Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CAL GREAT TO TACKLE NFL REGARDING CONCUSSIONS





(I’m only putting this out, tonight,  because it hasn’t hit the papers yet)

                When I arrived to be a “Mad man” (read copy writer)  in New York back in the 70’s I’ll never forget the picture of former Bear Dan Goich in the New York Times, carrying a picket sign defending some right of the players back then.   A former Cal standout (and Rugger) he was fighting against some injustice (I think it might have been pensions) and I recall thinking, “Cal kids never forget their roots. “  We were children of the 60’s remember.   And we were going to fight injustice wherever we see it.  Goich was the best (and I still carry a calcium deposit on my left collar bone where he placed a hat during double days when I was a green weenie, running scout team plays).

                I was in New York in 1972 (I think I’ve got this right) when another Cal kid, Joe Kapp started an anti-trust lawsuit vs. the NFL claiming the standard NFL contract was unconstitutional and a restraint of trade.   (This from Wikipedia):  He won the Summary Judgment after four years. The court had ruled that Joe Kapp’s trade was indeed restrained. It was two years later (April 1, 1976) in the trial for damages, that the jury decided that Kapp was not damaged.

                Does it make you puke?  Not damaged?  Of course Joe was damaged.  He was chattel and couldn’t sell his services to the highest bidder, unlike me who could go from Dancer Fitzgerald &  Sample, to Ted Bates to J. Walter Thompson because each would pay me more.  They ruined him financially, and never made up for it.

                If memory serves, Goich was the players’ rep for the Giants.  I don’t really remember what the beef was, but I thought it was a hoot that Cal kids--like Goich and Kapp take no grief from anyone.

                Then Gifford threw a “Birthday Party” for New York Legend Toots Shor.  Toots was 70 and he was in financial ruin.  His restaurant had been the most famous in New York back in the day, but Toots  had fallen on hard times and Gifford was trying to help him out.  Toots was my “2nd father” in New York as he had been one of my Grandfather’s best friends.  Loyal to the core, Toots was determined to look out for me.

                At the party I meet New York Met, Rusty Staub.  He was  floored by my date, tall red headed “Big Nancy.”  We were only pals—not an item—as we worked together at Dancer Fitzgerald and Sample.  Rusty called the next day and invited me to the Mets game.   “Bring Nancy,” he said, “and you can bring a date for yourself as well.”

                Hey, I was 24.  Sounded like a good deal to me, so I did.  After the game  (against the Los Angeles Angels) we went down to Tucker Fredrickson’s joint, “Duncan’s.”  We were joined by his opponents that evening. L.A. Angels,  Jim Fregosi and  Andy Messersmith.

                Messersmith, of course, ( a great Cal pitcher) won the The Seitz decision, which  “was a ruling by arbitrator Peter Seitz on December 23, 1975 which declared that Major League Baseball players became free agents upon playing one year for their team without a contract, effectively nullifying baseball's reserve clause. The ruling was issued in regard to pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.”

                The message was clear in the 70’s.  Cal kids take no gruff from nobody, nowhere.
(We all remember Wayne Hooper and Cal taking on Walter Beyers and the NCAA back then, and getting clobbered—but no one can ever say Bears lack the cojones to take on the powers that be—whomever they may be).

                Well, in that tradition, one of Cal’s greatest quarterbacks, (and finest human beings) Craig Morton is about to take on the NFL regarding the concussion issue.

                 (You're right the NFL has already settled with the Players Association for just under a billion dollars. Sounds like a lot until you realize that  each team had to cough up about what they would for a first round draft choice over five years).  The reason for the paltry settlement?  Wives, widows, and currently debilitated former athletes just couldn't survive protracted litigation.  The NFL had the club and they wielded it, mercilessly.

                Now, I am not unbiased.  When I was 14, I used to take the Grey Hound Bus from St. Helena to Oakland, transfer to a bus that went up Shattuck, and then walk up to the stadium to watch local St. Helenan, Tommy Blanchfield play Freshman football under (my later coach, Truck Cullom) when Morton was the QB.  (Of course back then, I didn’t like Morton because he started ahead of an another amazing St. Helena athlete, QB, Walter Raymond—whose father was married to a Beringer—but that’s another  St. Helena story).

                Well, this guy I didn’t like, Craig Morton, turned out to be a vaguely passible QB. 
 
                When the late Dandy Don retired in Dallas Craig took over, beating out Roger Staubach.  He led the league in passing until he injured his arm midway in the season.  He took them to the Super Bowl.  Thanks to Preston Riely’s inability to recover a fumble, Dallas scored two Td’s (under reserve, Roger Staubach) in the last two minutes, and Dallas beat Dick Nolan’s Niners, allowing Staubach to replace Morton.

                Morton was traded to the Giants the next year and as he could not handle all the groupies which followed him around, it meant a date or two for moi—a little country boy well out of his league.   (You can understand my bias on this issue).

                Traded from the Giants, Craig went on to become the AFL player of the year when he led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl only to be crushed by Dallas in New Orleans (yes that was us following Jerry Jeff Walker from Bar to Bar as the sun came up that Monday morning, but I digress—those were the days of yore).

                Well, tomorrow (or the next day) you will read that Craig will file a lawsuit against the National Football League claiming he  and other NFL players suffered repeated head injuries because the league failed to protect them from foreseeable safety risks on the playing field.

Anyone who has ever donned a hat and taken the field knows that this is not a frivolous lawsuit. 

Filed by Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman and sports-attorney and former NFL player Bob Stein, the suit details Morton’s career as starting quarterback for three NFL teams during his 18-year career playing for the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants.  

Craig has been quoted as saying, “I wanted to step forward not only for myself, but to make sure that no former players are left out in the cold if the NFL follows through on its announced plans to propose a settlement relating to brain injuries. I wanted to let former players know that if a fair deal for all players isn’t put on the table, I’m willing to fight with whoever will join us.”

The Suit will allege, “that defendant NFL and its promotional arm, NFL Films, glorify the brutality and ferocity of NFL football, propagating the myth that receiving big hits is a badge of courage without serious health impacts. The complaint details a number of NFL Films productions which prominently feature big hits and include players dismissing the risks of concussions.”

The lawsuit also claims “that the NFL was fully aware of the risks of head injuries to its players. According to the complaint, the NFL had unparalleled access to comprehensive medical data relating to concussions in professional football and received and paid for advice from medical consultants who could testify to the risks to players.”

The complaint further states, “From its earliest days, the league took proactive action, changing rules to make the game safer,” said Berman. “In 1994, the NFL agreed to fund a committee to study the issue, but instead of using it to make the game safer, we allege the committee helped the league engage in a campaign of disinformation designed to falsify and dispute the medical evidence regarding concussions.”
You can decide if it has merit or not.

Apparently the Law Firm, Hagens Berman and Bob Stein “are continuing to investigate these issues, and invite other retired NFL players who believe they may have suffered injuries or are at risk for future injuries to contact the firm.  Bob Stein is an attorney, former NFL player, and founding president and CEO of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves.  Stein is widely known among former NFL players for conceiving and beginning the class-action litigation against the NFL for the unpaid and unauthorized use of former players’ images in NFL Films’ productions, including on the NFL Network.”

If you played (or like me tell your kids you played untll they were old enough to know what a dead beat you were), give me a holler and I can tell you how to contact these guys and help you to put your two cents in.
This is important stuff.  And all Cal football alumni, who played in the NFL, should contact Craig, or Hagens Berrmen to provide input.

I don’t want to take sides in this issue.  But I do love the fact that a Cal guy is bringing it to the forefront.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70 




               
               

2 comments:

Fetoa said...

Great piece. Go Bears!

Don Costello said...

I was at Memorial Stadium when Staubach and Navy played Craig and Cal. A great memory. - Don Costello '70