When it comes to chronicling the nervous breakdown of contemporary sports, no one’s got game like Patrick Hruby. A staff writer for the Washington Times who freelances widely — for ESPN, Sports on Earth, and others — Hruby can play small ball or long ball. He can write a sizzling essay and, as he showed yesterday in his wonderful and painful story at ESPN.com yesterday on George Visger, he can tell a long-form narrative with unmatched human touch.
I’ve already touted the Visger. By coincidence, Hruby also wrote a piece yesterday at Sports of Earth, which eviscerates the National Football League’s propagandistic and co-opting “Evolution” campaign. See “The NFL: Forever Backward,” http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/41492872/.
Earlier this week another fine Washington Times writer, Nathan Fenno, exposed that the NFL’s “public service announcement” safety spot during the Super Bowl included footage of the late Ollie Matson, who had chronic traumatic encephelopathy and couldn’t speak the last four years of his life. See http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/4/nfl-evolution-commercial-opens-window-ex-players/. (An even newer Fenno story busts the National Collegiate Athletic Association for having a rulebook that includes the word “recruit” 495 times, “meals” 79 times, “movies” 8 times, and “concussions” … 3 times.)
But it’s Hruby at SOE who takes Fenno beyond the “gotcha” of an 800-word newspaper account. Hruby blasts “feel-good marketing propaganda that wouldn’t be out of place in a political campaign, celebrating the glories of the Pee-Wee game, where scientists have recorded 7 and 8-year-olds hitting each other in the head with as much physical force as college athletes”:
Forever forward. Forever football. Forever CTE.
And speaking of Super Bowl spots — not to mention neurological disease — the ad featuring Matson apparently has been pulled from the league’s website. It reportedly was titled “NFL Evolution: Protecting the Game.” Not the players. The game. What else do you need to know?