by Irvin Muchnick
Appropriately, Dr. Joseph Maroon and his fellow “ImPACT concussion management system” developers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are front and center in separate excerpts of the book League of Denial, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, which are published today by Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine.
There is every sign that the Fainaru brothers’ book and the companion PBS/Frontline two-part documentary will imbue this issue with the “great man” storytelling that can help take public understanding of the football concussion crisis to a new level.
It’s also an opportunity for me to plug as a useful companion Concussion Inc.’s January 2012 ebook short, UPMC: Concussion Scandal Ground Zero, which is available on Amazon Kindle at http://amzn.to/A0Hq2g. Read all about Joe Maroon and his fellow UPMC witch doctors. Renaissance man Maroon moonlights as medical director of WWE (where he enabled a corporate lie about never having had access to Dr. Bennett Omalu’s slides of homicidal-suicidal wrestler Chris Benoit’s chronic traumatic encephelopathy-ravaged brain); he also pushes various anti-aging quackery and is associated with one of the National Football League’s capitals of performance-enhancing drug abuse in the Steel City.
My own longer book, The Concussion Inc. Files, will be published next year by ECW Press.
Other than the Pittsburgh neurology quack pond, what jumps out at me most in the ESPN excerpt by the Fainarus is the role of Kevin Guskiewicz, the MacArthur fellow I now mockingly call “Dr. No. Junior” — after the original “Dr. No,” Ira Casson, whose repeated nyet negativity at a Congressional hearing grilling him about traumatic brain injury is lampooned on YouTube as the ultimate in tobacconist defensiveness.
In the Fainarus’ account, Guskiewicz, who attended a 2006 NFL doctors’ concussion summit organized by new commissioner Roger Goodell, felt the event “had the makings of a Saturday Night Live skit, with Casson as the parody of a man in denial”:
“Oh, my gosh, as long as I live I’ll never forget that day. I use that as a teaching point with my students. I’m like, ‘The day that you have to stand up in front of a group and tell them that you’re a man or woman of science, your credibility is shot, especially when you have nothing to put in front of people to convince them.’ That was a bad, ugly, ugly day for the NFL.”
But ugliness is as ugliness does. Today Guskiewicz himself shills for the football establishment as a promoter of “safe football” — a position with all the public health consciientiousness of a marketer of filtered cigarettes.
The story, as told by me, isn’t about all these great men, who it turns out aren’t so great, but simply stiffs like you and me, but with advanced degrees allowing them to peddle selective expertise to the highest bidder.
No, the story is about the power of a brand and the money behind it. The shill docs come and go, through the revolving door of PR hard denial to the revolving door of PR soft denial. Ending the systematic braining of young American males for mass entertainment isn’t in their hands. It’s in the hands of parents and the public.