Sports, USA

Pot in Football: A No-Brainer Brain-Saver?

The NFL has become tougher to watch in recent years. This is not due to the product on the field, which is as spectacular as ever, but the knowledge that we are gaining about the consequences of all the head-banging, bone-crushing hits that go into making that product.

Our knowledge of the immense damage to the bodies and minds of many of our helmeted heroes saps some of the fun out of watching the game, even though it is partly our innate savage bloodlust that makes that game so fun to watch in the first place. But while problems like concussions are a total Sunday morning buzz kill, our increased awareness of such maladies has also led to an increased initiative to address them. As a result of this exposure, the NFL has made sensible in-game rule changes to protect players, increased its support system for those who have left the game, and contributed to research that could have positive, life-changing impacts for all people who suffer from brain-related injuries.

Which is why the recent three-pronged proposal by Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman, Eugene Monroe, is such a no-brainer:


Surprisingly, this statement made Eugene Monroe the first active player in NFL history to openly advocate for the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain and sports related injuries. However, as reasonable as his proposition may seem, early signs point to a staunch resistance.


By all accounts, the NFL already has a fairly lenient, look-the-other-way approach in regards to marijuana use by players. Most players are only tested one time per year, and they are usually quite aware of where and when that test will be. Once players have tested clean, they are unofficially free to participate in clandestine cannabis use all season and off-season long until the next training camp test rolls around.

However, this should not be misconstrued to mean that the NFL is a progressive institution in regards to marijuana. Marijuana use is highly vilified in the NFL, despite the likelihood that over 50% of its players are regular users. Players who, albeit stupidly, fail their training camp tests, can get sucked into a system that is impossible to beat, where they may be subject to testing up to ten times per month. Players who are caught publicly have it even worse, acquiring a stigma that can have profound effects on their careers. Nobody knows this better than rookie Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil, whose stock dropped drastically in the 2016 NFL draft when video surfaced of him ripping a bong through a gas mask just minutes before the draft began, a drop that could have cost him up to 8 million dollars.

And while the NFL is punishing marijuana users, it is also actively promoting the use of drugs that are far more dangerous: opioid-based painkillers. In his highly publicized essay, Monroe describes what he calls the “T Train,” a line that forms in his locker room prior to every game where players wait to receive their pregame shot of the powerful painkiller known as Toradol. While this drug is highly effective at making 60 minutes of professional football bearable, its effectiveness can be dangerous as it can often mask in-game injuries that really should be dealt with immediately. It is also highly addictive.

Abuse of prescription painkillers is nothing new to the NFL. Many people from my generation and my part of the country remember 20 years ago when our hero/arch-nemesis Brett Favre checked himself into rehab for the abuse of the painkiller vicodin. Painkiller abuse is nothing new in our country either, but it is on the rise. Everybody from Barack Obama to Macklemore is talking about the opioid epidemic which has led to a tripling of overdose deaths since the year 2000.


Which is why marijuana makes so much sense. Studies suggest that marijuana could be highly effective in providing relief for certain types of pain often associated with football without the accompaniment of the addictive properties possessed by prescription pain pills. What is more, some research even suggests that marijuana could possess some protective properties that may actually help to prevent the degeneration of the brain caused by concussions and other football related head injuries.

Unfortunately, the research on marijuana is pretty limited. Much of the evidence that is supportive of marijuana’s effectiveness is anecdotal as opposed to scientific, meaning that even though many current and former players “say” that marijuana has been beneficial to them in dealing with aching knees and throbbing skulls, there is insufficient scientific evidence to “prove” that what they are saying is true.

But this is what makes Monroe’s request so reasonable. Monroe is not calling for the NFL to replace the T Train with a locker room dispensary. He is simply asking the NFL to cease with its vilification of the drug, to remove it from the banned substances list on which it currently resides and treat it like the potentially revolutionary treatment that it could indeed be. He also wants research dollars that could add some scientific evidence to the immense body of anecdotal knowledge that already exist.

Marijuana might not work for everybody in every situation. While marijuana seems to provide plenty of post-game relief, nobody is suggesting a Sunday morning wake-and-bake to help reduce in-game injuries. Furthermore, it is important to note that marijuana use also has its dangers and downfalls, although they pale in comparison to those carried by prescription meds. As a current non-pot smoker who’s been high hundreds of times throughout his life, I think that I can safely state that, for me, the anxiety and paranoia that I personally experience from the use of marijuana outweighs many of the potential medicinal benefits. But who knows, maybe if I wreck my knees and back someday, I will change my tune.


If the NFL is serious about caring for its players, it will explore the use of marijuana as a potential alternative to more traditional pain treatment. It will fund marijuana research and help to provide the science that it says it needs in order to make any sweeping changes to official NFL policy. It will alter its cavalier attitude towards prescription pain pills, and double-down on its look-the-other-way approach as players continue to blaze up in private.

I’m not confident that the NFL will respond accordingly. Roger Goodell is a politician who, just like every major presidential candidate who threw their hat into this year’s election, won’t flip on marijuana until it is politically viable to do so. And that’s too bad. It would be nice to see the league that I love so much be ahead of the curve for once on something instead of awkwardly stumbling behind. But maybe nowadays, that’s just what progress looks like. #cannabis4pain


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Politics, USA

Donald Trump is no longer a joke, so we should stop laughing

Donald Trump is an idiot. He is a self-absorbed, thin-skinned, jingoistic assclown who has no business being a serious contender for the most powerful office in the world. He is an international laughing stock who is deserving of every ounce of dismissive ridicule that he has received from pundits and voters alike.

Up until now, Trump has been pretty easy for us to laugh off. We laughed off the announcement of his campaign for the presidency. We laughed off his second place finish in Iowa and his first place finish in New Hampshire. We laughed off his erroneous claims and insensitive comments. We laughed off his blatant ignorance and his macho stupidity. But all the laughing in the world has failed to run the Trump Train off the tracks.

Donald Trump can no longer be laughed off. His virtual clinching of the Republican nomination means that he has a legitimate opportunity to become the President of the United States. That means that he is a candidate that needs to be taken seriously, no matter how undeserving of that seriosity he may be.

And undeserving he is. The sweeping generalizations and complete lack of specificity that Trump has used when talking about policy both foreign and domestic are weak cover for the obvious insufficiency of knowledge that he possesses in regards to running a country. What is more, since declaring his candidacy, Trump has insulted nearly every major minority block in the nation. With all the offensive comments that he has made, it’s almost shocking that there are any groups of unoffended people left to vote for him.


This is one of the most disturbing things about the rise of Trump. It seems that people are voting for Trump not in spite of the horrible things that he has said, but because of them. Trump’s rise reveals an ugly truth about modern day America—we are still a very hateful place.

Trump’s rise also reveals something else—we in the United States are disgusted with Washington politics. Donald Trump is a lot of things, but he is not a political robot. In a lot of ways, he’s the opposite. His political incorrectness, while most of the time blatantly offensive, can feel refreshing in a country where political correctness oftentimes goes overboard.   His willingness to speak his mind and shoot from the hip, as incoherent as some of those ramblings may be, can sound refreshing when compared to the carefully crafted, politically calculated taglines that we are used to hearing from our Washington representatives. As strange as it may seem, billionaire Donald Trump is an anti-establishment candidate, and considering what American has gotten from the establishment recently, it’s pretty understandable how an anti-establishment candidate, even one as terrible as Donald Trump, can have so much appeal.

What is scary about this for those of us who tremor at the thought of a Trump presidency is the fact that Trump’s biggest strength is Hillary’s most glaring weakness. Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. She is the definition of political royalty, and for many people, representative of everything that is wrong with Washington politics. That is the reason that Bernie Sanders is still winning primaries despite the inevitability of a Clinton victory at the Democratic Convention.


And while it seems logical to think that Bernie supporters would automatically back Hillary upon her official coronation as the Democratic nominee, I’m not so sure that all of them will. The Bernie Bro is a really thing, and some of those bros are less about Bernie’s ideals and more about the cult personality that he has come to represent. What makes me nervous about this is that many of those personality traits that have made Bernie so popular—his brashness, his defiance, his refusal to conform, and his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude—are personality traits very similar to those possessed by Donald Trump. Come the general election, those voters who are voting for Bernie based on his ideals will either vote for Hillary or for a third party candidate that is more representative of progressive values. But what about those voters who don’t vote for Bernie based on his ideals? Those voters who view the presidential election like a quadrennial episode of American Idol? Can we pencil those voters in for Hillary? Or perhaps a better question, can we be sure that those voters won’t vote for Donald Trump?


The Republican Party seems pretty divided at the moment, and if the Mitt Romney’s of the world are able to orchestrate a big name conservative candidate to run on a third party ticket in the general election, that would almost certainly ensure a Clinton plurality. But I’m not so sure that that division will last. Establishment Republicans are already beginning to sing conciliatory tunes, and even though many of them hate Trump, I still think that most of them hate Clinton more, and nothing brings conservative Republicans together like a common liberal enemy.


Part of me is happy that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. I’m happy that the racist, jingoist bullshit that Republicans have tacitly tolerated and promoted for years is finally coming home to roost. I’m happy that the Republican Party has been tossed into at least temporary turmoil, and will almost certainly need to seek a post-Trump realignment that will hopefully make the party more in tune with the 21st century and give us a two-party system in which both parties are at least halfway legitimate. I’m happy that a Donald Trump nomination dramatically increases the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton presidency, even though she’s a candidate that I’m not particularly excited about.

But I’m becoming less and less sure about that last part, and more and more sure that scoffing liberals aren’t doing anything to help that cause. Liberals need to take Trump seriously. They need to seriously address not only the hatred and bigotry that Donald Trump possesses, but the hatred and bigotry that he represents here in the United States. Liberals also need to recognize the legitimate reasons that Trump has garnered so much popular support, as misguided as that support may be. They need to think about what Trump’s rise says about modern-day liberalism—its weaknesses and its lack of appeal to huge swaths of people—and let that analysis inform their campaign to keep the executive branch in liberal hands. But if liberals continue to try to laugh off Trump, to treat his campaign like some sort of joke, I’m afraid in the end that it might be Trump who is laughing all the way to the White House.

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Okay, no more laughing after this:

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