Re: Last NFL Post (For A While?)

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Well, that's what happens when commercial considerations rule a sport. This sort of "patch him up now and worry about the consequences later" also happens in proper footie, though the zillions of euros paid for star players mean that they're treated somewhat more cautiously.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:30 AM
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Is Upshaw elected by the current union members?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:38 AM
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Also, reading throught the article, this is as pure an example of workers being exploited as any sweatshop horror story.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:39 AM
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I know soccer-football players of top division status tend to be insured. Surely this must also true of the NFL? An NFL career is shorter, but the wages are, for the most part, much better.

P.S.: Is it possible for a whole post to be pwned by a single comment? Sadly, yes.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:44 AM
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1:The lack of transfer fees in the NFL doesn't affect the calculation; the rarity of a Peyton Manning is, if anything, more pronounced than that of a Henry or a Maldini, if only because relatively few people play American football. If Henry were to be seriously injured, Barça could go out and buy Kanoute or Adriano come the transfer window. If Manning got injured, the Colts would be well and truly fucked.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:51 AM
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I know of only one fussball player here in the Netherlands who had to retire from the sport with anything like the kind of injuries mentioned here, crippled for life, and he was deliberately targeted by an opposing defender. The guy who did it to him has since then be prosecuted for assault.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:53 AM
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OK, it's now 12:02 AM on Sept 11th.

Hippo birdie two ewe
Hippo birdie two ewe
Hippo birdie A White Bear
Hippo birdie two ewe


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 1:06 AM
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I don't think it's about the money - it's about the sport. Lots and lots of rugby players got screwed up just as badly during the amateur era.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 1:32 AM
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Well, rugby is no joke, that's sure enough, but the thought of management making money off of profitably fucked up minds and bodies gets me sharpening the knives.

And, yes, happy West Coast birthday, Miss AWB. Many happy returns, etc.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:26 AM
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actually, thinking about it, although there have always been horrific injuries in rugby, they've tended to be broken joints and necks. The really horrifying thing in that article is the brain damage and dementia which doesn't happen so much in rugby because you don't tackle people with your head. Whereas in American football, it seems like it's systematically encouraged and they don't take anything like the same trouble as boxing does to mitigate the consequences, which does seem rather evil.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:45 AM
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re: 8

It wouldn't surprise me if it was worse in the amateur era, in some ways. I used to share a flat with the captain of the Glasgow University side, and he had endless horror stories. Admittedly, most of them were of unpleasant but non-permanent injuries; ears, noses, that sort of thing.

The players are big and hit harder now* but they are also in better shape to take the hits.

* I assume, I haven't actually played rugby since I was about 14.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:47 AM
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Also 10 seems right. The lack of helmets really must make a big difference.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:49 AM
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Whereas in American football, it seems like it's systematically encouraged and they don't take anything like the same trouble as boxing does to mitigate the consequences, which does seem rather evil.

Tackling with the head ("spearing") is actually a major penalty in American football. Helmet-to-helmet contact happens, but it is supposed to be incidental.

That said, there is something to be said for the theory that the use of heavy regulation pads in American football increases the severity of injuries, because players would never throw their bodies against one another at such high velocities without the protection.

Orthopedists have observed a similar phenomeneon with downhill skiing: as the equipment (boots and bindings) has gotten more advanced, injuries have become rarer, but more severe (and now usually affect the more delicate knee joint where it used to be the ankle).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 3:32 AM
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One of my father's favorite variants on his "you kids these days are a bunch of pussies" speech was to describe how he played football with a Knute Rockne-style leather helmet and no facemask (after he finished walking to school five miles uphill through the snow, naturally).

At least by his day they had banned the occasionally fatal flying wedge.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 3:39 AM
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Helmet-to-helmet contact happens, but it is supposed to be incidental

hmmm, all those people in the article linked seemed to be suggesting it was a bit more systematic than that, and they have the brain damage to prove it.

Didn't association football radically change the design of the ball because the players were getting brain damage from heading the old leather balls when they got wet?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 4:23 AM
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re: 15

It's certainly true that modern balls don't absorb water and weigh a fraction of the older balls. I'm not sure if the brain damage issue was the primary causative factor, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 4:29 AM
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In the good old days, players wouldn't let a little injury slow them down.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 5:26 AM
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Didn't association football radically change the design of the ball because the players were getting brain damage from heading the old leather balls when they got wet?

The shape of the American footbal was changed around the turn of the last century in order to facilitate the forward pass, which was itself intended as a way to make the game less dangerous.

Naturally, the rulemakers didn't anticipate cases like this one.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 5:51 AM
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13: I've seen the argument made that boxing gloves make the sport more dangerous. The idea is that gloves protect hands more than they protect heads - that the bones in the head are actually much harder than the bones in the hand and if you are punching with your ungloved hand, you need to be much more careful about how hard you hit.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 6:50 AM
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#19 - I've seen that one too, although I'm never sure that you wouldn't be trading head injuries for liver and internal organ injuries (plus also more or less guaranteeing serious hand damage for all boxers).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:09 AM
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and also, thinking about it, I suspect that you'd end up with the worst of both worlds in that the boxing championships would come to be dominated by people with unbreakable fused knuckles, and then there wouldn't even be the head protection of the padding in the gloves (NB that lighter gloves always produce more knockouts).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:19 AM
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A boxer told me once that the weight of your hands subtracts from your punch. Apparently small, light, hard hands would be ideal.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:23 AM
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"players would never throw their bodies against one another at such high velocities without the protection."

That's not true. Many receivers, for example, don't use knee or thigh pads, and wear very small shoulder pads. Football is pretty much a hit or be hit sport.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:27 AM
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A lot of people* argue that bare-knuckle boxing leads to, or would lead to, far fewer instances of cumulatively acquired brain damage. There would be correspondingly many more cuts, though. And yeah, I imagine organ injuries would be more common.

re: 22

That seems odd. Given that, crudely, the force applied is a product of the mass and the acceleration. Unless the mass of your hands was so great that it significantly affected how fast you could throw a punch, I can't see that smaller, lighter hands would help. I'd much rather be hit by a fly swatter than a brick.

* including people with direct experience of both.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:32 AM
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I don't know if there is research to back this up, but it's conventional wisdom in mma circles that lighter, thinner gloves increase the frequency of flash knockouts, thus decreasing the number of KOs due to repeated brain trauma.


Posted by: Lars | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:32 AM
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re: 23

How does your point about receivers in any way contradict the point about padding?

The point is that the person DOING the hitting wouldn't hit as hard without the protection. The fact that the person being hit wears less is hardly strong evidence to the contrary.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:34 AM
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24--

"I'd much rather be hit by a fly swatter than a brick."

a lot of people* say you're supposed to float like a fly-swatter and sting like a brick.

*including people who make shit up.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:38 AM
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Unless the mass of your hands was so great that it significantly affected how fast you could throw a punch, I can't see that smaller, lighter hands would help.

KE=1/2 MV^2. The mass term is linear, and the velocity term is squared. I don't know enough about boxing to know how it works out in practice, but a reasonable tradeoff of less mass for more speed is going to give you more energy in the punch.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:45 AM
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28: a reasonable tradeoff of less mass for more speed is going to give you more energy in the punch.

cf. bullets.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:49 AM
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28--
yeah, that's the equation they quote when explaining why batters nowadays prefer lighter bats--up to sosa's use of a corked bat.

i wonder whether ttaM's comparison gains spurious plausibility from our not slowing the brick down enough. i.e., we imagine the impact of a fly-swatter swung at normal, fly-killing speeds, and compare it to a brick flying through the air at brick-throwing speeds. but a hell of a lot more energy had to go into getting the brick airborne. if we imagine how fast a frictionless brick goes after being hit by the flyswatter, i.e. not very fast, then the comparison does less to favor heavy hands.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:49 AM
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Tackling with the head ("spearing")

Not quite right. "Spearing" is tackling by leading with the crown of the helmet, but leading with the head up ("see what you hit") is considered proper form. Anti-spearing rules are meant to protect the person being hit and the neck of the person doing the hitting, but not the brain of either.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:51 AM
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Other factors to put in the equation: the big gloves used in boxing are used to block punches as much as they are to throw them. MMA's little 5-oz gloves aren't so useful for that, which tends to shorten fights. Also, no standing eight count in MMA means if you get knocked silly, they won't give you the opportunity to shake out the cobwebs and get knocked silly again.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:54 AM
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Chafing, then, is the ideal incentive for designing an upgrade to football because it hurts like hell but doesn't cause much long-term damage. The thigh pads should be lined with grit.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:55 AM
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On the other hand, I don't actually know that there is a mass/velocity tradeoff. How fast you can throw a punch might easily be constrained by other factors, which would allow someone with heavy hands to punch as fast as someone with lighter hands.

The 'concealing a roll of quarters in your fist' method of beating people up, if practical rather than something that only occurs in hardboiled detective novels, would suggest that there isn't such a tradeoff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:57 AM
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Many receivers, for example, don't use knee or thigh pads, and wear very small shoulder pads.

I'm not sure that this disproves my point. The equipment that protects you in the act of tackling someone else is your helmet and shoulder pads, both of which, unlike kneepads and thighpads, are obligatory in the NFL. Do you think a linebacker would hit the receiver just hard if he (the linebacker) weren't wearing shoulder pads and a helmet? OK, maybe some of them, but across the board?

Football is pretty much a hit or be hit sport

For wide receivers, *avoiding* taking a big hit is a pretty big part of the job, and initiating a big hit rarely figures into it. The players laying down the big hits are either (1) defensive players taking down an on-rushing runner, (2) offensive linemen surging over the line of scrimmage from a down stance at the snap, or (3) running backs opening up the hole. To the extent that wide receivers are called upon to *initiate* a hit, it is generally a blocking assignment from a standing stance from behind the line of scrimmage. There simply isn't as much kinetic energy there.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:57 AM
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Tweety, there's a question for you over at my joint.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 7:58 AM
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I don't dispute the correctness of 31. I merely wanted to clear up any misapprehension that our British friends might have about the propriety of hitting with the crown of the helmet.

Indeed, the hardest blow to the head I ever took playing football was from the impact of my head against the ground when the opposing team running back ran over the 90 or so pounds of 12-year-old body at full throttle. A little harder and it might have prematurely ended my math team career.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:04 AM
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As for punching speed vs mass: muscles will respond to heavier loads with more force, so the mass-velocity trade is going to be less than quadratic. For an experiment try hitting a heavy bag with and without a 1 - 2 pound weight in your hand: I think most people will feel the shot with the weight delivers a lot more force. Of course, there are other reasons experienced boxers might favor faster punches.


Posted by: Lars | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:10 AM
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26 It isn't contradictory at all. If you are saying that players wouldn't hit as hard with less padding to prevent injury, then with your logic wouldn't those being hit wear more padding avoid the same consequence. They don't, of course.

Why? Because it's a competitive disadvantage. Not only against the other team, but the second-string guy behind you. You're severely discounting the competitive nature of the sport. Pulling up or flinching because you have less padding would be a huge competitive disadvantage. Bad for job security.



Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:10 AM
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35: Clearly, the solution is for only offensive players to wear armor.


Posted by: Lars | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:12 AM
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Do you think a linebacker would hit the receiver just hard if he (the linebacker) weren't wearing shoulder pads and a helmet?

I was arguing the same thing in the other thread, but then I watched some Australian Rules Football on YouTube and I think the answer might be "yes."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:12 AM
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I think that you hold a roll of quarters in your fist not for the added punching mass, but to prevent your hand from compressing and absorbing some of the impact.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:13 AM
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australian rules--
crazy accurate kicks, from the drop. and punching the ball.
i'm not saying it's a better game, but it's way intriguing.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:19 AM
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Re: 39 and 41, I think we have clarified the theoretical disagreement to the point it comes down to an unresolved (and by us unresolveable) empirical question.

I also cheerfully concede that the increase in mass, strength and speed of NFL players in recent decades probably plays a far bigger role than any theoretical disinhibiting effect of padding. The padding has been a constant (though qualitatively much improved) for years, but the players have gotten that much larger. Remember how we used to consider William "The Refrigerator" Perry of the '85 Bears such a freakish giant?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:29 AM
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14: At age 14 I played with a leather helmet, kiddies. It was already an antique, but they didn't have enough real helmets.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:29 AM
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At age 14 I played with a leather helmet

It's Letterman! Faster than a rolling O; more powerful than silent E; able to leap capital T in a single bound... it's a word, it's a plan, it's Letterman!

I was in high school before I understood what the thing on Letterman's head was, or what a 'varsity sweater' was. When I figured it out, it was the funniest thing ever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:33 AM
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FWIW, the events described in 37 precipitated the speech recounted in 14. I still love my dad, though.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:36 AM
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45--
at age 14 you were playing with a lot of things, emerson, most of them not to be mentioned in polite company.

yeah, i got a pretty severe concussion in my early teens playing tackle ball on a sandlot. deeply confused for about 24 hours. never played it again after that--we had just all gotten too big.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 8:47 AM
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re: 34

Yeah, I'm sure the mechanics of punching are the limiting factor on how fast you can punch, rather than the weight of the hand. The fist isn't acting purely as a projectile, anyway, which, which is why comparisons to bullets are somewhat spurious. When you get hit by someone with decent punching technique you're being hit by what is effectively a more-or-less-rigid rod with a great big weight (the boxer's body) on the other end of it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:05 AM
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Unless the mass of your hands was so great that it significantly affected how fast you could throw a punch

16 ounce gloves versus ten ounce gloves definitely does make a difference. When boxers want to cheat, they remove padding from the gloves, not add more (this is partly because the hand inside the glove is taped up like a rock).

Also note that a boxing glove is a much less rigid object than a fist, meaning that the energy is transferred to the head over a much shorter period of time (this is also why the roll of quarters works; because of the way the human hand is shaped, a completely bare fist will squash up quite a bit on impact). So it's a comparison between a flyswatter and a padded brick at the very least.

Mixed martial arts does seem to me to have a hell of a lot of knockouts (and obviously, the question of the padding on your fists is a bit by the by when participants are allowed to swing the full weight of their shin at high speed against each others' heads). I think the main reason why we haven't seen very serious long-term injuries in that sport is that it's a fairly new sport rather than anything else.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:07 AM
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re: 50

I think the taping thing is fairly key. And also, I'm fairly sure that the lighter, less padded gloves aren't favoured because they significantly increase the punchers speed [although I don't doubt they increase it a bit] but more because they significantly increase the damage inflicted [given the protected and taped fist].

FWIW, I switched from 16oz to 12oz gloves recently. I suspect there is a slight increase in hand speed but the big difference I notice is that the 12oz gloves -- which are fairly expensive semi-pro gloves rather than PVC cheapo -- are really rigid compared to the 16s. The padding is much much stiffer.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:12 AM
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Mixed martial arts does seem to me to have a hell of a lot of knockouts ... I think the main reason why we haven't seen very serious long-term injuries in that sport is that it's a fairly new sport rather than anything else.

I suppose a possible source for data would be Thailand. Where elbows and knees are routinely used. I seem to recall that there's a number of deaths from elbows to the temple.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:14 AM
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That article was depressing as hell. Thank you, ogged, for potentially ruining this football season for me. Now I have nothing.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:14 AM
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As I understand the glove issue in boxing, some people think that bigger gloves mean that fighters suffer fewer cuts and are harder to knock out, which has the perverse consequence of making fights longer and inflicting more long term brain damage.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:21 AM
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re: 54

Yeah, that's part of the reasoning I'd read too. Along with the fact that heavier gloves do protect the boxers hands, so while they may deliver marginally less destructive blows, they can deliver a lot more of them.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 9:23 AM
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When you get hit by someone with decent punching technique you're being hit by what is effectively a more-or-less-rigid rod with a great big weight (the boxer's body) on the other end of it.

This seems to support the "fist subtracts" theory. The fist adds no muscle power, and doesn't really add beef either (which is supplied by the whole body.

Compare someone swinging a cane and someone swinging a 2x4, I think that in skilled hands the cane would do more damage (provided that it was tough and rigid).

I don't think that it's probably a big factor. It's probably just a corrective to people who say "Look at the size of those fists!" Intuitively, you might think that big fists are more lethal, but they probably aren't, especially because tiny differences in quickness and speed will also affect whether a punch lands or is blocked.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 10:09 AM
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"Compare someone swinging a cane and someone swinging a 2x4, I think that in skilled hands the cane would do more damage"

Sure, if it's swung/spun [something I've actually done as I've taken a couple of canne de combatseminars*]. Other times, it's analogous to a battering ram, when the calculation might run the other way.

* the link is well worth clicking. Mad french people ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 10:25 AM
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"Singlestick" in Sherlock Holmes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 11:09 AM
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canne de combat

Wild. How do you win? It's scored? Or more of an art than a competition?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 11:16 AM
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That's a cool-liking technique. I especially like they're both wearing Unabomber outfits.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 11:28 AM
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RE: 59

Competition matches are scored, like fencing, I presume. I've only had about 6 or 7 hours practice, though. Just the core techniques, no actual 'fighting'. So I'm not 100% on how it's scored.

The canes move at an incredible speed, though. They may a cool 'whoosh' noise.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:23 PM
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re: 58

They aren't quite the same. I've read a bit about single-stick. They're both sword-derived stick fighting methods, though, so similar. Very handy in the days when every gentleman carried a cane, too.

Single-sticks looked more like swords; they had hand-guards.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:32 PM
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I'd guess, from watching them, that's it's rather like sabre fencing in that you can hit with the edge or the point, and like epee in that the whole body seems to be a legitimate target and there appears to be no right-of-way. Perhaps there are differences in points depending on the part of the body hit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:33 PM
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re: 63

I'm pretty sure from the two seminars I've attended that you only score if the hit is made within a certain distance of the tip of the cane.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canne_de_combat#Rules

That lists the scoring zones.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 12:42 PM
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Does the canne de combat thing remind anybody else of (i) the "headbreaking at the fair" scene in Tom Brown's School Days or (ii) the ultimate duel between Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro? I'm the only one? Sorry.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:03 PM
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Apparently one isn't allowed to thrust.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:03 PM
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66: Shades of the schlager-play of German university dueling clubs.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:07 PM
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Interesting quote from Joe Montana in that article:


"The NFL is the worst-represented league, on the players' side, in pro sports," said Joe Montana in a 2006 newspaper survey of Hall of Famers.

The thing is, Joe is part of the reason why the NFL players have a weak union. In the 1987 strike, he crossed the line after (I think) the first replacement game. Part of the reason that strike failed was the willingness of various star players (who couldn't easily be replaced) to cross the line and give legitimacy to the replacement games.

In contrast, in the 1994 baseball strike, I don't think any established stars joined the replacement games, in spite of the fact that many older stars were giving up income that they personally would never make up, in order to preserve a better negotiating environment for the next generation of players. That difference is one of the big reasons that the baseball players have a strong union and the football players a weak one.


Posted by: DaveW | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 2:56 PM
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68: That in itself is evidence that Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA represent players poorly, while Donald Fehr and the MLBPA represent players well. Moreover during the MLB strike, Fehr was personally vilified, attacked and hounded by the owners and shortsighted sportswriters, while Gene Upshaw is spoken well of by virtually everybody who has had to deal with him except former players.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 3:56 PM
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