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Congratulations to the New England Patriots, once again Super Bowl champions!

Ed Malyon wrote a ripping account for The Independent of the 53rd Super Bowl. With a score of 13-3, the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever, the Los Angeles Rams proved to be formidable opponents. Excerpts follow:

It certainly wasn’t pretty but it was undoubtedly clever. The New England Patriots out-thought and out-schemed the Los Angeles Rams to seal the sixth Super Bowl win of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, the old-timer pair dismissing the challenge of the Rams’ upstart head coach, 33-year-old Sean McVay, and 24-year-old Jared Goff at quarterback, who looked utterly lost on the biggest stage. 

Brady, in winning a record-breaking Lombardi trophy, smashed his own mark for the oldest-ever winner as well a host of other records. He boasts the most touchdowns, the most passing yards, the most completions, the most appearances and the most wins in Super Bowl history. He is a one-man history machine who, at 41, is not done rewriting those books …

With the game on the line and just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, this game still hung in the balance not because we had enjoyed the spiralling offensive battle predicted but because the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in recent history had seen just three points apiece. Then Tom Brady went back to basics, the Patriots ran a hurry-up offense with an identical formation three times in a row but Brady picking a different target each time. A lofted pass to Rob Gronkowski, caught on the two-yard line, was ultimately the crucial play.

Sony Michel ran in the first touchdown of the 53rd Super Bowl in the fourth quarter, but Gronkowski’s play was the one that dragged the wolves to the door. Michel just blew a straw house down and the Pats never looked back.

Three full hours after it started, the Super Bowl had its first touchdown but scoring wasn’t really the story of this game. It was an unexpected tale of disguised coverages and outright frustration, the Rams baffled by what was thrown at them and the Patriots smart enough to keep throwing it while they did just about enough on offense …

Congratulations, Tom Brady!

Brady himself predicted what a good player he would be nearly 20 years ago (click on image to see it in full):

Israel was particularly pleased about the Patriots’ win:

The Telegraph reported:

Julian Edelman was the one shining light on offence, on either team. He worked himself open time after time, resulting in a monstrous 10 catches for 141 yards and the Super Bowl MVP award – he’s just the seventh wide receiver to win it.

Well done, chaps. Look forward to seeing you at the White House once again — and in Super Bowl LIV next year!

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Yesterday’s post asked whether NFL would come to mean No Fans Left.

I will not rehash the contents except for two items.

First, it is illegal not to stand with hand on heart for the national anthem. That makes President Donald Trump wrong when he says it is permissible to stand with arms locked with the guys next to you.

Here is a citation of the American statute stipulating conduct during the national anthem. It is 36 US Code 301 (emphases mine):

(a)Designation.—
The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b)Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—
(1) when the flag is displayed—
(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, § 595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

So there. Case closed. Let the police arrest all the miscreants on the field. That would be much more interesting than their stupid ball game.

Secondly, what follows is the full story of why Americans have such profound respect for the national anthem. I encourage everyone to watch it and share it with younger family members. This isn’t taught in school and, even when it is, isn’t done in such a fulsome way. Some of the history was news to me:

And the fourth verse, rarely sung, really points out the importance of the American flag standing after a night of attacks from the British on Fort McHenry (see the 30-second mark):

Nobody understands the protest

Over the past 48 hours, I have read numerous comments online asking for an explanation of the protests since 2016. Slavery? Inequality? Trump?

Hey, players, give it a rest. You’re only alienating your fans. The general public does not understand what is going on:

A Colorado car dealer, Phil Long, who senses what way the wind is blowing, has suspended the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller from its adverts:

Phil Long Dealerships:
We are evaluating the events of the weekend. It is important to state that we haven’t fired Von. We are in the middle of contract renewal and this weekend’s events remind us that sometimes we feel that we best represent ourselves. We support Von and his first amendment rights, we know Von and he’s a good person. He donated a police car to his hometown police dept. All that notwithstanding when we bring in celebrities to represent us we run the risk of being misrepresented

Latest news

In yesterday’s post, I singled out the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Kneelers’ Alejandro Villanueva for doing the right thing.

I was wrong.

Dallas Cowboys

In the Cowboys’ latest game on Monday, September 25, 2017, they tried to please everyone by kneeling before the national anthem was played, then standing with locked arms for the anthem itself. Terrible — and, as mentioned above — illegal.

Apparently, this was to show solidarity with all the other teams in the latest kneeling and arm-locking protest: disapproval of Trump’s criticism of their disrespect of the national anthem.

As someone said at The_Donald:

This is incredibly cringey.

Someone else wrote:

Life long Cowboys fan here. I was sick to my stomach and turned it off. I am completely done. I can’t believe it. I really thought they were going to pull through. No more NFL for me. I’m in shock.

Everybody had hopes the Cowboys would not fall for this. Only a few days ago, owner Jerry Jones supported standing for the national anthem and:

urged the team’s Leadership Council to stay true to that long-standing practice.

Tom Landry must be rolling in his grave.

Pittsburgh Kneelers

On Sunday, the only Pittsburgh Steeler to go out and salute the flag was Bronze Medal recipient Alejandro Villanueva. I wisely did not show his picture which was all over the Twittersphere.

On Monday, the retired US Army Ranger apologised for doing the right thing, saying he made a mistake and is ’embarrassed’ every time he sees that photo of him showing up, standing and saluting for the national anthem. The rest of his team were in the locker room.

I’m embarrassed for him. Why could he not stand up to his coach, his team-mates and the NFL?

It’s not as if these guys are being paid peanuts and he needs the job.

The public looks on in confusion

Most NFL ticket holders have to fit the cost of admission, team regalia, car parking, refreshment and so on into their annual family budgets.

Most NFL ticket holders are on average incomes.

On the other hand, the players they are going to see are very wealthy men:

Also think of the hundreds of millions of additional dollars in sponsorship contracts.

Oppressed? My foot!

NFL receives taxpayers’ money

The NFL is a non-profit organisation that relies heavily on taxpayer subsidy.

Mic.com has an excellent article (thanks, Sundance) that explains how this happened:

the legislation wasn’t a big deal 47 years ago. In fact, the NFL had already been classified as a non-profit organization as early as 1942. It’s just that that status only became codified in 1966.

These days:

Litigator Andrew Delaney has alleged that the NFL uses its non-profit status to launder money. As a trade association that promotes the interests of its 32 for-profit franchises, the NFL sells lucrative licenses for such things as apparel and television contracts through for-profit business such as NFL Enterprises, LLC. The individually-owned franchises receive compensation and, in turn, make annual “dues and assessments” to the NFL, all of which is tax-deductible. The money just goes around in a circle.

Such practices have led Delaney to call the NFL a “glorified tax shelter.” Gregg Easterbrook argues in The Atlantic that the decision to add professional football leagues under Section 501(c)(6) “has saved the NFL uncounted millions in tax obligations, which means that ordinary people must pay higher taxes, public spending must decline, or the national debt must increase to make up for the shortfall.”

Television contracts are also lucrative. Stadia are involuntarily publicly funded:

More important to the NFL business strategy, however, is the big-time television contracts. At the time Public Law 89-800 granted the NFL a monopoly on its broadcasting rights, cable television did not begin to approach the immense revenue it generates today. ESPN and the NFL Network did not exist; it was regional channels that were important. Thus, in 1966 the NFL received antitrust-exempt media rights with little to no opposition. Now those rights are worth billions of dollars annually.

What makes these contracts so profitable, however, is the relatively low overhead costs. Thanks to John Q. Taxpayer, team owners receive the lion’s share of those contracts while only making a minimal contribution, if any, to the stadium the game is being played in.

Thus, the dirty secret behind why professional football is so profitable is because most stadiums are publicly funded. Teams pay a modest rent to perform in their stadiums, but they retain the exclusive right to air those games on televisions. Those rights are then pooled among the 32 teams and sold to the highest bidder.

That I did not know, nor this:

As the ink dries on the NFL’s highly-lucrative broadcasting contracts, states facing major budget cuts continue to throw taxpayer money at NFL teams. Annually, “NFL stadium subsidies and tax favors add up to perhaps $1 billion.” In addition to these taxpayer contributions, “many cities, counties, and states also pay the stadiums’ ongoing costs, by providing power, sewer services, other infrastructure, and stadium improvements.” Essentially, franchise owners are having their product bankrolled by the public.

The article offers these solutions:

In order for there to be a meaningful change, two changes need to be made. First, Section 501(c)(6) is amended to no longer include the “professional football leagues” language. Until the NFL is more transparent with its finances, it does not deserve its tax-exempt benefits from being a non-profit organization.

Second, Congress must enact legislation prohibiting the privatization of television images performed in publicly funded stadiums. Only with the threat of losing their television contracts worth several billion dollars will the NFL be inclined to privately finance their own stadiums. Such a drastic measure would prevent the public from being gouged for the construction and maintenance of stadiums that serve as the playground for the uber rich.

Fortunately, a Republican in Louisiana is stepping up and speaking out:

Here is an excerpt from The Advocate‘s article:

Louisiana State Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, said Monday morning that he wants to cut millions in state tax dollars, exemptions and credits allocated to the New Orleans Saints, the NFL and any of those groups’ associated facilities that receive funding …

Havard’s statement didn’t specify the amount of state money that he proposed be diverted from the Saints the NFL. According to a 2015 Forbes story, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson was “set to rake in an estimated $392 million from state subsidies through 2025.

The report said during the Mercedes-Benz Superdome lease “the state will pay Benson at least $198 million in increased revenue from the Superdome, $142 million in rental payments on property Benson owns, $10 million in bonuses for bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $2.6 million in tax breaks. Benson will get another $40 million from private rent payments to a tower he bought as part of the deal.”

Havard rightly says:

It is time the taxpayers quit subsidizing protest on big boy playgrounds. I believe in the right to protest but, not at a taxpayer subsidized sporting event. Do it on your own time. There are plenty of disabled children, elderly and veterans in this state that would appreciate the money.

Why Trump is so incensed

I think President Trump is angry because the NFL receives taxpayer money to promote the military.

Townhall has a good article on the taxpayer-funded military-NFL programme that started under Obama. I had no idea this was going on:

In 2009, Barack Obama’s Department of Defense began paying hundreds of thousands towards teams in a marketing strategy designed to show support for the troops and increase recruitments. The NFL then required all players and personnel to be on the sidelines during the national anthem, in exchange for taxpayers[‘] dollars. Prior, the national anthem was played in the stadium but players had the option of staying in the locker room before heading out to the field. 

Furthermore, teams that showed “Veteran’s Salutes” during games were paid upwards of $5.1 million dollars

Stop the racket!

You know President Trump is ready for kick-off.

No wonder the NFL’s up in arms. They’re afraid he’s going to stop that gravy train. I hope he does.

I have many, many more links on the NFL and hope to write about them if I have time.

Nearly a year ago I posted ‘American flag desecrated — SAD!’

It showed an elderly man picking up an American flag lying on the sidelines during a high school football game. For my readers who are not American, Old Glory must never touch the ground. That used to be taught in school. No longer, it would seem.

My post said in part:

Their coach and the school should talk about the importance of the flag at a mandatory hour-long class assembly.

I realise this desecration is being done because of a certain trendy, yet ignorant, professional football player whose name will never appear on my site. Why anyone gave him the oxygen of publicity I will never know.

Said football player could not find a team to sign him for the 2017-2018 season. Good. Unfortunately, he is sitting pretty. I heard one report that he is already worth over $200m.

Also sad is that his legacy of disrespect for the national anthem has continued into the current NFL (National Football League) season. The only two teams who have told their players to stand for the national anthem are the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys issued a directive several months ago. The Bears did so just before last weekend’s game.

I’m not an American football fan. I personally know what dimwits some of the college players were in the 1970s — race immaterial, because many were white.

I would like to see today’s guys — college and professional — play in Rugby Union or Rugby League. Those bumper stickers I used to see in the 1980s about having leather attributes to play the game are 100% correct. Rugby players are also consummate gentlemen.

President Donald Trump is sick and tired of these political, anti-American gestures. He said so on Thursday, September 21 at a political rally in Alabama in advance of a special senatorial election there.

You can see a clip of Trump in Judge Jeanine Pirro’s opening statement for her Fox News show which aired at the weekend. She also refers to the USA Today article which details the criminal offences that NFL players have committed. (Here is one such example — and that player was reinstated!) The convictions and police records amongst NFL players is disproportionate to that of the United States as a whole:

Yes, players claim that kneeling on one knee is a legitimate protest against notional American oppression of minorities. And, now, nearly every team is getting in on the act — including, ironically enough, Bob Kraft’s New England Patriots. (They won the Super Bowl earlier this year.) Patriots, my eye. This was Trump’s response to the press:

That’s right. Trump is not going to tell his good friend Kraft or anyone else what to do or think — however, they will have to accept the consequences of their actions. Trump will sit back and watch.

Now back to the team protests. This isn’t the 1960s. There is no reason to legitimately protest against the United States for discrimination. All of it, starting with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has been gradually legislated out of existence over the past 50+ years. As for police brutality, minorities are many times more likely to be shot and/or killed by other minorities — civilians.

Here is an example of the NFL’s idiocy, aptly explained yesterday at The Conservative Treehouse:

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens are in England today for a game in London.  When the U.S. National Anthem was played both teams disrespected the USA and yet stood up for the U.K National Anthem ‘God Save The Queen’.   Think about that.

This is what happened:

Here’s more from The Conservative Treehouse:

The NFL, writ large, is nuts.  They’ve lost their minds. The NFL players, managers, league officials and owners, along with downstream sport punditry and networks, obviously think virtue signaling their collective unity plays well -mostly in their echo-chamber because of the support from left-wing media- but outside their bubble they are destroying their own business model.  Watch what happens.

Yep. And the NBA (basketball) and MLB (baseball) are starting to do it, too.

This man explains the idiocy of disrespecting the national anthem. Ticket sales will plummet. (Not to mention car park revenues!) Political activists don’t attend sports events, everyday patriotic Americans do:

Alex Jones also had a good commentary, discussing how the NFL owners have taken against the American president. That’s a big mistake. Jones also points out how the American symbols that teams used to put on uniforms or branding have pretty much disappeared over the years. He also talked about the game held in London:

Most importantly, Jones mentioned an excellent video about The Star-Spangled Banner, which Francis Scott Key wrote. I did not know the full history as shown below.

The British fired at Fort McHenry relentlessly in one battle, yet, the next day, even though it had holes in it, the American flag still stood. Both sides thought it was miraculous. They had never seen such a thing before. And, Francis Scott Key was actively involved throughout. All Americans should see this and share it with their children:

The fourth verse, in particular, reflects the awe at seeing the flag still standing and what that meant for the young republic (see at 30-second mark):

With regard to the protests, fans began turning off NFL last season when all this stupidity started. It doesn’t help when a player spits on a fan, either. As MSNBC’s Morning Joe‘s Joe Scarborough — a Trump loather — says:

This is because sport is entertainment, not a political forum. People attend sporting events for a break from the dismal reality of life, including politics.

Yet, the NFL owners and managers are angry with Trump. Trump, they say, should keep his mouth shut. But the NFL started it all by protesting, right?

Former NFL fans and ticket holders burnt team shirts and season tickets at the weekend. Other American fans are cancelling certain cable subscriptions whilst more will boycott NFL sponsors:

This is a good move, too:

I also enjoyed this:

Ironically, although most teams refused to stand for the national anthem — including the Pittsburgh Steelers, excepting Alejandro Villanueva, the veteran who saw three tours in Afghanistan — Sunday, September 24 was Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s (sic) Day.

Since 1936, the last Sunday in September has been Gold Star Mother’s Day. On Saturday, September 23, the president expanded this to include families.

Fox News reported on all the errant teams on Sunday and included Trump’s reaction, including the following tweet:

The display marked a tumultuous weekend between the NFL and Trump, who called the players kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” disrespectful. Trump took note of the incidents at the start of the games on Sunday.

He also tweeted:

Contrary to what some on social media are saying — one example — there is no NFL rule on players’ conduct during the national anthem or when the flag is present. Atlanta’s NBC affiliate has also checked the rule book (as have I). Whilst there are rules about players’ physical appearance and attire — and making or gesturing statements — there is nothing about the national anthem.

Now, one could argue about gestures and statements. Remember that Tim Tebow was censured for dropping one knee in thanks for making a touchdown. Also recall last year that players who war 9-11 ‘Never Forget’ footwear on the field were similarly censured. Many think the same judgement should be applied to this current lot of players.

To make a case, here is a citation of the American statute stipulating conduct during the national anthem. It is 36 US Code 301 (emphases mine):

(a)Designation.—
The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b)Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—
(1) when the flag is displayed—
(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, § 595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

So there. Case closed.

There is a military element to this, too.

Veterans, rightly, are speaking out against these NFL clowns. Here is a Benghazi survivor, Kris Paronto:

I will have more on this tomorrow:

Meanwhile, I’m contemplating the real possibility that NFL will come to mean No Fans Left. Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers will be known as the Pittsburgh Kneelers, too. Poetic justice.

As far as most Westerners are concerned, there is no greater evil than tobacco, especially where athletic prowess is concerned.

An issue of Tobacco & the Elderly Notes from 1998 examplifies the anti-tobacco stance with its feature which deplores past sports stars advertising cigarettes. Yet, my post yesterday showed that a number of top athletes enjoyed their smokes and still went on to break records during their satisfying careers.

I wonder what the editors of Tobacco & the Elderly Notes would think of the increasing drug use prevalent among high school, college and professional athletes? Is that a better proposition than tobacco?

I used to support the legalisation of cannabis until I saw what it did to a friend of ours. He never quite recovered from his use of skunk during the 1990s. What started out as recreational led to divorce and estrangement from his child, by now an adolescent. Even now that he’s gone straight, he’s still irritable, excitable and paranoid.

For those my age and older, it’s impossible to get the old strains which are now so last century. Every variety of cannabis on the market today has some psychotropic element to it. It’s no longer a case of a happy or sleepy high. It’s affecting people like our friend adversely.

Furthermore, use of other drugs, including K2, is on the increase by athletes.

College athletes and marijuana

Recreator has a series of excellent graphics and NCAA statistics which everyone should have a look at.

It will surprise many.

The survey is taken every four years. Results published are from the 2013 survey.

More than 20% of athletes smoked dope in 2005 (21%), 2009 (23%) and 2013 (22%).

One quarter of male athletes smoked it in 2013 versus 17% of women athletes.

Use by NCAA division statistics are as follows: Division I is 16%; Division II is 20% and Division III shows a significant 29%.

Statistics for marijuana use by sport revealed that 46% of lacrosse players smoke. Next are swimming (32%) and soccer (31%), followed by football (23%) and, finally, basketball (19%).

A 2012 article in Time on American football players states (emphases mine):

What is surprising is the frequency, proliferation and seeming constancy of the confessed drug useESPN The Magazine‘s Sam Alipour begins with a detailed scene of an Oregon football player, fresh off this year’s Rose Bowl victory, kicking back by rolling a joint. The unnamed player (there are many unnamed sources in the article, which isn’t surprising given the content) estimates that about half of the team smokes marijuana on a regular basis. The magazine also cited interviews with 19 current and former Ducks going back a decade and a half who put that number at between 40 and 60%.

The article states that, even more unusual is that, generally speaking, some football players get high before practice — or a game.

It used to be that such activity could harm one’s chances for a professional career. Today, it’s less of a problem:

For many athletes, the only downside to being caught using marijuana is a drop in their draft status, but there is an interesting catch-22 in which NFL scouts and executives assume that because so many athletes have used marijuana, they don’t believe those who claim they haven’t.

An article on draft picks on NFL.com, also from 2012, looked at the same ESPN Magazine report that Time did. We learn the following:

Four out of 10 draft-eligible prospects from the 2012 class failed at least one school-administered drug test for marijuana; two in 10 failed multiple times, per a CBS Sports report from April.

“About 70 percent” of prospects at the combine admitted to using marijuana, per an ESPN report.

NFL players

The NFL.com article considered the ESPN report alongside three marijuana-related arrests in the Detroit Lions that year:

Lomas Brown, now an ESPN analyst, claims at least 50 percent of NFL players likely smoke marijuana, according to a report in the Detroit News

“I just don’t think you’ll be able to curb this,” Brown told the newspaper.

In Brown’s eyes, this is actually an improvement. Brown claims up to 90 percent of players league-wide smoked marijuana when he began his career with the Lions in 1985.

K2 — undetectable — popular with youths and pros

Three years ago I wrote about the dangers of synthetic drug K2, which is widely available and legal. It is sold in filling stations and malls.

K2 looks like a little packet of potpourri and all packets say ‘not for consumption’.

ThePostGame has an excellent article on the increased popularity of K2 with athletes, from high school to professional level.

K2 is smoked and mimics cannabis. It is also undetectable in drug tests:

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 14 cases of K2 exposure in the 48 states plus the District of Columbia in 2009. In 2010, that number exploded to 2,888. Already this year, there have been nearly 1,000. In the last four months alone, 151 Navy sailors have been accused of using or possessing the drug.

The U.S. Naval Academy expelled eight midshipmen last month for using K2.

Jay Schauben, director of the Florida Poison Control Center, warns:

The possible side effects include significant hallucination, cardiac effects, seizures, rapid heart rate, hypertension, severe agitation, passing out, and panic attacks.

Anyone who takes K2 is playing Russian roulette.

Secondary school use

ThePostGame‘s article opens with a profile of an 18-year-old K2 user who committed suicide. David was a notionally all-American boy living with his mother and father. He ended his life just after attending a high school graduation party. His parents had no reason to believe their son was using any sort of unusual substance until his girlfriend spoke with them a few days later.

My aforementioned post from 2012 recapped a drowning incident involving a 19-year old high school football player in Florida who took K2 with a friend. He didn’t want to go home and the friend left him alone, never imagining the youth would drown himself in a nearby creek.

University use

Athletes at university level like K2 because drug tests cannot detect it. Consequently, it is being heavily marketed on campuses all over the US:

“We’re receiving more reports of its use in the athlete population,” says Frank Uryasz, director of the National Center of Drug-Free Sport … ‘We’re getting reports from colleges, where athletes are asking about it.”

One such report to the Drug-Free Sport hotline, from an NCAA athletic trainer, reads:

“Three student-athletes were breaking apart cigarettes, mixing it with K2, rolling it back up into papers and then smoking. One young man, who had NO past medical history, had a seizure and lost consciousness. He was found outside the dorm by campus security convulsing. His heart rate was elevated above 200 for enough time that he was admitted for 24 hours of observation … When asked why he did it: “I didn’t think it would be that much of a rush, I had no control over my body in that I could see but could not talk or speak.”

Just because they are young and fit does not mean that university athletes are immune to harm from K2, especially when combined with another substance:

Performance-enhancing drugs may add yet another layer of risk. “If you combine these products and steroids, I can’t begin to predict the negative consequences,” says Anthony Scalzo, director of toxicology at St. Louis University. “If you add these stresses to the heart, someone’s probably going to have a heart attack from it.”

NFL use

One pro explained his drug-taking strategy:

I go straight weed in the off-season,” one NFL veteran told ThePostGame.com on condition of anonymity. “Then, in-season, when they test, I go to [K2].”

It is highly possible that within the next few years we might see unexpected deaths in fit athletes — including professionals — using K2.

And people rail against tobacco and nicotine!

Parents might be surprised to find that a number of athletes still smoke tobacco.

Caution should be exercised when pointing out to children that athletes are good, healthy-living role models. In fact, an increasing number of American athletes smoke dope. More on that tomorrow.

For now, let’s explore the history of athletes and tobacco, past to present.

Tobacco and sports champions

1935

This vintage Camels ad features a number of sports personalities at the top of their game in the middle of the 20th century. To see a larger image, visit South Florida Filmmaker.

Ellsworth Vines Jr was a champion tennis player. As an amateur, he won Wimbledon in 1932. In 1934, he began playing professionally and was the leading pro player until 1938. In 1942, he became a professional golfer and won three tournaments between then and 1951. Vines died in 1994 at the age of 82.

Helen Hicks was one of the first women professional golfers. She won the 1937 Women’s Western Open and the 1940 Titleholders Championship. She married Whitney Harb in 1938 and competed as Helen Hicks Harb until 1948. In 1950, she and 12 other women founded the LPGA. Hicks died in 1974 at the age of 63 from throat cancer.

Harold ‘Stubby’ Kruger represented the United States in swimming at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. He was also a water polo star and friend of Johnny Weismuller. After their athletic careers ended, Weismuller went on to play Tarzan in 12 films and Kruger pursued a long career as a Hollywood stunt man. He died in 1965 at the age of 68. In 1986, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a ‘pioneer swimmer’.

Another athlete advertised Lucky Strikes in the 1920s, legendary tennis ace Bill Tilden, who won 138 of 192 amateur tournaments between 1912 and 1930. He won Wimbledon, his last major title, at the age of 37 in 1930. He turned professional after Wimbledon and went on to tour with a select few fellow players until 1945. He died in 1953 at the age of 60 from heart complications. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1959. Many tennis fans consider him as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Incidentally, he played his closest rival Ellsworth Vines Jr six times in the latter half of 1934 and lost each time.

Around the same time, British school teacher Tom Hampson won the 800m gold in the 1932 Olympics held in Los Angeles. The Independent tells us:

he is said to have started the day with a fry-up, a cup of tea and a cigarette.

When he was at Oxford, famous middle-distance runner Roger Bannister’s closest rival was Eric Mackay:

who, according to legend, “could not last the nine laps of a three-mile race without a cigarette and had a friend standing by with one ready for a quick drag before the bell”.

In the middle of the 20th century, legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio appeared in Chesterfield adverts. Golfer Arnold Palmer smoked L&Ms on the fairway.

Closer to the present day, footballer Johan Cruyff — voted European Player of the Century in 1999 — and considered one of the most influential players in the game’s history smoked 20 cigarettes a day until 1991, at which point he had double heart bypass surgery:

Proof, if any, that smoking a lot does not stop you becoming one of the world’s greatest footballers.

As a manager, Cruyff went on to make Ajax a powerhouse in the 1990s. His coaching methods injected new life into FC Barcelona.

21st century athletes

Some sports fans think that their heroes abhor tobacco. Although many do — and some have turned to drugs — there are still a few traditionalists around.

Cricket

Record-breaking Australian cricketer Shane Warne is the best of his generation with:

145 test matches, 194 ODIs, over 50,000 balls bowled on an international stage. Oh yeah, 1,000 international wickets too.

He:

not only smoked, he was a chain smoker …

Retired England cricketer, Phil Tufnell:

took over 1,000 wickets across all first-class cricket, and his personality, trademark behaviour and “great control of flight” when playing made him a popular sports personality.[2]

I saw him on television a few weeks ago (C4’s At Home with Steph and Dom). He was puffing away quite happily.

Tennis

German tennis player Karsten Braasch, who retired in 2005, used to smoke between changeovers and:

was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centred around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager.”[2]

He was known for defeating both Serena and Vanessa Williams in a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ contest at the 1998 Australian Open when he was ranked 203:

playing a single set against each, beating Serena 6–1 and Venus 6–2.[3]

The unforgettable Russian Anna Kournikova, who now lives in Miami Beach, immersing herself in charity work, including the occasional match for a good cause, was known to smoke during her career:

In 2000 she admitted enjoying a smoke to wind down telling a French newspaper: ‘My smoking has nothing to do with my tennis.

‘It is absolutely my business when I smoke cigarettes. And I like to have a few cigarettes, especially in the evening after a hard day.’

Tim Henman also smoked at least occasionally during his career. He was very careful to keep it secret.

Football (soccer)

Goliath published an article last month: ’10 Athletes You Didn’t Know Smoked’.

Among them are footballers.

Wayne Rooney has:

been seen and criticized for smoking on holiday, proving that when you are a household name, your every move will be watched and scrutinized.

Mario Balotelli is an inveterate smoker. He is now on loan to AC Milan and is contractually obliged to obey a good behaviour clause, one where:

of course, smoking is strictly prohibited.

Ashley Cole:

is known to smoke heavily during the off-season, and his friends claim that he will chain smoke cigarettes whilst on vacation.

Golf

Irrepressible and unconventional golfer John Daly has stopped drinking but:

He does, however, still smoke around 40 cigarettes a day. The 49-year-old very recently collapsed whilst playing in a tournament in Mississippi on the 18th hole, and this was due to a collapsed lung from a rib injury he suffered in 2007. In typical John Daly fashion, he returned to the course the next day and was even spotted smoking a cigarette on the clubhouse patio. Although not exactly a positive role model for kids, Daly is a fan favorite due to his attitude and his non-country club appearance and lifestyle.

Baseball

New York Yankees star Alex ‘A-Rod’ Rodriguez:

is also a cigar smoker, and will often be seen lighting one up after an impressive performance.

Basketball

Legendary Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time:

is also a cigar aficionado. This is not something that he has picked up since retiring either, as he would also smoke a cigar before every single home game to relax. There are not many players that could get away with doing something like this, but “His Airness” is not like most other players. His first cigar was given to him by Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls owner) after winning the first NBA title, and he soon fell in love with sparking up. Jordan is not seen too often these days, but when he is he will often be seen with a cigar in his mouth. He has even appeared on the cover of the popular magazine Cigar Aficionado, where he revealed how stepping back from the public eye has allowed him to enjoy himself.

Recent Olympians

Most people consider that Olympians lead the lives of saints. It is unthinkable that any of them would smoke.

Yet, London’s Olympic Village had designated smoking areas for the 2012 Games. This was the first time in many years that an Olympic Village has had such a provision. Well done to them, because, as even anti-smokers had to admit, including New Zealand’s chef de mission Dave Currie:

“I was going to raise it at the chefs meeting and rant and rave but my experience is that in a village some people smoke and you usually find piles of cigarette butts in furtive corners.

“It’s a bit of a ‘name and shame’ approach I suppose because these things are right in middle of walkways and people use them to smoke. Ideally it’d be great if they didn’t have them but it is probably a better option than people lurking in odd places.

“It is the first time I can recall there has been a smoking pod …”

The article adds a bit of Olympics history with regard to tobacco:

When Mark Todd won his first Olympic gold medal on Charisma in 1984 he nervously dragged on a cigarette as the competition leader, American Karen Stives, took to the showjumping ring. Stives knocked off a rail on the penultimate jump, and Todd took gold. Todd is to compete in his seventh Olympics when the three-day eventing starts next week.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Peter Snell [1960, 1964] used to work for cigarette manufacturer Rothmans.

The world was somewhat surprised when 2012 Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medal winner Sir Bradley Wiggins finally got a chance to rest after several weeks of cycling and — gasp — smoked a cigarette:

Wiggo seemed happy and relaxed as he enjoyed the balmy evening.

Good for him. Tour de France winners often smoked cigarettes in the old days.

The Independent told us about Wiggins’s lung capacity:

One of the keys to Bradley Wiggins’ four Olympic golds, not to mention his Tour de France victory, is his lung capacity: eight litres, compared to the average man’s six. Perhaps that substantial natural advantage – inherited from his cyclist father – is why Wiggins was content to partake of a cigarette on holiday in Mallorca this week. He certainly isn’t the first celebrated athlete to relax with a crafty puff.

Nor will he be the last!

Conclusion

As a post at Smokescreens explains, the thing to remember is that these smoking athletes have outperformed non-smoking athletes:

Take a second to take that information in: the smokers, breathing in their deadly, unnecessary and toxic smoke, are physically fitter and healthier, and superior in a sporting sense over the athletes from their country who don’t smoke.  Now I am not for a moment suggesting that the smoking is responsible for their being chosen, but clearly it has not hindered them in the slightest. 

How true. Time to look at all the facts for once.

Tomorrow: Dope-smoking athletes

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