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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: September 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mike Ditka, Former Players Ask the U.S. Senate to “Fix” the NFL

WASHINGTON — After testimony Tuesday by retired NFL players about red tape in qualifying for disability benefits related to on-the-field injuries, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the league is "dropping the ball."


"My hope is that the league will get its act together here," Kerry said. "I am prepared, if the league doesn't do that, to introduce, which I hope we would never have to do, legislation to create some kind of appropriate accountability and oversight."


Upshaw said that of 1,052 players who have applied for disability since 1993, 428 (40.7%) have had their claims approved. But he told the committee the work could be streamlined if Congress changed a law that requires the six-member board, which makes decisions on claims, to include three representatives from the team owners and three from the union. Upshaw said it "makes sense" for the players union alone to make the decisions.


Hall of Famer Mike Ditka: "The system is broke. Fix it. ... Don't make proud men beg."

The idea that former NFL players and coaches have sought help from the U.S. Senate to act as a referee between former players and the NFL bothers me both as a fan of the NFL and as someone who believes the government should stay within its Constitutional boundaries (I’m especially disappointed in “Iron Mike” Ditka for stooping to such a low level; I thought he was made of sterner stuff). If history is any indication, if Ditka et al wish for the congressional oversight over the NFL, they will likely get their wish. John Kerry seems all too eager to put on the zebra stripes, throw the flag, and penalize the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we have a few more pressing needs that our elected officials should be concerned with such as the war, the VA system, wasteful spending, etc?

As for the former players, they had to know what they were getting into when they decided to play professional football. NFL players both past and present have received the fame, the fortune, and the ability to retire when they are very young. Sure, the players of yesteryear did not earn quite what today’s players do, and perhaps were not marketed as aggressively as today’s players but they each signed contracts and should have known what the risks were. Football ceases to be a game at the professional level (probably even at the college level) because of the increased size, strength, and speed of the players. Players can and do get injured; most feel the toll on their bodies for the rest of their lives.

Given these risks, what should the federal government do? The only branch of the government that could possibly have a role would be the judicial branch. If the NFL somehow violated the terms of these players contracts, the NFL should be compelled to honor those terms by the courts. If this is not the case, then these former players should have no remedy from the federal government.

This does not mean, however; that these players don’t have other means to pay for their medical expenses. The NFL, its players, and its coaches are not hurting for money. If Ditka doesn’t want to “make proud men beg” then shouldn’t he first appeal to his NFL contacts and pass the hat? Surely, there would be at least a few owners, coaches, players and perhaps even fans who would be willing to donate some of their money to such a cause.

As for those who are currently playing in the NFL, if they are concerned with health issues which inevitably will continue long after retirement, they need to address these issues within their organizations and within the NFL. Not one nanosecond of the American people’s time should be spent on this matter.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Cult of the 12 Steps

I have been meaning to write about Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step programs for awhile now. I do not personally know anyone who has been in the program, but what I have uncovered is quite disturbing. Awhile back I watched an episode of South Park (clip below) that dealt with AA. At first I thought the steps mentioned in the episode was a joke…that was until I did a quick search on the internet. There they where, all 12 steps of the AA cult. The steps in the episode were the actual steps.

What’s the harm you might ask? After all, AA has helped countless individuals kick their addiction! The problem for me is the steps. Throughout the steps is this notion that alcoholism is a disease which its victims are powerless to stop without the help of a higher power. This implies that the individual cannot be held responsible for his or her actions and only god can stop the individual from remaining a victim. Even if I was not an atheist I would find this notion both appalling and disturbing. In fact, here’s an excellent post by one of my fellow contributors at The Liberty Papers, Chris Byrne a practicing Catholic who wrote a more exhaustive post about the 12 steps both at his blog Anarchangel and The Liberty Papers.

Below is a clip from the South Park episode I mentioned. I apologize for the poor quality but this was the only clip I could find (you may need to turn up the volume). I was hoping to find the whole episode but this scene does a good job of making the point.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tradition—The Most Dangerous Fallacy of All

As a general rule, we as human beings love traditions. With some traditions we have a vague understanding of their origins, while others remain mysterious. Perhaps most traditions are harmless and even positive but can traditions also be morally wrong or even morally repugnant?

Of all of the logical fallacies people use to defend their positions, the use of the “appeal to tradition fallacy” scares me the most. How often have you questioned why a culture will embrace a questionable activity only to hear the answer: “Well, its tradition”? I don’t know about you but I don’t like that answer at all. This kind of logic is used to justify cultures which do not recognize the sovereignty of the individual; cultures which deem individuals to be expendable and treat women and other minorities as second class citizens (if citizens at all). We are told we should not judge other cultures or their traditions but to respect them as an equal to our own. What nonsense!

It’s easy for many of us in Western culture to be critical of the barbaric nature of the East, but there are traditions found in the West which are also barbaric and should be addressed or at least reconsidered. Among such traditions I find barbaric and morally repugnant: bullfighting and bull running.

Several countries around the world have bull running and bullfighting as “sports” but both originated from Spain where both sports are as popular as ever. Roughly a million people from around the world go to Spain to watch bullfights each year. Bullfighting dates back to 711 A.D. at the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. The practice was banned for the Spanish aristocracy in the early 18th century because King Felipe V did not want the royal class to set a bad example for the common people. This ban on the aristocracy, however, did not stop the common people from taking up the sport themselves. Since that time little has changed in the method these animals are tortured: the bull enters the arena, the matador’s assistant waves a cape in front of the bull to determine its mood, several other assistants begin stabbing the bull with spears (this phase lasts about 10 minutes), the matador entices the bull to charge, and then makes several attempts at the bull with a sword. The bullfight is over whenever either the bull or the fighter dies.

The famous tradition of bull running is an outgrowth of this barbaric practice which began around 1591. Originally, bull running came out of the “necessity” of efficiently moving the bulls from their stables to the bullrings for the bullfights. A few individuals decided to help the process by provoking the bulls to chase them through the narrow streets. Today, people travel from all over the world to be part of the famous “Running of the Bulls” for the adrenaline rush.

As we can see, both bull running and bullfighting have a long and storied history. Having a long and storied history is important in establishing something we call “tradition.” But after considering how these animals are mistreated, how can we continue to accept the notion that this 1,296 year practice is merely a tradition which should be honored through time and memorial?

While most traditions do not involve maiming and killing, we should always be wary of those who would suggest that because something is tradition it must be protected as part of “our” culture. Once something is deemed to be tradition by enough people, such traditions are difficult to overcome. Fortunately, there are always those who are willing to challenge the status quo. Slavery was once considered an important part of American culture but was eventually brought to an end by individuals who refused to accept the traditional “tradition” justification. As much as slavery was a tradition in our past, few people today would argue that that tradition should have stayed in place.

So what would happen if some traditions such as bull running and bullfighting were to go the way of other traditions we no longer embrace? Would society as we know it come to a halt? Perhaps this is the question we should ask when confronted by someone who tells us to respect tradition for tradition’s sake.
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