The Ugly Truth Only Gets Uglier From Here

Well that was quick.

Less than a week ago, the Miami Dolphins were the feel good movie of the year; scoring king-sized kudos from even the hardest grading critics in the industry. Their offense was bringing disco back while their defense had achieved a James Bond rating for its ability to get its ass kicked for two acts before winning the final fifteen minutes. Add to that, their coach was the natty professor who had a knack for stealing the aces at winning time.

And then it all went dark last Thursday night when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was thrown to the turf by Josh Tupou, the hulking defensive tackle for the Bengals. It was the kind of sum of all fears moment that hushes up 65,000 fans right quick. As Tagovailoa lay crumpled on the ground with his arms seizing up and his fingers pointing to the sky in a frightening gnarl as the result of his brain having been reduced to a pin cushion, shock prevailed.

That shock quickly turned to anger as the sports world focused its crosshairs on the Miami Dolphins organization. Players prayed in between cursing emojis and executives lashed out under cover of anonymity and then Baltimore Ravens boss John Harbaugh broke the seal by claiming that he was “astonished” at the Dolphins handling of their franchise quarterback. He was referring to the fact that Tua had been knocked out of a game briefly against the Buffalo Bills only five days earlier.

They’re not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to accept their angst ridden diatribes as the kind of gospel that is actually going to change a damn thing. Because it’s not. The Dolphins followed the same blueprint as most NFL teams who send their players into harm’s way when it seems fairly obvious to those of us who don’t wear shoulder pads for a living that maybe they should keep them out. We would love to believe that our favorite teams abide by the Dalai Lama rules of fair play and responsible practices, but that’s not how the league works. Even with all the concussion protocols in place, the league still favors pennies on the dollar solutions to brain injuries; from pop-up tents on the sidelines that administer quickie in game evaluations, to a roaming herd of independent contractors signing off on player wellness with pencils.

For their part, the Dolphins front office only fed the fire by having their coach address the media last Friday. Mike McDaniel was clearly doing his best to stay out of social media jail as he came off in his usual awkward manner; now less charming seeing as how the subject matter was a frightening brain injury that leaves Tua Tagovailoa’s career in question. But here’s the thing. McDaniel never should have been the point man in this sordid mess to begin with. That responsibility has to go to someone who writes the checks in the organization, either literally or figuratively. Preferably, both.

When Mike McDaniel tells us he had every confidence that his guy was good to go on Thursday night, I believe he’s telling the truth. Any plus or minus I give to how much is actually true comes down to a couple of things: What Tua told him and how he looked, and the assurances of medical professionals. On both counts, I truly believe the coach would not have put the kid out there if he had any serious doubts. And if John Harbaugh wants to take time away from his Father Flanagan act, I would tell him the same thing.

As for all the sports talking heads and union poohbahs who are busy top hatting the Dolphins into a corner, here’s an illuminating observation to munch on. Heading into last Thursday night’s game, not a single one of these concerned individuals issued a peep of concern for Tua’s well being. So, I gotta ask. Is it a matter of doth protesting too much because they’re a part of the solution, or because they realize they’re a part of a much larger problem?

I know which one I’m going with.



59 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth Only Gets Uglier From Here

  1. B,

    I will not post my usual mile-long response because I am in agreement with you all the way. I saw the game when Tua (to me) looked like he bashed his head but good. He walked out of that one to take a short break. I know, it was his back (mostly) that got hurt but still. He went back to the game. It is obvious that there is pressure to return before one is physically and mentally ready. Owners and coaches don’t care about the well-being of their players until they are forced to.

    Those talking heads can talk all they want. Their actions yell louder.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Q

      There’s nothing worse than rhetoric and bluster when it comes to serious matters such as concussions. But that’s what we got this week with the Tua injury. We got a bunch of people deflecting rather than asking the most pertinent question.

      If Tua wasn’t supposed to be out there on Thursday. Why in the blessed fuck wasn’t one of the most powerful unions in the world pushing for him to sit BEFORE the game?

      Yeah, it’s always like that isn’t it? These people talk a great game but their actions . . . well, what actions?


      Liked by 2 people

      • That is for sure. Deflection is their middle name.

        What? Why would we make such a decision? He’ll be fine. No, no, he said he was… Uh huh.

        It really is. It’s disgusting, really.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fans hate seeing players get hurt. I’m surprised that Tupou hasn’t received more shame (although I don’t believe he deserved it). The NFL is all about dollars – big dollars. Thursday night games are a great example while popup tents, protocols, and rule changes are a step above window dressing.

    Remember the movie Concussion with Will Smith? Personally, a good movie. I will never forget the day I saw the movie in the theater. We went to a matinee because I wanted to watch a playoff game THAT evening – a game that turned out to be one of the most brutally violent games I’ve ever seen. That movie-game combination is the day I finally realized that the NFL is truly favors dollars over player health and safety. Not long after, the league shifted to a 17-game schedule. Case closed.

    Wishing Tua the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I haven’t seen either hit. But I saw the video of him walking off after the first hit and based solely on that, he should have never come back into that game and likely shouldn’t have played on Thursday.

    It’s like the steroids era in baseball though. Everybody knew it was going on and everybody knew a lot of players were doing ‘roids. They just turned the other way. It’s the same with these injuries and “following the protocol” in the NFL. Teams are going to play fast and loose with the rules when it suits them. Player safety be damned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s happened before and it’s going to happen again. Of course, the NFLPA is raising a big stink about Tua, because it deflects any blame by doing so. But where was their concern before Tua went out there on Thursday?

      Add to that the longer season, which will eventually get even longer than it is now. Yeah, all talk about player safety is lip service.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The problem, of course, is that football is an impossible sport to play with player safety being a #1 priority. It is a brutal sport. There’s no way to play it any other way unless they played flag football.

        Liked by 1 person

        • True.

          When you think about it, the average recovery time from a concussion is anywhere from a week to ten days. Of course, this doesn’t mean a person is okay to get their head knocked in again after that time. But if the league were to sit players out for a month, well . . .

          Liked by 1 person

          • Exactly. There is no way to avoid head injuries in this sport and they’re completely unwilling to give players the rest and recovery period they need. I’d say the players likely don’t want that either.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Personally, I think Tua should think long and hard about retiring. The kid has suffered an array of different injuries and the fear is that in trying to prevent this in the future, it only leads to another serious one.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Meanwhile, Antonio Brown is … well … he is Antonio Brown. My son says that he was just as bizarre earlier in his career, but Tomlin was able to keep a lid on it. So, it may be more than CTE with him. But his story is not going to end well.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I do believe Tomlin will never get enough credit for keeping all those personalities from exploding while maintaining a championship contender for years. AB was out there for sure and I can’t speak to whether the Burfict hit changed things for the worse. But it didn’t help.

            And I agree. This is going to end in a 30 for 30 story with someone saying “Who saw this coming?”.

            Uh, lots of us!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Unfortunately, I believe it’s time for a new direction with the Steelers, including considering a new head coach. The team has too much talent for them to continue to play this horribly.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. The comments left before me could not have said it better…but since I typed that I might as well keep going. On the specifics of the Tua injury, I believe I have seen enough football to know when a guy is out on his feet for a few seconds, which he clearly was in the Bills game. As I noted here when it happened, I was willing to accept the possibility it was actually his neck (not his back), as I know from personal experience you can have a situation with your cervical spine that might get you “in trouble” in the manner he appeared. However, if I was a betting man I would have said he was in fact concussed. After the game versus the Bengals, you couldn’t have been more correct the last guy that should have been out there with the media talking about this is the head coach, especially a brand-new one. As for the bigger question regarding the NFL and concussions, we should keep in mind this is an organization who was using race-based results in dementia testing until they got caught doing it recently. They never wanted to help “alumni” who are suffering from CTE and its related issues in the first place. As for the current players, why do they wear the “bubble helmet caps” during training camp practices but not during actual games? Well, we actually all know why they don’t wear the bubble helmet caps…they don’t look as gladiator-like as the helmets themselves. The concussion protocol? If first responders thought you had a concussion after an accident, I’m guessing they would take you to the hospital? The NFL thinks they can diagnose their “accidents” on the sidelines. Anyone even remotely suspected of suffering a hit that could cause damage should be taken from the field, and have to go through a gauntlet of testing to get back onto the field. 17-game schedule. Thursday Night Football. Actions speak louder than words. The league does not care about player safety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last thoughts first.

      An expanded schedule, which means taking out a preseason game, is a recipe for disaster. Things like timing and game conditioning are now being figured out in games that count, which will contribute to more injuries. And that 17 game season is eventually going to become an 18 game season. So you’ll have starters who don’t play ANY pre-season games who are going to “catch up” come the regular season. Nuts.

      As for Tua. I don’t know whether or not he was truly concussed in that Buffalo game. But if the league is to be taken seriously, the Dolphins union rep has to lock down his condition the next day. If there was ANY question about his health, he should have been held out. This didn’t happen. All we got was a lot of bluster and rhetoric instead.

      Personally, I think Tua should think long and hard about retiring. He won’t but he should.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s see, I’m getting …. if a player is really good/a winner, he needs to be taken out/hopefully crippled forever, by a big bad water buffalo from another team.
    I see that in hockey, too.
    What happened to sportsmanship? Has the sports been eliminated and now it’s just manship?

    Liked by 1 person

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