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 




               
               

KAL GOES KABAM





                By now you’ve all heard the news.  The field at Memorial Stadium (not the stadium itself) will be named Kabam Field.  If I understand it correctly (highly unlikely) “Kabam” will be written on the 25 yard lines, on the 50, and on the wall behind the players’ bench.

                I can’t tell you the number of e-mails I received from friends utterly frustrated by this “sell out” and saying they can’t “wait to see the column” on this one.

                They know a Luddite when they see one.

                Alas, I’m afraid that once again I’m going to do what I do best—let others down.  This is good news.

                First the particulars:

                It is worth around $18,000,000 over a 15 year period.

                It’s been called the biggest “naming rights” deal in College stadia history.

                Kabam will fund a certain amount of scholarships for students in tech.

                Kabam will provide internships for students and student athletes alike.

                Kabam will pay for 500 veterans and their families to attend home games during the season.

                The athletic department will give $25,000 per year to the library (No it’s not “hush money”).

                (They may even donate money to teaching University administrators and graduates to use the words “alumnus and alumni” instead of the words “alum and alums”—but that may be too much to ask).

                And lastly, I’ve received an under the table payment not to criticize the arrangement.

                Actually, the bribe was unnecessary (I prefer wine to money, anyway).  

                Let’s face it:  Though games like The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age, Fast & Furious 6: The Game, and Wartune, can’t hold a candle to Monopoly, (“Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200—how exciting is that?), a rousing game of Parcheesi,  or a spirited round of Chutes and Ladders, who are we to judge?

                The world is changing and if kids think they can have fun without rolling a die (I know, I’m milking it), let them try.

                Though the temptation is to mock the deal (due mostly to the “cartoonish” nature of the name), it makes no sense to do so.  These are fine young kids who founded a company 10 years ago which is now grossing over $350,000,000 per year and employs 700 people worldwide.

                This is kapitalism at its best.  These kids are one per centers—everything Kal  is against, but some of us love.

                It’s been called the fastest growing internet media company (whatever that is) in the Bay Area.

                And they are Kal kids.  What’s not to like?

                Yes, at first blush it felt like, once again we were doing anything for a buck—but this one doesn’t pass the Gordon Gekko smell test.  

                If I’ve got it right, Kevin Chou, Holly Liu  and Micheal Li are all Kal Kids.  They are giving back—and hopefully getting a return for their investment as well.  It’s a win/win.

                Sandy called it a “great Cal story” and (unlike demoting Rugby) on this one she’s right.  

                With all that has gone wrong over the past couple of years, it’s wonderful to see a win for Kal for a change.  

                And if you have any doubts, John Wilton spoke at the Press Conference.  That means he was involved.  Whatever problems you may have with the administration—he ain’t it.  In fact, as my friend said yesterday, the Chancellor ought to turn the University over to him and step out of the way.  He’s been bailing out I.A.  for the past two years—but I digress.

                For years we’ve relied upon names like Hearst, Witter, and Haas to keep us afloat.  Recently, names like Spieker, Cronk, Rogers, Fisher, Maxwell , Simpson and others have come to the front.

                This could be the new age—the new frontier of successful gazillionaires--Kal grads all—bailing out the school they love—all only a year or two after they’re legally old enough to drink.

                Sure, we all long for the good old days before there was commercialism in sports (that would be 777 B.C. the year before the Ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C.).  

                Since we cannot return to those halcyon days of yore, we just have to make the best of a bad situation.  

 Sponsorships are nothing new.  I wore a Carpy Gang baseball uni paid for by a Main St. merchant.  The words “Ray’s Place” (Yes, that’s what it was), were stitched on the back of my ill-fitting jersey.  I was  11 at the time—promoting booze).   

 If we have to put sponsors names on the backs of our jerseys or on our fields to give young kids a chance to play interscholastic sports, better  it be the Kabams of the world—found by Kal Alumni, er Alums—as is in vogue today—than from government subsidies.

                Cal Athletics should think of these successful young Kal grads as “Wealth Insurance.”  And as we all know, “If you like your Wealth Insurance—you can keep your Wealth Insurance—Period!”

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

P.S.  All the above is predicated on the assumption that the Urban Dictionary definition of Kabam is pure co-incidence.  If it is intentional, all bets are off.

Caveat numero dos.  15 years?  It is possible that ten years down the line this will look like a huge bargain for one side or another.  If so, one can only hope that this is truly a partnership as has been advertised, and that the numbers will be re-negotiated—up or down—as the TV ratings (and “impressions”) dictate.

(For example:   Networks sell ads on Super Bowl on a Cost per thousand basis, based on rating points.  One might pay $3.5 million for a 30 second spot based on an assumed number of viewers.  If in the 4th quarter the game is a blowout, and only 20 million people are watching instead of the projected 40 million, the cost is adjusted downwards).