Frank Burke, a Giants fan from Oakland, caught the ball that Travis Ishikawa hit for a three-run home run to send the Giants to the World Series. After the game, Burke gave the ball to Ishikawa. In addition to an autographed bat from Ishikawa, Burke received four tickets to Game 3 of the World Series.

Ryan O'Connor, a waiter at Rock & Brews restaurant near Kansas City, was serving some wives of Royals players Tuesday several hours before Game 1 of the World Series. Instead of a customary tip, Katelyn Davis, wife of relief pitcher Wade Davis, decided to give O'Connor a ticket to the game.

Fortunately for these two fans, they didn't have to worry about getting stuck with bogus tickets. But tickets were among a variety of counterfeit World Series merchandise that federal agents in Overland Park, Kansas, seized at the start of the World Series.

The Associated Press reported that 126 counterfeit game tickets with a street value of $43,000 were confiscated along with T-shirts, caps, cellphone cases, sweatshirts and baby clothes. Four arrests were made in connection with the raid, but police said some fake tickets might have already been sold.

Amy Griffin can't say for sure that artificial turfs are causing cancer. But she's doing everything she can to find out.

One thing she does know: Soccer players across the country are coming down with cancer at epidemic rates. It didn't always used to be this way.

"I’ve coached for 26, 27 years," Griffin said in an interview with NBC. "My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids."

Griffin has been on the hunt for answers since two female goalkeepers she knew were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A nurse at the hospital remarked on the rash of soccer players -- goalkeepers in particular -- that had been coming down with cancer. Griffin was already suspicious.

"I just have a feeling it has something to do with those black dots," she said.

That was in 2009. Since then, Griffin has been on a crusade for answers. She's compiled a list of all the American soccer players who have been diagnosed with cancer.

So far, that list has grown to more than 50 soccer players, the vast majority of whom are goalkeepers. Why does their position matter? Because goalkeepers spend far more time in contact with the ground as they dive for balls and defend the goal.

Which means they're also getting the most exposure to the artificial turf -- those suspicious black dots.

The black material is actually known as crumb rubber, and it's a product designed to mimic a natural soil playing field, with a few enhancements: Lower maintenance, no need for water and a more consistent playing field for athletes.

Crumb rubber fields also seemed to have an environmental appeal, conserving resources while recycling tire rubber into a useful product.

But there are drawbacks, too. The fields can be brutal on the body, leaving bloody open wounds on players that scrape their exposed skin on the ground. Those open wounds are exposed to dangerous carcinogens harbored in the rubber.

Griffin doesn't know enough to draw any conclusions, but she's smart enough to connect the dots. Carcinogens cause cancer, and open wounds on soccer players are routinely exposed to those carcinogens.

If that seems coincidental, consider this: Most of the athletes on Griffin's list had either lymphoma or leukemia -- cancers of the blood.

***

At the moment, the case against crumb rubber is largely anecdotal. Available research is limited, so much so that the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't made a strong statement either way regarding the use of these fields.

The EPA does, however, point out that synthetic turf concerns have existed for years. In 2013, the New Jersey Department for Health and Senior Services detected dangerously high levels of lead dust on synthetic turf fields in the state.

Around that time, parents in Colorado raised concerns to the EPA about the safety of rubber particulates their children were bringing home on their clothing. And in 2008, synthetic turf fields at Manhattan's Thomas Jefferson Park were found to have high levels of lead, requiring the city to replace the crumb rubber.

The EPA has published a list of dangerous chemicals and carcinogens that could be present in any tire converted to crumb rubber, including arsenic, chloroethane, latex, lead, mercury, phenol, nickel and isoprene, among others.

But the organization is reluctant to make broad statements regarding the same of America's 4,500 crumb rubber playing turfs. For now, field safety continues to be addressed on a field-by-field basis.

The wait-and-see approach is not good enough for school districts and other sports organizations, though, which face decisions that put kids' lives at risk. Left to draw their own conclusions in the face of a serious public safety issue, some are deciding that the anecdotal evidence is enough.

In Ocean City, New Jersey, a plan to convert a natural grass football field to a crumb rubber turf has been put on hold. Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said that the risks are too great until more research is done.

Gillian also requested that the New Jersey governor's office launch an investigation into the matter.

"While I am aware that there are no studies demonstrating a health risk associated with such turf, I have come to believe that further study is necessary," Gillian wrote. "I am not ruling out installation of artificial turf in the future, pending the outcome of such studies."

In other parts of the country, more drastic measures are being taken. Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, was set to install synthetic turf on a new home playing field -- its first in 40 years.

But news of crumb rubber's potential health risks pushed the school to make a dramatic switch. Instead of installing a crumb rubber field, the school is spending an additional $20,000 to install Nike Grind, a synthetic surface made from ground-up athletic shoes.

"We were days away from the infill process," principal Mike Prato told KIRO. "We said, regardless, 'stop everything.'"

Kennedy High is hopeful that its new Nike Grind turf will provide all of the benefits of crumb rubber without the carcinogenic hazards.

Regardless of what the research says about synthetic turfs and their cancer threat, many athletes are starting to take a stand against their use. Prominent athletes from the NFL, as well as American women's soccer star Abby Wambach, have called out the use of synthetic turfs as a financially motivated move that does athletes a disservice.

Athletes and their representatives have cited warmer playing surfaces, altered styles of play, and an increased risk of injuries as reasons why synthetic turfs should not be used in football or soccer.

Even worse, a recent report from The American Academy of Neurology suggests that concussions are more prevalent on synthetic turfs, in part because improved traction lets athletes accelerate and collide at higher speeds.

If synthetic turfs do prove dangerous, the transition will be an expensive national product. Converting to alternative turfs will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Natural grass fields, by contrast, will be cheaper to install but more costly due to continued maintenance needs.

All of that is down the road. For now, research remains a top priority. Griffin is doing her part, collecting samples from each field she visits as an assistant coach for the University of Washington. Those samples are sent to labs for testing.

Griffin says it's not about being correct. She only wants answers, and she would love for her crumb rubber cancer theory to be wrong.

Right now, though, the odds don't look great.

UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, a FieldTurf spokesman delivered a statement to ThePostGame in response to the perceived concerns regarding synthetic playing turfs:

"Scientific research from academic, federal and state government organizations has unequivocally failed to find any link between synthetic turf and cancer – as acknowledged by NBC in their report. We are committed as a company and as an industry to the safety of our fields and the athletes that compete on them – which is why we have encouraged the rigorous work from third-parties that has taken place over decades to confirm there are no negative health effects connected to synthetic turf.

"We are always open to sharing this available wealth of research with concerned individuals or organizations, and are fully confident in this body of findings. However, we recognize that some people believe that more research is needed, and we respect this and are willing to support any additional scientific studies in any way we can."

After losing the Ryder Cup for the sixth time in the past seven events, the Americans need try something different next time. Kenny Perry, a member of the U.S. team that won in 2008, is probably too far past his prime to help as a player in 2016. But he still might be part of the solution.

Perry, 54, says he thought winning a PGA Tour major title was a requirement to be a Ryder Cup captain. Fortunately for him, that isn't the case.

"They may think outside the box and pick a player who doesn't have a major title -- maybe someone who's more into the team aspect," Perry says. "That's all I've heard. I haven't talked to anybody. I only heard it once on the Golf Channel. I'd love the opportunity if my name got thrown into the mix. It'd be a great honor."

The possibility of Perry being captain is being taken seriously enough that William Hill, a bookmaker in the United Kingdom, listed at 8/1 odds for him get the job. Only Steve Stricker and David Toms were ahead of him on Hill's board.

A built-in benefit for the next U.S. captain is that the 2014 team set a very low bar. The 16.5-11.5 loss to the Europeans was its worst since 2006, as captain Tom Watson publicly feuded with players, notably Phil Mickelson.

"There were some words being spoken in the news conference after," Perry says. "There must have been something going wrong between coach and players that none of us knew about. Obviously the team was in disarray there."

If Perry gets the job, he may borrow from the playbook of 2008 captain Paul Azinger, who also won twice as a player in four Ryder Cup appearances. Azinger adopted a "pod system" in which players were grouped in three groups of four, keeping consistency. Perry says he meshed well with Jim Furyk, and Azinger kept them together for all three doubles matches they played,

"Paul Azinger did a fantastic job with our team and put us in a successful situation," Perry says. "He got our team to come together as a unit. We played as one unit even though we were 12. We believed in each other and leaned on each other. ... Paul Azinger had a great system of pairing us with the right people based on personality."

Perry owns 14 PGA Tour wins and two runner-up finishes in majors, both coming in playoffs. At the 1996 PGA Champions, played at Valhall in Louisville, Perry, a Kentucky native, lost on the first sudden death playoff hole to Mark Brooks. At the 2009 Masters, Perry bogeyed the final two holes to fall into a three-way time with Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell. Cabrera edged Perry on the second playoff hole.

For Perry, his two Ryder Cup appearances–and one win–and four Presidents Cup showings (three wins, one tie) are cherished. The victories are among his highest accomplishments.

"Your whole life you play individually," he says. "You play for yourself. That's it. When I played in my amateur, I never played on a World Cup team. All of a sudden, you've got 11 men beside you and the captain and vice-captains. You're wearing red, white and blue."

Perry acknowledges the future presence of golf in the Olympics (starting in 2016) and says he wishes he could play with a chuckle. Age will likely derail Perry's chances of going to Rio. He will not soon forget his Ryder Cup moments, especially from 2008.

"I thought Phil Mickelson was a great teammate," he says. "We had Anthony Kim. He and Mickelson were great teammates that week. Phil took Anthony under his wing and showed us the ropes and Anthony played tremendous."

Perhaps the lasting mark from Perry's week did not even come from the course. The crowning tale came off the tongue of a player who has never finished higher than ninth at a major.

"Boo Weekley was hilarious," Perry says. "He kept the team loose all week. He talked about growing up in Milton, Florida, and boxing an orangutan when he was in high school. It was just amazing the story you here from these players."

Perry promises to harness the positive attributes he has encompassed from team golf experiences to the Ryder Cup if selected as the 2016 captain. Perry insists words like "fun," "friendship" and "teamwork" are not just buzz words.

To break the three-year losing streak, the U.S. will need to make some adjustments. The nation cannot simply rely on talent alone, as it did for most of the 20th century.

"Europeans are tough,," Perry says. "They're very highly ranked in the world. America is not dominant in golf anymore. You've got Asians, notably Koreans. Australians are great. South America's got great players. It's not as easy for us to dominate in team competition as it was in the past."

In the meantime, Perry still has a golf game to focus on. Over the age of 50, Perry balances competition on the PGA and Champions Tour. He is eligible for all PGA Tour events next year with the exception of the majors and World Golf Championships. A victory on the PGA Tour can get Perry back on the board for a major.

That is not to say Perry is not enjoying his time on the senior circuit. In four seasons, Perry has three Senior major championships and seven total Champions Tour wins.

"The Champions Tour's more like a social tour. These are the men I always tried to beat. Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, Craig Sadler, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer. Now, we get out here and we talk about what we used to do."

Perry notes that for much of his career, he had a family of three kids to raise. All three of his children, Lesslye, Justin and Lindsey were born in the mid-to-late 1980s.

"I was trying to be a father, as well as a great golfer," Perry says.

With all due respect to Perry's children, his golf game skyrocketed as they grew up. Perry won 11 of his 14 PGA tour wins after 2000. He won five of those titles in 2008 and 2009.

"My kids are all in a good place in life," he says. "They're doing great and I'm refocused on golf."

For the past decade, Perry has crushed the sport, now with his foot on the gas on the Champions Tour. Perry is currently seed fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, a competition he won in 2013. Perry was also the Champions Tour Player of the Year in 2013, winning the Jack Nicklaus Trophy.

"I'd like to try to get up there. Second place would be great if I can play strong these last few weeks," Perry says, as he feels he is on the outside looking in.

Along with the Champions Tour's season coming to a close, time is also running out in the Golf VIP Sweepstakes. Through Oct. 24, golfers can apply on www.TempurPedicGolf.com for the opportunity to win a vacation to the PGA Tour's OHL Classic in Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a Tempur-Pedic mattress and up to $15,000 in prize money. The winner also gets to play in the tournamen's Wednesday Pro-Am and enjoy a meet-and-greet with Kenny Perry and the 2014 tournament champion.

Perry has visited the Tempur-Pedic headquarters in Lexington.

"It's always nice to work with a company from Kentucky," he says.

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba is Nov. 13-16, two weeks after the final event of the Champions Tour season, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

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 ESPN.com 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.

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