Since nobody's had enough sense to take the 2022 World Cup out of Qatar's incompetent hands, I suppose we have to keep acknowledging the latest developments among Qatar's many ongoing problem-solving efforts.

So here's the problem: Qatar is very hot. Hot enough that playing soccer outside in the summer could kill players. Hot enough in the summer that merely sitting down to watch soccer could be construed as suicide.

No one has figured out what to do with that problem. Problem-solving discussions have played out in front of the public the way you might imagine ad execs brainstorming names for the newest flavor of Doritos chips.

Here's the best idea, apparently: Qatar might play World Cup soccer games in the middle of the night.

In fairness, playing games in the middle of the night is exactly as sensible as awarding the World Cup to a Middle Eastern country that expressly outlaws homosexuality and uses slave labor to build its stadiums.

When you're viewing this mess through the lens of that worldview, sure: Overnight games are a super idea. Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the former head of soccer in Chile and a possible candidate to be new FIFA president, proposed this in an interview with the BBC.

But unless you are Qatar or one of the American television networks that wouldn't have to tape-delay the games -- because nighttime in Qatar is daytime in North America -- it's easy to see this proposal as a half-baked solution for a problem no one can seem to solve.

Playing World Cup games at night presents a public relations disaster for FIFA, and a less-than-pleasant experience for fans. Players and teams will be frustrated by the weird sleep schedules they have to keep, which are a legitimate threat to the quality of play.

Fans, meanwhile, will be asked to attend a World Cup in a location where they can't comfortably go outside during the day, and then are uncomfortable being out late at night. Imagine the fan discomfort -- and inevitable ugly stories -- of releasing 100,000 emotionally charged fans from a soccer stadium into the streets of Doha at 3:30 in the morning.

Instead of celebrating the host nation, as is usually the case at the World Cup, fans will travel across the world to live like vampires for a couple of weeks. Sounds like a great vacation.

And what happened to air-conditioned stadiums, Qatar? You promised us air-conditioned outdoor stadiums to keep the oppressive Middle Eastern heat from adversely affecting players and fans. This technology, while never backed by any evidence that it could actually work, was a part of your formal bid for the World Cup and an important response to one of the seven or 20 Very Good Reasons Why Qatar Should Not Host The World Cup.

Now we're talking about playing games at night instead. Did your HVAC guy retire? Or is the answer simpler, like, "We sort of just made that up and paid Sepp Blatter a bunch of money to pick us?"

Oh, that's actually what happened?

At least something makes sense.

Concussions and domestic violence are two of the biggest problems confronting the NFL, and the issues may actually be linked to each other. The latest episode of HBO's Real Sports examines why scientists studying the brains of deceased NFL players say head trauma can lead to a loss of control.

One case study is former Chargers safety Paul Oliver. He had no history of domestic violence until after he sustained three significant concussions in the NFL. Then his behavior began to change, his widow, Chelsea Oliver, told Real Sports. He became violent and abusive. Last year, Oliver shot himself in the head in front of Chelsea and their two young sons.

Tests revealed that Oliver's brain was in an advanced state of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the degenerative disease associated with head trauma.

After being embarrassed in the Ray Rice debacle, the NFL scrambled to institute a policy on how it would punish players who committed domestic violence. But if a leading cause of domestic violence is the brain damage being found in more and more NFL players, the league will need to approach the issue from a whole new perspective. Adding educational programs to prevent domestic violence is great, but how much can it help someone whose brain is too scrambled to process the information?

Oliver's story is part of the episode that premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Here's a preview:

Another striking example of how teams with a strong philosophy, chemistry, situational hitting and relief pitching win in the playoffs -- not bloated payrolls -- came this past week in Major League Baseball. The heavily favored Dodgers, Angels, Nationals and Tigers were quickly eliminated in favor of the Cardinals, Royals, Giants and Orioles. If big money was the key to winning in the playoffs, different teams would have won.

The Dodgers have a payroll that tops the majors with $235 million, yet they lost to the Cardinals who paid players $111 million. The Angels payroll was $155 million and they lost to Kansas City, who paid $92 million. Detroit had a payroll of $162 million, and the Tigers lost to the Orioles with $107 million. The exception was the Giants, who were were salaried at $154 million because of players who have won two World Series in the last four years. The Nationals were $20 million less. So, something besides payroll was at work in these playoffs.

Teams like San Francisco and St. Louis are built around strong philosophies. St. Louis calls it "The Cardinal Way." This is the fourth straight year the Cards are in the NLCS. They have strong a farm system. They have heavy team leadership, where older players mentor younger players, as do the Giants. As a result, a definite team chemistry and bond is formed among the players. In addition, Kansas City developed amazing team rapport this season. These teams play "small ball," do not rely on home runs and instead feature smart hitting, base running and strategy. They have strong relief pitching. This approach gives St. Louis, San Francisco and Kansas City the ability to win in tight games. Every player is able to bunt or hit a sacrifice fly and deliver what is needed in that game situation.

The Angels, who won their most recent World Series in 2002, dominated baseball this year with good chemistry and total participation. They lost their best performing pitcher, Garrett Richards, and an additional starter, Tyler Skaggs, to injury this summer. They put on the brakes and played minor leaguers with several weeks to go and lost their momentum and batting eye. The Angels have moved to a strategy of aging superstars paid on long term contracts for past performance rather than realistic future projections. Josh Hamilton went 0-13 in the recent series and they are stuck with two more years at $25 and $30 million. Albert Pujols had limited success in the series.

The Dodgers used to have a set lineup of players developed in the minors who knew how to situationally hit and deal with the distant dimension of Dodger Stadium. Their chemistry was weak this year, with little leadership. Their highly paid aging free agents spent much time on the injury list. They could not hit in the playoffs at Dodger Stadium. No one could have predicted Cy Young Award winning pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, coming off a phenomenal season, would lose two games.

Strong starting and relief pitching with great situational hitting and good defense is the formula for winning in the postseason. Team rapport and good leadership is also key. What wins pennants does not seem to be the same skill set as needed in a short series. Baseball is enhanced by new playoff teams like the Royals and the Orioles being in the mix. Until someone figures out what the Cardinals and Giants have utilized and can replicate it, those teams will continue to dominate in the postseason.

The past month has seen the game of football embroiled in controversy -- many of the same controversies that have burdened Steve Almond's thoughts for years. A lifelong fan of the sport, Almond penned Against Football as a manifesto of all he learned in investigating how football has affected American culture -- oftentimes for the worse. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Among the motley artifacts taped to the walls of my office -- tucked below the photo of the Bay City Rollers in snug tartan jumpsuits and the student evaluation that reads, "If writing were a part of my body, I would cut it off with an Exacto blade" -- is a tiny yellowed clipping.

It's a grand total of two paragraphs, snipped from a Boston Globe recap of the New England Patriots' 12–0 win over the Miami Dolphins on December 7, 2003. I'm almost certain I didn't watch this contest, because I hate the Patriots, though oddly, if I'm honest (which I don't like being in the context of my sports-viewing habits) I have watched a lot of Pats games over the years, so there's a decent chance I caught a portion of this one, maybe just the third quarter at a friend's house.

The passage reads:

With 13 minutes 50 seconds left in the game, running back Kevin Faulk hauled in a 15-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady, then got leveled by Miami safety Brock Marion, who forced a fumble and left Faulk motionless on the ground.

"I wasn't out cold, but I was out," said Faulk. Asked if he remembered lying on the ground, he said, "No, I don't, so I must have been out. I knew that something was wrong with me. I knew that, like, it wasn't normal. I didn't have that same, normal feeling when I got up."

I have no idea how I came across this dispatch. I don't subscribe to the Globe, so I probably found it on the subway. I do remember the strange buzz that accompanied the reading of these words. The first paragraph is standard sports reportage: game data, a stark description of collision and injury. But that second paragraph! It read more like a poignant existential monologue. Faulk seeks to minimize his injury, then, pressed, struggles to assimilate what happened to him, which most physicians would describe as a significant injury to the brain. What you're hearing is the linguistic equivalent of a concussion.


I thought it was funny.

That would be the simplest way to explain why I brought this story home and cut out the section in question and taped it to my wall. I thought it said something elemental about athletic delusion, the absurd and pitiful way players hide from the truth of their vocation: that they earn ungodly sums of money and acclaim for demolishing each other.

I assumed, in other words, a posture of ironic distance, which is what we Americans do to avoid the corruption of our spiritual arrangements. Ironic distance allows us to separate ourselves from the big, complicated moral systems around us (political, religious, familial), to sit in judgment of others rather than ourselves. It's the reason, as we zoom into the twilight years of our imperial reign, that Reality TV has become our designated guilty pleasure.

But here's the thing: You can run from your own subtext for only so long. Those spray-tanned lunatics we happily revile are merely turned-out versions of our private selves, the whores we hide from public view.

What I mean is that there's a deeper reason I cut those paragraphs out of the paper a dozen years ago, and carried that little square of newsprint with me through three different moves, each time affixing it to a spot right over my desk.

I told myself it was just a macabre little talisman, a window into the dissonant psyches of famous barbarians. Then, a few months ago, around the time my own mother suffered an acute and terrifying insult to her brain, the truth landed. The passage wasn't about Faulk and his brethren. It was about me. It was about the forty years I'd spent as an ardent football fan, about my refusal to face the complicity of my own joy in seeing men like Kevin Faulk concussed.

I knew that something was wrong with me.

The game in which Faulk got hurt took place in the midst of an historic fifteen-game win streak that would carry the Patriots to their second Super Bowl in three seasons. The moment captured was, by the standards of gridiron lore, the zenith of that team's fortunes. The only extant photo of the play shows Marion colliding with Faulk in helmet-to-helmet fashion. Both men are grimacing. Marion's knee appears to be striking the helmet of a third figure, Miami linebacker Junior Seau, who is grasping at Faulk from the ground.

In 2012, nine years after this play and two years into retirement, Seau would fire a .357 Magnum into his chest. Although never diagnosed with a concussion during his twenty-year career, an autopsy of his brain would reveal chronic brain damage.


This little book is a manifesto. Its job is to be full of obnoxious opinions. For example, I happen to believe that our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia.

I recognize that voicing these opinions will cause many fans to write off whatever else I might have to say on the subject as a load of horseshit, shoveled by someone who is probably wearing a French sailor's suit and whistling the Soviet National Anthem.

Before you do so, let me reiterate: I am one of you. If we ever have the awkward pleasure of meeting, we can, rather than debating my obnoxious opinions about football, happily muse over any of the hundreds of NFL players, past and present, whose names and career paths and highlight reels I have, pathetically, unintentionally, and yet lovingly, filed away in my hippocampal hard drive. Chances are I know all about your favorite team, what they did last year and last decade and whom they drafted (at least in the first round) and where they're predicted to finish in their division, a subject I would prefer to take up, given the alternative, which would be to discuss my team, the wretched and moribund Oakland Raiders, who will finish this season -- mark my words -- no better than 3–13.

So please, before you set this book down, or quietly remit it to the poor soul in your life who thought it might make an "interesting" gift, please consider one final obnoxious opinion: I happen to believe that football, in its exalted moments, is not just a sport but a lovely and intricate form of art.

Mostly, this book is a personal attempt to connect the two disparate synapses that fire in my brain when I hear the word "football": the one that calls out, Who's playing? What channel?, and the one that murmurs, Shame on you. My hope is to honor the ethical complexities and the allure of the game. I'm trying to see football for what it truly is.

What does it mean that the most popular and unifying form of entertainment in America circa 2014 features giant muscled men, mostly African-American, engaged in a sport that causes many of them to suffer brain damage? What does it mean that our society has transmuted the intuitive physical joys of childhood -- run, leap, throw, tackle -- into a corporatized form of simulated combat? That a collision sport has become the leading signifier of our institutions of higher learning, and the undisputed champ of our colossal Athletic Industrial Complex?

I knew that, like, it wasn't normal.

So what was it?

The Clippers' second game of the upcoming NBA season will be Halloween night against the Lakers. Kobe Bryant didn't face the Clippers last season as injuries limited him to six games, and question marks linger about how effective he might be, given his age and health. But Clippers star Chris Paul gave Kobe quite the favorable prediction:

Another offseason activity for Paul was playing in Clayton Kershaw's celebrity ping-pong tournament at Dodger Stadium. The charity fundraiser, called Ping Pong 4 Purpose, helps Kershaw's foundation build hospitals and orphanages. Unfortunately for Paul, he and Kershaw lost in the first round to Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke and former MLB player Jerry Hairston Jr.

Amid the unrelenting furor surrounding the NFL and domestic violence the past month, a critically important story concerning football, and all collision sports slipped by virtually unnoticed. A projection was made from NFL documents in the concussion lawsuit as to what the future holds for current players. The prediction stated that three out of ten former players would have brain damage as a consequence of playing in the NFL. This news was greeted with a great collective yawn. Which is collective denial.

The projection of three out of ten players suffering brain damage from concussion is arguably way too low. Some neurologists theorize that every time an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman at the inception of every play it produces a low level sub-concussive event. It is then possible that a lineman who plays high school, college, and professional football could suffer 10,000 sub-concussive hits. He would be aware of none of these, none of them would be diagnosed, because none would produce a knockout. The aggregate of the cumulative damage would almost certainly produce the symptoms of ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and depression that follow multiple concussions.

I love football. I have made a great living from representing professional football players. I do not want to see it go away. But if 50 percent of the mothers in this country become aware of these dangers and tell their teenage sons that they can play any sport–but not tackle football, what will happen? It will change the socioeconomics of football. The young men who will play it are the same men who box, knowing the risk, but need to take it to escape economic poverty.

It is not just football. Young girls need to be aware of the risks inherent in collisions and heading the ball in AYSO soccer. Concussions occur in all collision sports. The younger brain is at risk for longer recovery and heightened danger. Weren't the demises of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau dramatic enough to make solving this a national priority?

1) We need discussion about what sports are appropriate for very young children to play.

2) Safe blocking and tackling techniques for football need to be taught from the beginning.

3) Contact needs to be limited in high school football. Practice Like the Pros is a good program.

4) Helmetry needs the best in engineering to truly protect. Tate Technology has a promising coil-compression system that dissipates the energy force and reduces it dramatically.

5) Better diagnostic techniques on sidelines so sub-concussive sufferers are not returned to play.

6) Nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals that ...
a. Make the brain less susceptible to being concussed.
b. Reduce swelling at time of hit -- Prevacus has promising nasal spray that does just that.
c. Heal the brain. Stem cell is still a few years off.

We are talking about an injury of a totally different dimension from other sports injuries. The brain determines personality, memory, judgment -- what it means to be a sentient human being. We treasure and venerate valiant athletes. It is time to make caring for their health and welfare after the cheering stops a top priority.

On Friday, two more events stoked controversy relating to domestic violence and the handling of the Ray Rice affair by the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell held a long-awaited press conference and broke a story that suggested Baltimore Raven influence in attempting to urge leniency on the penalty that Rice would receive. Reaction to these stories continued Friday and through the weekend. The impact on fan support of the NFL was invisible.

Last week, the seven top-rated shows on Nielsen television ratings were NFL night-time football. The NFL is no longer just the most dominant sport in this country -- it is the most dominant form of televised entertainment. There has never been a sport that has crossed over to completely monopolize television in this way. This nation is obsessed by NFL football. Attendance is unflagging, 35 million people play fantasy football, and bettors find every forum imaginable, social media is ablaze with football talk and apps, memorabilia and apparel sales soar.

So how is it that two straight weeks of nonstop media coverage of completely negative athletic behavior, and inept official response to it, has so little effect on fan behavior? No one in this country favors domestic violence and the issues of the past few weeks have galvanized public discussion throughout the land. Even with President Obama announcing war with Isis, Ebola virus outbreaks and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, news has consistently led with the NFL story. Last week I flipped though six pre-sets on my car radio, only three of which are sports stations, and all six were talking about Rice.

Psychological compartmentalization appears to be at work. Fans waited through an off-season that stretched for most teams from January until September regular-season games. The anticipation level for this season was astronomical. Fans of an individual team, fantasy players, and bettors couldn’t wait for the season to begin. The rituals of Sunday afternoon have become integrated into our culture. And when there is negative news, even if it involves the NFL, where do fans turn? They turn to the actual games for the excitement and respite from day-to-day life.

Rice does not represent the players and games they are watching to fans who have bifurcated their reaction.

The massive promotion powers of television, sponsorship, the Internet, radio, newspapers and magazines were in full force to promote this season, and fans responded. The good news is that a powerful NFL can be a powerful advocate against domestic violence.

Goodell got mixed reviews for his press conference, but he did announce a commitment to education, training for prevention and outreach to counter domestic violence. The proof will be in the details, but the NFL has shown with issues like breast cancer awareness how effective a forum it can be.

A fact lost in the frenzy is that domestic violence was swept completely under the table for most of the history of this country. Incidents of athletic involvement have gotten better, not worse. NFL rates are lower than their non-athletic peers in the same age group. One incident is too many, but this is not a sport of thugs. Fans appear to distinguish between their abhorrence of domestic violence and condemnation of the perpetrators and league handling them on the one hand, and enjoyment of the sport on the other.

Jay Glazer, the NFL insider for Fox, says the one upside to the Ray Rice domestic violence case is that it might prompt victims who would have continued to suffer in silence to step forward.

In addition to his reporting duties for Fox, Glazer is also part of Captain Morgan's push to raise money for charities, such as City Harvest in New York and Purple Heart Homes, through its #CaptainandColaaarr campaign.

There is a growing clamor of media voices calling for an athlete accused of domestic violence to be pulled from competition until the case is resolved. But unlike the recent stories that have unfolded in the NFL, this time the call is for the U.S. women's national soccer team to suspend goalie Hope Solo.

In June, Solo pleaded not guilty to domestic violence charges stemming from an incident in which her 17-year-old nephew and half-sister sustained injuries.

But Solo was on the field Thursday night as the U.S. beat Mexico 4-0 in a friendly in Rochester, N.Y. Media reaction has been critical to U.S. Soccer's decision to keep Solo in action, and some of the nation's largest outlets have weighed in with strong views. Consider ...

Kate Fagan of ESPN wrote a column that was accompanied with the headline "Why Hope Solo Should Be Suspended From Team USA -- Immediately."

Solo is accused of violence against a family member; she should be suspended until she handles her legal issues. It's worth noting that a lack of national coverage (to this moment, anyway) about Solo's situation isn't as much a reflection of a double-standard in the coverage of assault, it's more a reflection of the attention paid to the NFL versus the attention paid to women's sports. Female athletes mostly fly below the radar -- for better and for worse.

Even so, the U.S. women's national team is sending the wrong message by allowing Solo to continue playing while she deals with these allegations.

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur pointed out that Solo also continued to play for the Seattle Reign in the National Women's Soccer League after charges were brought:

It takes a lot to match the N.F.L. these days when it comes to missteps in the handling of players charged with assaulting family members and loved ones. But Thursday, at a time when domestic violence in sports is dominating the national conversation, U.S. Soccer did just that -- again -- by keeping Solo in goal when she shouldn't have been anywhere near it.

Cindy Boren of the Washington Post wrote about the power of outside forces:

NFL stars like Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer and Adrian Peterson were banished after massive sponsor, political and fan pressure, but Nike, for instance, has remained silent on Solo.

John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote about how Solo is as much of a role model as the NFL players:

If you've ever attended a match played by the U.S. women's soccer team, you know thousands of girls in the stands scream in adoration. Their passion for their female soccer heroes is as intense as that for any NFL player. Solo is one of the USA's biggest stars, and kids are drawn to her.

And syndicated columnist Roland Martin, a non-sports commentator, tweeted this:

ESPN's Robert Flores called attention to the issue of Solo's participation before the match:

The U.S. Soccer Federation does have some time to change its mind about Solo. The U.S. women's national team starts the qualifying process for the 2015 World Cup with a match Oct. 15 against Trinidad & Tobago.

In his first full MLB season, Matt Shoemaker is already entrenched as a top starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. He also happens to be an avid gamer. When you combine the two, you get a star athlete with privileged access to one of the fall's most-anticipated video games. Here's Shoemaker giving the inside scoop on his video game habits, as well as what he likes about "Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare," which hits stores on Nov. 4.

ThePostGame: Have you had a chance to play Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?
MATT SHOEMAKER: Yeah, I’ve actually been able to play it in the Sledgehammer studio.

TPG: What makes this installment of Call of Duty stand out?
SHOEMAKER: It's really cool seeing all the new stuff, the exo-skeleton [a suit players can wear that gives them superpowers including boost-jumping and wall-scaling], all the new [player] movements -- it's really gonna draw people into it. I really love playing the game.

TPG: Are first-person shooters your favorite type of game, or are there other types you enjoy?
SHOEMAKER: I definitely enjoy them the most. Most of the time I'm able to play is in the offseason. Definitely the Call of Duties, the Halo's. I also play some Tiger Woods golf, some Madden.

TPG: Who do you like to play with?
SHOEMAKER: I've got my brother-in-law and cousin at home, and we try to get on the same team together and go on missions.

TPG: How often do you play COD: Advanced Warfare every week?
SHOEMAKER: I honestly couldn't put a good time frame on it. I would say, one week it could be that I don’t play for a couple of weeks, and the next I play it the whole week.

Through enhanced nutrition and training techniques, the NFL specifically trains a young man for power and strength. He is able to ward off massive tacklers. His right arm is able to exert tremendous force. When his tiny 4- year-old son misbehaves, his idea of appropriate discipline is to get a branch from a tree and beat his son with such power that deep bruises are highly visible some time later, including in the genital area. And this conduct is what is being debated in the third week of the NFL season. Something is wrong here.

I have spent 40 years working with NFL players who understand their power as role models. They can be a force for triggering imitative behavior. By setting up high school and college scholarship programs, and foundations in the professional cities that target certain societal ills, they can make a positive difference. I have had a few less-than-stellar citizens, but $800 million has been raised for charitable and community causes.

The NFL has gone through a traumatic few weeks and it is time for it to start setting the example for decent public behavior. When the league leads in an area as it has in its fight against breast cancer, it can be a force for good. When my client Lennox Lewis cut a public service announcement that said "Real Men Don't Hit Women," or Steve Young and Oscar De La Hoya “Prejudice Is Foul Play,” they impacted young adolescents in a way few authority figures could. An issue like bullying can be tackled by athletes at the NFL level showing high school athletes how to set the example.

Powerful men have to be especially careful not to put their hands on others in anger. The commissioner has all the power he needs to discipline current athletes without waiting for the results of a trial. The personal conduct policy reads, “Persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid conduct detrimental to the integrity and public confidence in the National Football League." This applies to the players. It goes on to say, "It is not enough simply to avoid being guilty of a crime."

The commissioner has the power to initiate an investigation "upon learning of conduct that may give rise to discipline” in situations where “conduct undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL.” The commissioner has fairly wide latitude. "Discipline may take the form of fines, suspension or banishment from the league.” There generally will be a hearing and a right of appeal.

Commissioner Goodell has had a very successful reign, especially from an owner perspective. Franchise value has soared, the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement reduced player share of the gross and insured labor peace. There are new television contracts, social media revenue, record television ratings and revenue-producing stadia.

The NFL is the most successful entertainment franchise in this country. Fans are able to bifurcate off-field problems from their enjoyment of the game, and they watch and attend in record numbers. But this crisis threatens the moral integrity of football.

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