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Is the NFL like the porn business?

  • Nov 16, 2013 · 6:00 PM

I was going to title this, "Is the NFL too big to fail?" (which I'll explain below), but decided to go for the titillation factor. But first, you really should see this episode of Frontline on PBS (available online). Also, read this article in The New Yorker from Malcolm Gladwell.

How is the NFL like the pornography business? Both are confronted with the challenge of maintaining interest in their subjects while taking adequate precautions to protect their employees. In California, the porn business is required to have its performers wear condoms, but that is unpopular with the consumers of its product. And now the NFL faces increasing calls to reduce the concussions and impacts that lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), but risk losing viewers in the process. Of course, the big difference is the sheer scale of revenue generated by the NFL, versus the meager size of the pornography business. Ergo, the question: Is the NFL too big too fail?

When facing story after story about former NFL stars, from Troy Aikman to Tony Dorsett, being unable to remember simple things, and suicides that seem tied to this injury, will the NFL be able to survive in its current incarnation? Perhaps the decision will be made for them when high schools start seeing dwindling numbers of students willing, or not permitted to, risk life-altering brain damage in hopes of making it as a professional?

• NFL Fans Weigh Impact Of Players' Head Injuries - NPR

• NFL is a despicable league that we should say goodbye to, but won't - LA Times

There are many facets to this story, and I welcome any additional links to articles or videos that support or refute the premise. But how does a civilized society condone or endorse a practice that is likely to result in permanent brain damage? Will the sport be able to change enough to provide sufficient protection without sacrificing the very essence of that which makes it a popular sport?

Even if you're not a football fan, there is plenty to debate and discuss about the fate of the NFL as it relates to society at large. So, come to our usual watering hole at the IHOP near LAX for a night of deep thinking. It's been a while, and it's time we returned to our monthly meetings.

I hope to see you there!

Todd Koerner



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  • Ken M.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/12/12/study-shows-even-non-concussion-head-injuries-lead-to-brain-changes/ " a study published in the journal Neurology indicates that even head blows that don’t result in concussions can cause differences in athletes’ brains – over the course of just a single season. For their study, they followed a group of contact athletes – including football and ice hockey players – along with a group of non-contact athletes During the course of the season, the contact athletes wore helmets that recorded the acceleration-time of the head following impact, in order to calculate the intensity of the head blows they received. there were some key brain imaging differences that correlated with the strength of the blows sustained by the athlete – even when those impacts didn’t result in concussions. 20 percent of the contact players scored more than 1.5 standard deviations below the predicted score on tests of verbal learning and memory."

    2 · December 19, 2013

    • Todd K.

      Thanks, Ken! There has been a lot of news recently about CTE in sports, and it will only get more attention. I'll post this on the DT FB page, too.

      December 19, 2013

  • Ken M.

    Interesting topic. I actually had one famous player with whom I'd interacted, John Matuszak, who went on to die at age 38, and I have no doubt that CTE was a contributing factor.

    November 13, 2013

    • Ken M.

      The actual manifestation of strokes of any kind is very different, and not confusable with CTE. Strokes are of sudden duration, are generally seen with sudden weakness on one side of the body. CTE is a more diffuse process with brain functioning, not about physical limitation of use of a body part on one side. It looks identical to Alzheimer's dementia, and cannot be told apart except at autopsy. There IS a stroke-related problem, not rare, that can mimic both, called multi-infarct dementia, where there is a repetitive "shower" of tiny blood clots that go all over the brain simultaneously. There is no focal area of physical body function, it is a widespread dysfunction of the brain manifested in failure of higher functions....a dementia. This CAN be diagosed with imaging, and it can be prevented from worsening with the use of drugs that prevent the formation of blood clots.

      2 · November 19, 2013

    • Alan

      Thanks! Very informative.

      November 19, 2013

  • Susan

    All the diverse thoughts on the issue made this another 5 star event. Too bad those who knocked it didn't come out to voice their negative opinions of the topic itself. If they were true deep thinkers, they would have realized there was so much more to be delved into, as those of us who did attend knew far in advance.

    1 · November 18, 2013

  • Keith C.

    The demand for this entertainment puts the balance of power on the supply side to raise leverage as to what performers are willing to do for fame and fortune because they know there is always another draft or bus that comes into town.

    November 18, 2013

    • Keith C.

      The dynamic will always persist unless changed, regardless of moral reasoning.

      November 18, 2013

  • Aleiodes

    I had hoped this site was more cerebral i guess i need to keep looking of a site that is addressing more complex issues than on here

    November 18, 2013

    • Todd K.

      Hi, Aleiodes, and thank you for your comment. I don't think I saw you at the Meetup, but I think you would have found the discussion much deeper than the title would imply. That being said, this was not representative of the usual topics, and would recommend that you peruse some of the 50-odd other events that we have held. You might find something more to your liking. Also, I welcome any member who has a topic they want to discuss. I certainly don't have a monopoly on what makes a good Deep Thinkers topic.

      1 · November 18, 2013

    • Alan

      Hi, Aleiodes, I too saw your comment and was about to respond, but but then came here and saw that Todd pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. Our discussions quite often go much deeper than the initial topic might suggest, not just this one time, and sometimes in this way the discussions show that a topic itself is more complex and deeper than one might have originally first thought. But we also come up with topics often which might indeed be much more cerebral, to use your term. It might still be worth a try for you.

      November 18, 2013

  • Todd K.

    Despite the title, we delved into some pretty interesting areas, such as how do you balance big business with civil behavior?

    November 18, 2013

  • Keith C.

    I am familiar with both topics and the industries personally.

    November 16, 2013

  • Aleiodes

    But I keep forgetting that most of the world doesn't believe in logic and science

    November 15, 2013

  • Aleiodes

    well it seems if the money for watching testoserone jocks were used in academic pursuits it might be a very different world

    November 15, 2013

  • Alan

    Personally, as far as porn goes, I'd like to eliminate the men altogether---the females alone are just fine...maybe then we wouldn't need condoms or goggles...

    November 15, 2013

  • Alan

    This issue might be like a political football!

    November 15, 2013

  • Alan

    Football is bad? How about professional BOXING?? Soccer, which bounces your brain around all over? These activities may be among the few things which can damage a brain more than the contemporary joke of an educational system in America...

    November 15, 2013

  • Corey B.

    Great topic. Absolutely.

    November 14, 2013

  • Susan

    One name - Darryl Stingley.

    November 13, 2013

  • Todd K.

    Bob Costas chimes in:
    "Costas on kids and football: ‘Tell them no’"
    http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/costas-wouldnt-let-son-play-football

    November 13, 2013

  • Todd K.

    This is real - and perfect for our discussion!

    "California Lawmakers Want to Make Porn Stars Wear Super Sexy Goggles"

    Read more: Porn Stars Forced to Wear Goggles if Draft of California Bill Passes | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/11/california-lawmakers-want-to-make-porn-stars-wear-super-sexy-goggles/#ixzz2kXM8DJin

    November 13, 2013

  • John H.

    My first thought is : the NFL is to Porn as US Politics is to Professional Wrestling.

    November 12, 2013

  • Todd K.

    Another one:
    "NFL players' brains at work show early signs of concussions' toll"
    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-nfl-brains-concussions-toll-20131016,0,7137694.story#axzz2kNQmDabJ

    November 11, 2013

  • Todd K.

    Great piece! Thanks, Molly!

    November 11, 2013

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