The good news, of course, is that doctor’s have removed Buffalo Bill safety Damar Hamlin‘s breathing tube, he has communicated with his teammates via FaceTime, and though he has a long road to full recovery, he seems to be out of existential danger after suffering a cardiac arrest Monday night in Cincinnati in an important NFL game between his Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since that frightening episode, there has been an outpouring of support and prayers for the 24-year-old football player. His Buffalo charity that delivers toys to children has seen donations soar to over $7 million with over 224,000 contributors.

But within the compassionate response, my natural cynicism also senses an underling, but unspoken, guilt about for how addicted to American football we are, including to the car-crash quality of the hits on display, and the injuries that come from them. 

The irony is that the hit that seems to have caused the cardiac arrest in Damar Hamlin was not the kind usually found on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day. Instead, it was just freakish: the right force, in the right place, at the wrong time, between heartbeats, is what put young Mr. Hamlin’s life in danger after he took down Bengals’ wideout Tee Higgins

It is also interesting, don’t you think, that until the widespread delivery of football on television, beginning with the 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, the first overtime game in NFL championship history, baseball was America’s pastime, not football.

Baseball is a pastoral game, a leisurely game with the only violence being bat against ball. Oh, occasionally, a pitcher zips one close on the chin of a batter. Or a base runner slides into second base with his spikes up. But baseball, by its nature, is not a violent game.

Football, on the other hand, serves up violent collisions on every play, with the orchestration of that violence among 22 moving pieces on offense and defense being what so attracts our attention and passion. NFL games produced 22 of the top 25 prime-time telecasts of 2022, with the college football championship (#9), one night of the Winter Olympics (#10), and the Oscars (#23), filling the other three positions.

To be shocked by Damar Hamlin’s near-death experience on the field Monday night, and now to witness the outpouring of sympathy and prayers and support for him, seems to be a way of saying “we’re sorry for loving this game as much as we do”, because it can lead to an episode like this. But, like Tom Brady, we remain addicted to it, despite the wreckage and ruin.



With the advent of free agency, the day when players would stay with one team for the majority of their careers has gone the way of leather helmets and high top cleats. Today, pro athletes move from team to team with the speed of a pre-game wind sprint. Increasingly, stars notwithstanding, fans are rooting for team colors as much as for the players wearing them.

But with NFL players continuing their protests against police brutality during the national anthem, NFL TV ratings, game attendance, and merchandise sales have also continued to decline as fans pull back in their own counter-protest. The situation has left NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a delicate no man’s land.

On one side are the players, 70% of whom are African-American, men with real-life attachments to the disorders and denials of daily black existence in America that their athletic prowess has afforded them fiscal and physical, if not emotional, separation from. On the other side are the fans, 90% of whom are not African-American, because that is the racial makeup of the nation. And that 90% watches the 70% on Sundays to escape the news that has brought the players to their knees. Continue reading “MANDATING PATRIOTISM”


Forget such weighty matters as the Mueller investigation into Russian election tampering, the Afghanistan War reboot, or Hurricane Irma raking the Florida peninsula, the NFL season kicked off this week with rings and dings.

And what a start it was. The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots presented a Cat 5 pre-game back slap for their fans as they celebrated a fifth Lombardi Trophy, then took a drubbing from the K.C. Chiefs 42-27. Oops.

NFL Commish Roger Goodell was on hand, but not President Trump, despite the fact that New England Patriots prez Robert Kraft gifted the President with a Super Bowl LI ring a few weeks back.

Well, at least now Messers Trump and Putin can flash Super Bowl bling at one another at their next summit (Putin, you might recall, lifted one of Bob Kraft’s previous Super Bowl rings after asking to just look at it.)

And now to the point of this blog. If you’ve had a hard time wrapping your head around the Trump-Putin bromance, how about explaining the one between Trump, Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady, the triumvirate of the Patriot dynasty.

Maybe Robert Kraft. Yes, that I can understand. It’s not just the billionaires club they belong to. Evidently, when Mr. Kraft’s wife died several years ago, Mr. Trump called him weekly to check up on how he was doing. Not much these days speaks well of our president, but that does.

But from Coach Belichick or QB Brady’s standpoint, think of it this way: if the character Trump portrays in public were a player in the draft or available in a trade, would the Patriots go for that kind of player? No chance! Continue reading “RING BEARER IN CHIEF”