballers are unlikely to be representative as they seem to be much more injury-prone than any other sort of footballer, or indeed any other category of person at all, up to and including infantrymen, professional duellists, or shark divers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:06 AM
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But Italian footballers also have miraculous powers of immediate recovery, and I bet the two cancel out in sufficiently large samples.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:08 AM
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I'd rather my son play a sport with less potential for head injury that regular football.

My father quite pointlessly encouraged me to play football. You can sort of see the obstacles to sporting success that I faced in those days.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:09 AM
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The stiff arm is not illegal, but you have to be very careful not to get the facemask with your hand. There are strict rules about bringing someone down via the facemask for neck-twisting reasons, or bringing someone down from behind by the "horse-collar tackle" for leg-twisting reasons.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:09 AM
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re: 128

Yeah, I've no doubt you're right. I've not played rugby since high school, so have no recent relevant playing experience, and while I watch it I probably have very little sense of exactly what moves are most likely to lead to injuries.

re: protective gear -- I've not done much boxing in a while, and in the type of kickboxing I do you tend to get much less in the way of full-power head shots with the hands, but my experience with head-guards in boxing sparring was not good. Some people seemed to take the presence of guards as an excuse to turn sparring into uncoordinated flailing/belting, and I always got clocked a lot more often sparring with a guard [messed up my head movement, and so on] than I did without. I'm sure the guards serve a useful purpose when sparring with people who are responsible, I'm just talking anecdotally.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:10 AM
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Kraab just h/a/t/e/s America.

Careful, apo! Otherwise I'll never get that plum job at the American Legion.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:11 AM
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52: In the context of the interview, these weren't even so much Mary Sues, as I understand the term, as just versions of his actual life where his actual schoolmates were friendlier.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:13 AM
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138: The stiff arm is legal in U.S. football (assuming you, the stiff-arm-er, are running with the ball), but you can't stiff-arm someone in the face or grab their facemask. That limits its usefulness/death-dealing properties.

pwned, once again, on preview


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:13 AM
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I think the stiff arm is illegal in American football isn't it

Nope


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:14 AM
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145: Well, that was sort of Trollope, except that the Mary Sueism came in because what made his schoolmates friendlier was that he was more lovable/admirable/less poor and so on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:16 AM
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Related to the hand-off, the neck tackle is incredibly dangerous and a special liability for short rugby players. It's illegal, of course, but easily gotten away with; I never had any success getting refs to notice. "Sir! See how my head is flopping about my shoulders, Sir!"


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:18 AM
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To warm the hearts of Alex and Ttam, there are early-1980s style Yorkshire or Scotland-style pickup games of soccer on my street almost every day. I live on a cul-de-sac in the ghetto, and the kids, mostly AfAm, Mexican, and Belizean set up two goals most nights and play pickup games for 2-3 hours. It's pretty awesome, actually.

For myself, based on my own high school experience, my basic association with soccer is as being the sport, not just of the UMC, but of UMC assholes. Less assholish than the Lacrosse players, who are the absolute worst, but still pretty much the zone of the preppy dickhead. Just reporting on my own experience (before you all freak out).

As for (American) football, I've found that the concussion news has made me enjoy the NFL less, and get actively turned off by watching college. Playing HS football was not even remotely in the cards for me, but not because of fear of injuries.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:20 AM
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150.1: Probably not a resource for your kid when she gets old enough, though -- I'm guessing it's all boys.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:24 AM
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Soccer and lacrosse were two of the top team sports where I went to school (the other was hockey), but it was a union high school with a broad socioeconomic mix and without a football team, so neither carried the preppy taint.

Going to a high school with no football team and then a college with neither football team nor fraternities suited me just fine, but I suppose it makes me barely American.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:29 AM
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"so there!"


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:34 AM
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151 -- Yeah, it's sad. Sometimes they let the really little kids play on weekends, including girls, and she's almost at the age to start doing that, but the real pickup games are clearly boys only.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:34 AM
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Soccer and lacrosse were two of the top team sports where I went to school (the other was hockey), but it was a union high school with a broad socioeconomic mix and without a football team, so neither carried the preppy taint.

In my copious spare time I coach a girls lacrosse team. Pretty broad socio-economic mix, but definitely majority UMC. A number of Title IX dads who have figured out that there son will never play for Notre Dame, but their daughter might.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:46 AM
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151: it could still be a resource.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:48 AM
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There supposedly was a basketball team in my school, but the only people that claimed to have seen it play were its members. I think its main purpose was as a college application line for America bound kids. None of them seemed to ever play basketball in their spare time. No soccer team, but plenty of pickup soccer and soccerlike stuff. In the fall our main pickup sport was a free form all against all dodge ball type thing played with chestnuts. And skiing, which seemed to mostly be an excuse for some of the better skiers to go out on Saturday ski trips together. I think some of the American parents were a bit bewildered by this state of affairs.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:05 AM
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I played soccer as a kid in Texas -- may as well have just taken the Mexican side at the Alamo. Pick-up games, though, were always football or baseball.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:22 AM
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so neither carried the preppy taint.

"Preppy Taint" was the name of my garage band in high school.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:24 AM
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58: Please send my compliments to your wife on her Bergen County roots. Both my parents grew up in Teaneck with tons of extended family.

She's from a couple of towns north, Cresskill (although born in The Bronx). For suburbia, I found a lot of those small towns surprisingly walkable.

(These days, we go up there mostly for funerals.)

One of my last visits there (8 years or so ago) was for my mother-in-law's funeral. It convinced me to get an EZ-Pass after I got delayed at the Triboro bridge during the Englewood funeral home->far Queens cemetery drive and ended up following the wrong hearse. (That plus later driving down to Avalon on the Garden State and stopping at a million toll plazas.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:39 AM
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Holy roots, Batman! My mom's family is from Bergen County. We lived in Englewood until I was twelve. Then we moved to San Francisco and there were five dollar bills on every street corner.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:45 AM
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161: Yeah we seem to run into a lot of people who have Bergen connections. In fact a woman who lives a block from us here grew up a block from wife back there.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:54 AM
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Star Rugby Player Quits Team After Sex With Dog

Hey, for the NRL that's a run of the mill sex scandal, probably less worrying than most NRL sex scandals.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 10:50 PM
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I spent a summer in Bergen County when I was 15.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-12-10 11:48 PM
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