Concussions and concoctions: Just another star-studded day in the Bay

Have you ever had one of those full off days?  You know the kind where you have a ton of things to do and the stars align just right so that you get everything done and experience the high of one extremely fulfilling day?

That was the essence of my last Thursday.

After pampering myself with a massage (after all, I’m special) and hitting the Tampa Bay History Center for a fancy meal and personalized walk-through of Florida’s jazz and blues history exhibit, it was off to the main events of the evening.


In case you’ve been living under a rock, the National Football League has come under a great deal of scrutiny lately for its (mis)handling of the concussion crisis it faces every time its players take the field.

Will Smith as Bennet OmaluA Nigerian born doctor by the name of Bennet Omalu is quickly becoming a household name, not only because he is being portrayed by Will Smith in the upcoming film “Concussions” but because he feels the NFL isn’t doing all it can to prevent such injuries from happening.

So he sold his story to Hollywood.

Omalu was giving a free lecture in downtown Tampa Bay.  Clearly this was an event worth attending.

I arrived early at the concert hall where years earlier I had seen a taping of The Daily Show.   Dr. Omalu didn’t quite pack the house like Jon Stewart but there was definite interest considering the well-being of a sport and all those who play it are at stake.  All things considered, this man’s story has the potential to blow the roof off a league which profits off its employees beating the tar out of each other and has for years been criticized for not doing all it can to protect their health.

As we’ll all soon find out, and perhaps some of us already know if we’ve read the book, Omalu discovered that repetitive trauma to the brain leads to what he called CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

Now, one doesn’t need to be a brain surgeon, no pun intended, to realize that repeated blows to the head aren’t good for you.  All you have to do is listen to Evander Holyfield try to complete a sentence.

I’ve only started reading the book, the very paperback I had the doctor sign after his lecture, but I can tell you the book will ruffle some feathers.  It already has.  I can also tell that the movie may, and perhaps should, paint the Nigerian doctor out to be some sort of a kook.  After all, Omalu did take Mike Webster’s brain home, with the family’s consent, to further study the effects of CTE.

Omalu Lecture Tampa

Omalu received not one dime of research money.  He did much of this work on his own because he wanted intellectual independence.  He wanted to own the discovery.  After listening to his lecture, let’s just say I can’t wait to see how certain scenes will be portrayed, especially the part of him keeping athletes’ brains in his fridge for six months at a time.  He also claimed to “talk” to Mike Webster posthumously, that although he was dead, his soul was still alive.

Despite how bizarre this all might sound, Omalu’s unconventional actions are enough to keep the NFL’s suit pants a little tight in the seat.

Dr. Omalu’s overarching message, which will ruffle more than just the NFL’s feathers, is that parents should not allow their children play football due to the potential brain damage it can, and will, eventually cause.  Apparently not too many people are listening.  He told the story of a Texas woman with whom he shared his message of the dangers of allowing her son to play high school football.  She scoffed at him, saying football in Texas is a religion.

Omalu was resolute in his cause.  He also claimed the NFL has yet to reach out to him.

I’m no parent but I can tell you my mother never allowed me to play football for just those reasons.  She didn’t need a medical degree to figure out bashing my skull in was probably bad for me.  Call her ahead of her time.  Moving forward, we’ll see how many parents heed Omalu’s message… and considering the overwhelming popularity of football in this country, how long his fifteen minutes will last.

But my evening wasn’t done with the brain surgeon.


Earlier that evening, I was dining on some black bean soup at one of Tampa’s finer restaurants when I received a text from Luke of the Perfect Hair.  John Taffer was in town and televising the re-opening of a brand new bar in Tampa.

Taffer speaksNow, if you work in the service industry or have ever poured a drink for someone, you probably know who John Taffer is.  If you don’t, you might want to reconsider your line of work.

John Taffer is most famous for his show Bar Rescue in which he rescues failing bars that are in the red for a number of reasons: gross inefficiencies, inappropriate themes, poor management, and filthy environs.  You name it.  If it’s ruined a bar, Taffer has tackled it and as his show boasts “turned money pits into money makers.”

As a professional bartender, I watch his show religiously just to keep up with current trends and make sure what I’m doing behind the bar makes sense.

Taffer was renovating a bar in the area called Dale 1891, a place where I had been only once to catch a Monday Night Football game years ago.  In the midst of the game, I heard some Brazilian music blaring in the background.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to samba as much as the next guy but not while I’m watching football.

Dr. Omalu would SO disapprove.  To date, samba has caused far fewer concussions than football.

Needless to say, with the conflicting volumes, the bar needed some help with their message.


The gist of Taffer’s weekly program is to peruse a place by setting up hidden cameras, finding out what’s going wrong, go in there to yell at some people, retrain the staff, come up with an entirely new (and more profitable) theme for the bar, then leave within a few days once the bar has been “rescued.”

So we drove across town to the see what the service industry’s most popular man had done with the place.

After signing an affidavit, having to switch my shirt inside out for no logos to be shown on camera and waiting in line for about ninety minutes, we decided to bail on the Taffer plan only when we heard it would be another hour before we were even allowed in.

But we did get to see him address the crowd in his usually abrasive Taffer style.  He assured those waiting in line that there were no actors involved and that all his episodes are real, which I never doubted considering all the service people in his shows are pretty damn bad actors.

And so, my very full Thursday came to a close with a final drink at my own successful bar and two certainly certifiable celebrities in my rear view mirror.

It was a whirlwind of a day.  I love it when a plan comes together.

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13 Replies to “Concussions and concoctions: Just another star-studded day in the Bay”

  1. All of the deceit and subterfuge by the NFL along with Goodell’s continued incompetence cannot hide the fact the league hierarchy couldn’t give a #hit about the players and only sees them as indentured servile slaves , albeit they are being well compensated. At the same time what has the NFLPA (union) done , which has been of benefit to the players during this whole saga and prior to Bennett Omalu’s in-depth research ?

    Tapper’s show can be hilarious at times and well worth watching as too is Marcus Lemonis’ show ” The Profit ” .

  2. The good doctor was indeed recently quoted as no child under 18 should participate in a high-impact activity, presumably including soccer, ice hockey, field hockey, etc…not just football. While the NFL continues to do all it can PR-wise to show even pee-wee football is totally safe they still have Case Keenum staggering around the field. I hope people realize this “war” on concussions is absolutely not restricted to football. There was a star female soccer player at our local high school who can’t play the sport any more because the one concussion she got was deemed one too many. She can barely attend school. It’s a known fact European soccer has not been following protocol suggestions. I know it is hard for folks to fathom anything being bigger than the NFL but the issue of concussions is. All the NFL did wrong in my opinion was have data available as to the severe potential impact on the future quality of life for its participants and not share it freely. Anyone playing football knew and knows it is dangerous in the moment…for the NFL to have info any reasonable person would believe established long-term, life-altering consequences in play for those who play and then not advise their players…that was morally and ethically wrong. It sounds like the lecture was very interesting and well worth attending.

  3. My 14 yo has had 3 diagnosed concussions (at least one with a brain bleed according to the scan our Dx showed us) – 2 of which occurred playing youth / middle school football. HE chose (not my wife & I) to hang it up. Probably because he also plays basketball & baseball pretty damn good too. I love football & watch it religiously but I also can’t help but wonder if blows like RB D Henry (UA) and DB W Hargreaves (UF) take & deliver every year are doing damage. I would hate to be a safety having to take on Fournette at full speed for 3 hours.

    I watch Bar Rescue from time to time – more to see the degenerates look stupid than to see how he revamps the place though.

    I’ll give Henry some Heisman love too. May not have been the flashiest or most talented, but man is he a beast. Roll Tide, I’m out.

  4. Concussions are an unfortunate part of the game, and it’s sad if athletes have to give up the sport they love due to injuries sustained on the field. Been there, done that…but I made it back (ACL replacement).
    Seems to me, the awareness regarding concussionsis more prevalent than ever, and that may be due to the good Dr.’s efforts.

    By the same token though, most professional athletes these days know the risks and are handsomely paid to face those risks (as are some collegiate athletes), so it’s the same as anything else…Risk vs reward…And it’s up to the individual on whether or not he’s willing to take those risks.

    I saw a girls softball game going on as I drove through Simi Valley last weekend. Every fielder wore a helmet with a catchers type face guard. Not just the batters…Everyone. Kinda made me sad for our country that we’re so scared of what “might” or “could” happen that we try to preempt everything with precautions.

    When I think of the trees I climbed as a kid…Playing tackle football with no pads on front lawns with sprinkler heads every 10 feet and riding my bike and skateboard without helmets, it’s a wonder I’m not dead already…But life in and of itself is a risk…And if you’re not taking risks, well then you just ain’t livin’ IMO.

    I’ll watch the movie when it comes on cable, but if they think The Fresh Prince and his bleeding heart movie are going to stop football, good fucking luck.

    …And if it does then we might as well surrender to the Muslim terrorists while we’e at it too.

  5. The Philadelphia Daily News ran a story today about former Eagle DB Andre Waters. Waters took his life in 2006 and Doctor Omalu later concluded he had CTE. It is an excellent, fair article that everyone should read. What I did not know was former pro wrestler Chris Nowinski co-founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation and in fact persuaded Waters’ sister to allow the Doctor to study Andre’s brain tissue. Chris’s career was ended by concussions. Again, that’s the point I hope the masses will get to eventually…this isn’t just a football issue.

  6. Al…

    For years we’ve heard league veterans say that the shield does absolutely nothing to protect or care for its players once they’re done and gone.

    I guess now we’re seeing that proof.

  7. Burnsy…

    So what’s next? We’re all going to turn into a nation of track stars?

    Kid’s are going to get hurt when they play sports. I can honestly say I have never had a bicycle helmet on my head at any point in my life. Now, while that may say a lot, if I were to have kids, I’d let them play sports.

    Maybe not football and I’d tell them to be careful but I’d be damned if I let my kid not participate in any sort of athletic activity just for fear of getting hurt.

    Next thing you know, we’ll have our kids staying indoors and playing too many video games. Oh, wait.

  8. Interesting take, Moose, and thanks for sharing that.

    Was there ever a time where you and the wife seriously considered not allowing him to play football any more, before he decided to hang it up that is, and what would he have said at that point?

    Again, this is why I think the NFL as we know it today will be dramatically different in 25 years.

    Sports is a generational thing.

    If kids realize they can make just as much money playing golf, if not more, then why wouldn’t they just do that?

  9. Bleed…

    The last thing the NFL wanted is Will Smith being nominated for any sort of awards for this flick, which he is.

    I’m with you, man. I was careful when I played sports but I still went all out. Heck, after years of playing a pretty physical brand of basketball on the blacktop, it’s amazing I can still walk straight. I can’t without the help of my massage therapist and chiro.

    And I agree with you on the sacrifices athletes make. They earn enough to feed their kids’ kids by playing a game for a living. If they can’t complete a sentence by the time they’re done, that may just be the price they pay.

  10. Burnsy…

    I guess why the NFL is receiving the most heat is because they’ve done the least to acknowledge the issue? I’m not quite sure yet. I’m still only 100 pages into the book where he’s only starting to fiddle with things in the Pittsburgh morgue.

    I’ll keep ya’ posted.

  11. Wife & I were typical. She wanted him not to play anymore (she didn’t tell him that) – I said it’s his choice just like most dads would. When last year’s workouts were about to start he came to us and asked if it was ok if he didn’t play football this year. Of course, our answer was you play what you want to play and that was that.

  12. Interesting, Moose.

    This is just what I’m talking about too.

    When kids stop playing for just those reasons, what will the league look like in 25 years and what is the NFL doing about it?

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