Yesterday I posted the kind of perspective on the $100 million research grant to Harvard University by the National Football League Players Association that you are guaranteed not to read in today’s wire service hype.
A hundred million bucks! Folks, that’s not a research grant — it’s a line item in the budget of a sovereign nation with designs on developing its own hydrogen bomb. It reminds me of the Corleone family’s nine-figure gift to the Catholic Church in Godfather III.
“Scorcher,” said Paul Anderson, editor of the Concussion Litigation Reporter, commenting on my commentary. Thanks, Paul. You and others know that I always try to execute Mother Nature’s grand plan for burning away old forest growth.
We’ve all come a long way, baby, since Chris Nowinski and his Boston University Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy three years ago got panned in some circles, including this one, for accepting $1 million from the National Football League. Frankly, there are lots of people who have worked longer and more effectively than me on this issue, and Nowinski is near the top of that list. With some additional perspective, we should concede that he was savvy enough to pocket some of Roger Goodell’s loose change, but persistent and resilient enough to stay on the attack in his own way. Though still dissatisfied with the strength and consistency of the statements emanating from Nowinski, Dr. Robert Cantu, and their sister Sports Legacy Institute, I have no question that, in speaking out against pre-teen tackle football, they’re going a lot deeper than most similarly invested critics. These include, most especially and disappointingly, the female sports blogger community, which continues to nibble at the “NFL Evolution” carrot instead of mobilizing a principled Mothers Against Drunk Football movement.
Nowinski and some journalists, notably Patrick Hruby, are also putting traumatic brain injury at the center of the debate over the unpaid mercenaries who stock the rosters of college football — the NFL’s zero-cost farm system.
Over the last 24 hours I have been bombarded with requests to target this or that conflict in the NFLPA’s heavy petting with the prettiest girl in academia. (If the players’ union is A.J. McCarron, then Harvard is Katherine Webb in tweed.) For the most part, I decline such invitations. Yes, NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth is enrolling in the Harvard Business School, and his wife, Ashley Manning Foxworth, went to Harvard law. And as retired Chicago Bears quarterback Bob Avellini points out, Bears owner Michael McCaskey taught for a while at a certain well-known institution of higher education in Cambridge (“Our Fair City”), MA. None of this establishes anything more than we already know about Harvard’s enormous influence on Wall Street and Main Street; it is the same reason the bestselling book in China is a primer on how to groom your kid to get accepted there for undergraduation admission. How many U.S. Supreme Court justices didn’t come out of Harvard, Yale, or Columbia law?
Did I forget to mention that Chris Nowinski is both a Harvard alum and a former WWE wrestler? Chris didn’t. But before anyone gets started — no, Domonique and Ashley’s wedding planner, Sara Muchnick, is not related to me, so far as I know. (Though who can say precisely what went down in those 19th century Pale of Settlement shtetls….)
The far more interesting story on Foxworth (who himself is rehabbing an ACL knee injury, the better to underscore the point that Harvard is expected to use its windfall to dilute any swift and purposeful study of traumatic brain injury) is the one of his dashed hope to succeed the disastrous DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFLPA. Smith has spent the last year with his mind barely on the store as he hobnobbed in the nation’s capital in search of landing a new job, before the growing evidence emerged of the incompetence and corruption at the union, on his watch and for his gain. More on all this shortly.
Meanwhile, it seems only appropriate to quote the lyrics of that great academician-satirist Tom Lehrer’s song, “Fight Fiercely, Harvard”:
Fight fiercely, Harvard,
Fight, fight, fight!
Impress them with our prowess, do!
Oh, fellows, do not let the Crimson down,
Be of stout heart and thru.
Come on, chaps, fight for Harvard’s glorious name,
Won’t it be peachy if we win the game?