TELANDER: A better way to take one on the chin in football
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org September 29, 2012 1:08AM
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a special chinstrap that’s supposed to alert him when he’s taken a potentially dangerous blow. | John Grieshop~Getty Images
Updated: November 1, 2012 6:31AM
Let’s get it on:
◆ I talked to Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on Friday, just to chat about the high-tech chinstrap he wears, the one that supposedly can help him know when he has received a dangerous head blow and needs to either leave the game for good or at least be tested to see if his wits are all there.
(To be honest, I also wanted to talk to the man with perhaps the greatest nickname in NFL history: ‘‘The Law Firm.’’ If not the best, it’s up there with ‘‘Night Train’’ Lane and ‘‘Hacksaw’’ Reynolds. Green-Ellis told me he got the name from the fans, and that it is, indeed, a good one.)
The chinstrap called the Impact Indicator, made by Battle Sports Science, somehow measures the force and time lapse of a blow to the helmet. There is a green LED display on it that means things are fine. After a big shot, the light is supposed to start blinking red, like a miniature traffic signal. The Law Firm first wore it in last year’s Super Bowl.
Does it work?
‘‘I’ve never had it go on when I’m wearing it,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t want to.’’
But it would flash if, say, Ray Lewis jacked you up, head to head?
‘‘Well, if I smash it on the ground, I can make it go off.’’
The reason for the Impact Indicator is the growing awareness that head blows are cumulative dangers for all who sustain them. Subconcussive blows can be bad, too — ones that might occur to most football players on every play. Nobody knows what the real danger level is.
But, as Green-Ellis notes, ‘‘This will really help all those parents who are so concerned about their sons playing the game. It’s something they can see. You can go to the sideline and go through the concussion test. My mom didn’t want me playing. I know if I had a son, I’d want him wearing this.’’
Green-Ellis brings up the hit the Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed laid on New England Patriots wideout Deion Branch last weekend, dropping Branch cold with a crazy head and body blow, earning Reed a $21,000 fine. He says that’s the kind of hit that would set the light off for sure.
Let’s hope so. As for himself and the blows he already has taken in his career?
‘‘I just say my prayers and hope God takes care of me,’’ he said.
◆ Mark Kriegel is a Los Angeles-based sports columnist and a panelist on NFL Network’s new ‘‘NFL AM’’ television show. But more than that, Kriegel is a master biographer and storyteller. His previous works, Namath and Pistol, about Joe Namath and Pete Maravich, respectively, were incisive and dark and fast-paced and looming, hinting at the deep psychological motivations and weaknesses — and strengths — of his subjects.
Kriegel is fascinated by fathers and sons and the role the former, by their pleadings, betrayals, role modeling, love, anger or absence, can create for the latter. Pistol got into the Press Maravich-Pete Maravich relationship so deeply that a reader could understand the reasoning behind every false move, every chest-thumping boast, every doubt of the boy who would go on to average an impossible 44.2 points per game for his college career, and who in the NBA would once score 68 points in a game against the New York Knicks. Before the three-point line was invented.
But Kriegel’s new work, The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini, goes so deep into the history and entanglement of the dysfunctional and violence-based immigrant Mancini family, and the men who strived to make their mark within it, that it reads like something Dostoyevsky might have served up, had he been a modern-day sportswriter.
The book ultimately is not about fighting at all, not even the grimness of Mancini killing Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim in the ring in 1982, a horrifying, nationally televised spectacle that caused even promoter Bob Arum to say that boxing should be banned.
No, The Good Son is about grandfather, son and grandson finally coming to peace with each other, with the women of their extended family, with the meaning of manhood and responsibility and regret, and ultimately with forgiveness.
It’s about as American as a book can be.
◆ And lastly, we come, as we so often do, to tattoos.
Once the province of sailors, pirates, gang members, convicts and Dennis Rodman, tattoos have become as mainstream as nail polish or goatees.
According to a recent Harris poll, 19 percent of all men in the United States have a tattoo and — bup-bu-bah! — 23 percent of all women. A full 38 percent of these folks are age 30 to 39.
You want to be a rebel, young NBA star?
Baby skin, my man. Baby skin.