Fixing football's problem

There are two conversations that aren’t happening right now within the NFL and I’m not sure why.First let’s agree on one thing: The sport of football is on a decline. With the reality that head injuries are becoming a real problem (and not only in football), the higher-ups of the sport are trying to implement changes that protect the athletes while still creating an exciting product.

There are constant discussions on how to make the sport safer but amending the rules seems to be the only action taken to actually protect the athletes. But these rule changes aren’t fixing the game, they’re hindering it. They’re making it a shell of what it once was. Now, with the fear of hitting high and being penalized, players are hitting low which¬, from the standpoint of career longevity, can be more harmful than a hit up high (see: Rob Gronkowski. And F.Y.I. this hit that forces Gronk to be out for a year was completely legal).

Okay, so about those conversations I mentioned. The first one that needs to be had is about performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs, in the NFL and the punishments – or lack thereof – that players receive when caught. The second conversation – which will likely be scoffed but makes so much sense – is why the athletes don’t wear padding on the outside of their helmets in addition to the inside. I will tackle (pun completely intended) these issues in succession.

PED Uses

As it stands right now, the punishment for PED offenses have three levels: four games without pay; eight games without pay; and a full 12 months without pay. These are all subject to more time determined by the NFL and NFLPA.

These are significant fines considering the NFL only has a 16-game regular season; however, the third offense is petty compared to other leagues’ policies. MLB – banned. NHL – banned. NBA – two years. In the Olympics, a third offense does not even exist. The first offense is a two year ban from any Olympic competition and the second offense is, you guessed it, banned.

Now maybe these punishments are light and other leagues, like the MLB, come down on their players too hard. There has never been an NFL equivalent of the Mitchell report or old, washed up ex-athletes writing about sticking needles in their teammates’ butts. Hell, in the MLB, you don’t even need to have failed a test to be suspended. See: Alex Rodriguez.

Or, on the complete flipside, maybe the MLB punishes its athletes in the 100 percent most appropriate way. I mean, it’s not like these athletes are just breaking the rules their sport has set. Anabolic steroids are illegal as set in place by the United States government. A first time offender simply possessing steroids is punishable by up to one year in prison.

And, HGH, though not intrinsically illegal, is by-and-large illegal. It is true that a person can be prescribed HGH (human growth hormone for those not in the know). But you need to have a hormone deficiency to get it, and to prove you are deficient requires lab testing. This drug is a problem for multiple reasons. The body does not process the drug in a constant manner, that is to say a blood test is hit-or-miss because the drug is released into the blood in “batches.” It also gets flushed out quickly so the opportunity window is small. The symptoms brought on by a deficiency in adulthood only add to the difficulty, including: reduced muscle mass, increased body fat, memory loss, reduced energy and hair loss.

In other words, everything that happens to dudes when they get older.

The entire reason for me bringing this stuff up is that maybe the NFL needs to employ some of the scare tactics of the MLB. Guys like Rodriguez and Ryan Bruan of the Brewers are demonized for their association with performance enhancing drugs whereas Von Miller of the Broncos barely got a blurb on ESPN for his use. A player being fined for a hit to the head seems to get more airtime than the player committing crimes.

The MLB has begun to regress. It is moving into Deadball era-esque type of play. The same with the NFL will likely happen. It’s a simple fix, really. Let these athletes know how unacceptable PED use is and things can go back to normal.

But, this fix is not nearly as simple as the following argument.

Putting padding on the outside of the helmet

How is it that in 2013 – 93 years after the NFL was founded – we don’t have helmets with more padding? It is mind boggling how little sense there is to be made of this.

There have been countless studies on football hits and the forces associated with them. The numbers are pretty alarming, and can be expressed in g-force.

One-g is you sitting in front of your computer right now not moving. An astronaut in a shuttle launch experiences a force of 3gs. Racecar drivers and pilots pass out under the force of 9gs. 22gs is the median number experienced by football players, as reported by the Purdue Neurotrauma Group. Concussions occur at g-forces around 100. This study’s high reported helmet impact was 289gs. Stefan Duma, the University of Nebraska’s director at the Center for Injury Biomechanics says they see 100g hits “all the time.”

When Riddell, one of the top football equipment manufacturers, was asked about the issue, they said the technology currently being used is the best that is available. Which made me think I had hit a dead end for the topic but then I read more. The test that Riddell uses on its helmets is rather crude. They take a 20 pound “head,” put it in the helmet and then drop it on a surface. Two problems. The first being that this “head” which is really just a solid piece of material, doesn’t have the characteristics like a real head does. There is no brain inside this material that may shift or be damage. Secondly, these falls max out at 75gs – 25gs short of when a concussion occurs.

Riddell claims they are using the best equipment available but football equipment has gone largely unchanged. Other sports have made dramatic changes to improve safety. Baseball going from its BESR certifications to BBCOR. Hockey goalie gear has become stronger and covers more area. NASCAR has made significant changes to improve the safety of the drivers.

Believe it or not, this has been done before. Mark Kelso, a safety for the Buffalo Bills in the ‘80s and ‘90s, wore a helmet with padding on the outside. He did so because, after suffering two major concussions, he was advised to give up the sport. But, instead, to keep playing he decided to make the helmet safer and put padding on the outside. He finished his career with 30 interceptions in eight seasons – impressive numbers for a 10th round pick. Steve Wallace, an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers also wore this “ProCap,” as it was called.

The “ProCap” or “Gladiator Helmet” was invented by a man named Bert Straus. When he brought his idea to the NFL, it was shot down immediately. The NFL and Riddell, both now being sued by ex-athletes for head related injuries, had a lucrative partnership and refused to use Straus’ creation. A simple speculation says that Riddell was offended because it pointed out the flaws in their creation – the same flaws mentioned above.

The only real downside to an outside-padded helmet is the aesthetics. Sure, it doesn’t look the best but that is only because we aren’t used to it yet. Baseball players didn’t used to wear helmets when batting and when they were forced to, the change was scoffed. Same with hockey. It is a minor sacrifice for a long-term benefit.

These changes I have suggested here may seem “soft” but really think about what I am suggesting here. I, as much as you, want the crushing tackles and open field hits. Not only are those plays exciting, that is what the sport was founded on. The game is designed to test how tough you are. My suggestions allow the game to return back to that state while improving overall safety for the players.

These are two conversations I know Roger Goodell and the rules committee and Riddell are not having because they’re admissions of failure. Agreeing with things like this is to say, “The way we have been running the NFL is wrong.” And who wants to admit they’re wrong? A person who truly cares about safety, that’s who.

You and I both agree Goodell and the NFLPA have made the game worse. Drug testing and equipment improvements aren’t soft. Rule changes are soft. My suggestions and these conversations are what we need to get the football we all loved to watch.

College works toward maintaining a studio art presence on campus as department closes

Students and faculty in the studio art department are preparing to enter their final semester of studio art at Geneseo. The department will officially close along with the computer science and speech-language pathology departments at the end of the spring 2014 semester. Administration announced the deactivation of the three departments in fall 2010 in response to a $7.2 million funding deficit, allotting a three-year period for the college to adjust to their absence and for current students to complete their coursework.

According to Interim President Carol Long, departments were selected for deactivation by the administration in conjunction with the Strategic Planning Group and the Budget Priorities Committee, with considerations including student achievement, graduation rates, cost and expense of programs.

Due to the presence of affected faculty members in the United University Professions Union on these advising committees, the names of the departments in question were kept anonymous in their discussions.

Long added that the shutdown of the departments accounted for approximately $2 million of budget cuts instituted to compensate for the deficit, with other sources of funding drawn from early retirement initiatives and other spending cuts.

The college has effectively bridged gaps left behind in programs such as art history, which included a studio art-based track in its curriculum, and assisted studio art majors with completing their degrees on time, according to the Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services Savi Iyer.

Long acknowledged the importance of studio art as a tenet of the liberal arts curriculum, and of eliminating the classes from the fine arts prefix of Geneseo’s general education requirement.

“We certainly are aware that the arts is an important part of our understanding of human life and of creativity,” she said. “It’s clearly not a statement on the part of the college that studio art isn’t important or that we don’t want to have it around.”

While there will be no studio art classes or department in coming years, several studio art professors are eligible for a phased retirement program, allowing them to continue teaching at Geneseo for an agreed-upon period of years.

According to Long, one studio art professor has accepted a phased retirement agreement and will teach courses through the art history department in the 2014-2015 school year, with others potentially joining in coming months. The phased retirement professors may teach classes incorporating some studio art, but they “won’t be exactly the courses we have now,” Long said.

The specialized art studios in Brodie Hall will undergo a program study similar to that of Sturges and Fraser Halls to determine the reallocation of space on campus with the completion of construction in Doty and Bailey Halls. While the studios may go unused in the fall, the Brodie Hall study will start as early as summer 2014.

The college is working to incorporate art into student experiences in other ways. Professor of studio art Patrice Case said that the place of studio art is unique at Geneseo.

“We service more than just people coming in for a studio art course. We service biology majors, geology, philosophy, math, physics – those are the people that take our courses,” she said. “Those are the people: the left-brained thinkers that are asking for right-brained tasks to come to them. It makes a whole person.”

An arts presence will continue on campus on a smaller scale. Director of Galleries Cynthia Hawkins recently developed the Geneseo Integrated Gallery program in conjunction with administration – a committee of professors in a wide range of departments who will advise her on creating interdisciplinary art exhibits. The first exhibit under the program, titled “1888 in America: William Trost Richards’ ‘Seascape’ Contextualized,” will open in October 2014. Hawkins is calling for interdisciplinary student and faculty papers and presentations to accompany the exhibit discussing historic topics.

Additionally, Residence Life is incorporating an arts learning community into Nassau Residence Hall that will encompass studio art as well as music and dance.

Senior Carly Fowler is one of three current studio art majors. She is unsure of what kind of legacy the studio art department will leave at Geneseo, saying, “I think we’re all just a little bitter, and the closer it comes to 2014, the closer we are to being like, ‘This is the end.’”


Controversial Twitter account poses potential threat to college reputation

A boy jumping from a roof into a crowd of people, a slip and slide in a dorm hallway, a boy sipping beer in a classroom – these are just a few of the many activities photographed and posted on the Twitter account SUNYPartyStories (@SUNYPartyStory). Each weekend the account receives submissions of outrageous party pictures from students at State University of New York schools and holds a contest for the one that people find to be the best entertainment. On Sundays, SUNY students can submit photos by tweeting them at the SUNYPartyStories Twitter account. Followers of the account vote for the best submission, and the school where the photo was taken is identified on the post. Photos from Geneseo have been featured previously by the account.

The account was started in April 2013 and is managed anonymously by a SUNY student.

“I took the initiative and created this platform for a way for SUNY students to boast about their social lives, vote for who is the best, and create competition among the most popular endeavor in college,” the account operator said.

The operator of SUNYPartyStories said he chooses to remain anonymous so that people will not assume that he is biased toward his own school in the competition. He also said he wants to keep his identity separate from the account for personal reasons.

“I am a student comedian whose career and reputation rides on my image, and since the press tends to write about party stories in a negative manner, I do not want those negative images about me on the web as a develop myself professionally,” he said.

According to the account operator, only about 2,500 people followed the account at the end of the summer, but a huge increase in its popularity began in mid-September. In three months, the number of followers increased to over 45,000. Today, about 48,000 people follow the account.

“The popularity came about because everyone does it,” the account operator said.

Wendi Kinney, the assistant dean of students for fraternal life and off-campus services at Geneseo, has a different theory about why the account has gained popularity.

“It’s a spectacle for people to watch, like reality TV,” she said.

Bryce Wiley is a sophomore economics major at Geneseo. He has submitted a photo to SUNYPartyStories.

“It gives a glimpse into the nightlife at each SUNY school and shows some of the crazy and hilarious things that go on during the weekends,” he said.

Kinney expressed concern about the fact that the people in the photos do not usually submit them.

“People forget how far-reaching social media can be,” she said. “It’s fun in the moment to the people posting and retweeting, but we forget that it’s affecting a real person.”

The account operator expressed that if someone in a photo on the account does not want to be featured, they can request for the photo to be taken down and it immediately will be. This happens regularly.

“I’m not here to deteriorate anyone’s image or get people in trouble, just for good ‘new-fashioned’ fun,” he said.

There has been speculation that the site could damage the image of SUNY schools.

Wiley said, “If people don't like the side of college the Twitter [account] portrays, they don't have to follow it.”

The account operator said people should understand that being associated with a photo on the Twitter account is not meant to have a negative impact on the school’s reputation, but that it is “just a reflection of what the tour guides are forbidden to say.”

Kinney, however, said she believes that the account could affect impressions of Geneseo.

“We project an image, and this could impact what people think of the institution,” she said.




Blue Wave looks to follow up decades of wins

There is a timeless expression in sports, “Winning isn’t everything.” Apparently, the Geneseo Blue Wave men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams haven’t yet gotten that message. The women of the Blue Wave have won six championships and are looking for their seventh title this season. Their success dates back decades as they’ve won an unheard of 15 SUNYAC championships in 17 years. There isn’t a professional team that can even be used as an example against that.

But the achievements don’t end there. The men are just as successful in their own right, as the team has won 12 SUNYAC championships in the past 13 years.

Though Geneseo is only a small public college in western New York, its accomplishments in the sport are well noted across the nation as it has made multiple trips to the illustrious NCAA Tournament, which features the best teams in the country.

The team has thrived because of dedicated and motivated leaders. Head coach Paul Dotterweich acknowledges a few exceptional athletes who have been key to the recent success.

“We have several leaders on the women’s team, hard to pick out a few, although [junior] Abby Max is the defending SUNYAC Swimmer of the Year and an eight-time All-American,” Dotterweich said. “She is clearly a very talented athlete.”

Dotterweich added, “[Senior] Lily Powell has been to NCAAs on relays the last two years and has four All-American certifications as well. [Senior] Emily Wanamaker has been to the regional meet in diving.”

The men also returned swimmers who are used to winning and made it to the finals last year, including sophomore Kristian Tialios, who is continuing his string of victories this season.

Just last season, the Blue Wave women dominated the competition in the SUNYAC championship, winning the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle relay, 400 free relay, 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard breaststroke.

The men, unfortunately, suffered one of their only defeats by falling to SUNY Cortland in the finals. This year, they are looking for a different finale in order to add another trophy to their already overflowing case.

It is through “hard work … [and] being willing to go the extra mile in training and pushing yourself beyond any perceived limits,” Dotterweich said. He added that this exceptional team has thrived and captured 21 SUNYAC titles in its history.

The women and men remain undefeated in SUNYAC meets and are on their way.

“How can there not be pressure [to win SUNYACs],” Dotterweich said. Fortunately, the members of the Blue Wave seem not to notice, as they are too busy winning.

Women's hoops blows by RIT

The Geneseo women’s basketball team has gotten off to a hot start this season. The third-seeded Knights’ record remains without blemish after they defeated the Rochester Institute of Technology on Tuesday Dec. 3 at the Wendy’s College Classic. The tournament is in its 48th iteration and looks to give area teams a chance to compete against one another, as many of the teams play in different conferences. Head coach Scott Hemer said that he likes to use this tournament as a “measuring stick” to see what the team needs to do to get ready for conference play.

Against RIT, the Knights looked ready as ever.

From the get-go, Geneseo was clearly the dominant team against the Tigers. The Knights’ up-tempo style of play proved to be too much for RIT, as the Tigers had seven turnovers, five of which were steals by Geneseo.

“We jumped all over them,” Hemer said. “We looked like the team the coaching staff envisions them being.”

Following a 23-7 scoring run, the Knights went into halftime up 49-25 – the first time all season the Knights closed out the first half with the lead. Hemer said the Knights have struggled keeping the pace of play for all 40 minutes, which explains why, even being up by 22 at one point, he was still expecting more from his team.

Twenty of those first-half points belonged to junior Shannon McGinnis, who had a career night with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Through the first four games, she averages 20.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game, good for a double-double each time.

Sophomore Dana Cohen also played a vital role in the game, supplying a career-high nine assists. She averages 4.8 assists per game, the most on the team.

Despite the big win, Hemer does not appear satisfied. Not to say that he is upset, but he said there are always things to improve.

“I am a perfectionist, and I have high expectations,” he said. “If they didn’t have the talent level, it would be a different story.”

With the victory, Geneseo advances to the semifinal game against defending Wendy’s Classic champions University of Rochester at 6 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 5 at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester. The No. 2 seed this year, Rochester defeated SUNY Brockport on Tuesday Dec. 3 with a score of 56-46.