Irvin Muchnick’s book CONCUSSION INC.: The End of Football As We Know It will be published February 1 — Super Bowl Sunday. You can pre-order CONCUSSION INC., in either book or Kindle ebook form, at http://amzn.to/1yQNPXY. For the $19.95 list price, you also can order an autographed copy with free shipping in the U.S., by sending a check or money order to Irvin Muchnick, P.O. Box 9629, Berkeley, CA 94709, or remitting that amount via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Canadian orders, add $12.00 US for shipping. All other foreign orders, add $20.00 US for shipping.)
by Irvin Muchnick
The bar for the good guys in the national concussion conversation is low, low, low.
Nothing illustrates this better than the controversy surrounding Patrick Walsh, the football coach at Serra High School in San Mateo, California. For those of you keeping score, that’s where Tom Brady played sports and went to school (and before him, baseball’s Barry Bonds).
Last month Walsh ordered the last-minute cancellation of a scheduled game against Milpitas High, and he and the school were punished by the regional high school sports association. Walsh had decided that exposing his players to their 13th game of the season posed an undue health risk. You see, this was a consolation game in a championship tournament from which his team had already been eliminated.
For his stand, Walsh has been held up as principled, in the easy way that coaches always are when they push the pedal to just short of the metal, at their own convenience. His “concern for the health and safety of players is praiseworthy and justified,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in a – yes – lead editorial. The penalties against Serra are “tone-deaf bureaucratic overkill.”
The Chronicle didn’t ask Walsh whether he would have canceled Serra’s 16th game of the season, if it had been for the championship.
Walsh made one previous brief appearance in these pages, as a result of having played for the now-retired Bob Ladouceur at the De La Salle High School national football factory in Concord. Ladouceur is something of a pre-2011 prep Joe Paterno figure in the Bay Area – a record-setting coach across decades who is said to be a gentleman and a scholar, as well. Which Ladouceur is, for all I know, but I don’t know much.
That’s because Ladouceur, who oversaw a paranoid De La Salle football website complaining that his program was misunderstood by outsiders, never responded to my inquiries as to what the hell he was complaining about.
In the abstract, my own commentaries certainly gave Ladouceur reason to wonder if absolutely everybody fed from the same pap De La Salle’s PR machine spooned to the local media. For example, I wondered what was so glorious about flying a high school football team all over the country, usually for television exposure; why this Catholic institution had to recruit players aggressively in far-flung and impoverished communities like Richmond, rather than simply supporting local public schools; and whether there was an unacknowledged concussion and catastrophic injury toll in return for the honor heaped on an assumed great life coach who produced, among other professional talents, NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
When the Chronicle published a many-thousand-word front-page profile of Ladouceur that made him into a combination of Walter Camp and St. Francis of Assisi, I questioned why the only former player of Ladoucer’s who was quoted in the article was Patrick Walsh – who would proceed to hold an adult job in the exact same profession.
The writer, Rusty Simmons, assured me that he could have quoted a thousand people singing the praises of Bob Ladouceur. If only the Chronicle had given Simmons the space.