NFL players should tackle their fans

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I’ve never played organized football, which is why — though I like to write about the sport — I tend to steer the conversation away from in-game strategy and towards things I understand: statistics, technology, philosophy of sports, murder mysteries, English literature, word games, and so on.

But I’m still interested in reading about the game from the perspective of the people who play it — even when those accounts appear on Bleacher Report — which is how I found my way to Ryan Riddle’s syndicated column. Unlike me, Riddle’s played in the NFL* — he was drafted by Oakland, and went on to play for the Jets, Falcons, and Raiders — and that qualifies him to provide an insider’s perspective. But that doesn’t mean he has all the answers.

*After recently drawing a comparison between Russell Wilson and Harry Potter, and further noting that today is the latter’s birthday, I just have to point out that Riddle shares a last name with He Who Shall Not Be Named.

In a recent installment of his column, Dispelling the Greatest Myths Surrounding NFL Training Camps, Riddle listed five misconceptions about the recently-begun NFL training camps. One myth in particular caught my eye, and I wrote this post with the intention of offering a solution to the obvious problem it presents. I’m just going to excerpt that fifth of a column in its entirety for the sake of completeness:

This is the Time for Guys to Become Better Tacklers

Truth be told, there’s only a few opportunities in training camp for defenders to tackle anyone at full speed. Nearly every drill of every practice throughout the summer is done at “thud tempo.” This means defenders are not allowed to leave their feet or take the ball-carrier down in any way. The only permissible contact allowed is a light bump or “thud” with the shoulder pad as the runner continues to past you, hence the name “thud tempo.”

The only real chance a guy has to work on his tackling skills comes in the preseason games. The problem is in-game moments to make a tackle are typically limited to a quarter of action, if that. Such time constraints tend to limit tackling opportunities to perhaps a few times a contest.

This may help explain why NFL defenders are surprisingly poor tacklers. In fact, this phenomenon only appears to be getting worse.

It seems odd that training camps around the league would neglect such a fundamental aspect of the sport. It appears that the fear of injuries to key players significantly overrides any desire to become a team equipped with technically sound tacklers.

So, the next time you hear about an NFL team focusing on tackling in training camp, ask yourself whether or not this focus involves taking a player to the ground with any regularity and the answer is almost guaranteed to be a resounding “no.”

Tackling in an NFL practice is a rare event, limited to only a few drills throughout the course of a summer. This is hardly an adequate amount of repetitions for anyone to shake off the rust of an offseason without pads, let alone improve upon a critical point of emphasis.

On one level, the risk aversion makes some sense. We’re less than a week into training camp, and already Jason Phillips, Jeremy Maclin, Turk McBride, Dennis Pitta, Dan Koppen, Percy Harvin, Keenan Robinson, Armon Binns, Aaron Berry, Tyrone Crawford, and Jonas Mouton have gone down and are expected to miss significant time, if not the entire 2013-14 season.

These training camp injuries hardly all came as the direct result of hard-hitting tacklers, but if this is what we see before most players even start wearing pads, the concern is understandable. There’s no sense putting your expensive and fragile wide receivers into the line of fire and allowing them to acquire more bumps and bruises than absolutely necessary over the course of the already-grueling 16+-game schedule.

Moreover, concussions pose a growing threat to the game, underlined by the headline that recently-drafted Ryan Swope recently retired as the result of repeated blows to the brain box.

Which is why I propose letting NFL players practice their technique on the fans instead. Already, thousands of them come out to watch [we talkin about] practices just for the opportunity to scream for their favorite players and beg them for autographs. Now imagine letting them participate.  If Terry Tate’s officemates could put up with his unexpected punishment, letting select fans onto the practice field could be nothing but a wonderful idea. Sure, a sizable majority probably has no interest in being pancaked by Kam Chancellor:

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Paper Treiger braces for upcoming worker’s comp claim

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I always joke I want to hire an intern. Like everyone else, I’m behind on life, and an extra set of hands to do all the things I’d like to but don’t have time for would go a long way towards fixing that problem — and until I can clone myself, an intern is the only viable option.

But as I said, that’s a pipe dream; though it has twice featured guest bloggers, this blog has always been wholly owned and operated by a single individual. It has never hired an employee to do its work, dirty or otherwise.

With one exception.

Back in 2011, when Paper Treiger was the subject of virulent protest less than one short week after its inauguration, it hired UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike to disperse the dirty occupiers:

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“Tear gas canisters, BDS Stickers and hope: What I Saw on My Trip to Palestine/Israel This Summer”: a response

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The most-commented article right now on the Daily Pennsylvanian’s website (and therefore highlighted alongside the right-hand margin) is a guest column by rising Junior Clarissa O’Conor titled Tear gas canisters, BDS Stickers and hope: What I Saw on My Trip to Palestine/Israel This Summer.

In the column, O’Conor describes her recent visit to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and elsewhere in the company of “two other Penn alums, a larger group of Presbyterians from Atlanta, Jews, Muslims and secular folks, and one alumni of Birthright Israel.” [The editorial oversight that allowed this sentence to be printed as is simply boggles my mind. Thank you, "Summer Pennsylvanian."] In any event, O’Conor believes that this field trip qualifies her to hold forth on the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict because she’s gone where no American visiting on Birthright has gone before:

Throughout the entire trip, I could not help but think of my fellow Penn students who have taken a Birthright tour of Israel or are there now on Birthright Excel. I know that they do not go where I went. I know that they are told nothing about what they are seeing outside their bus windows through Palestine/Israel. For example, although Israeli soldiers accompany Birthright groups to encourage the identification of young American Jews with the Israeli army, these groups do not visit the more than 600 military checkpoints, roadblocks and barriers that are symbols of Israel’s control over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

O’Conor seems to know a lot about what people do on Birthright for someone who — I’d wager — never went on such a trip herself. Having staffed two in the past [full disclosure: I staffed two Birthright trips in the past, and what people do on Birthright is hook up], I would dispute that the American visitors are “told nothing about what they are seeing outside their bus windows through Palestine/Israel” — though I would agree that they probably don’t often experience checkpoints like O’Conor did.

But I’m not writing to defend Birthright; I’m writing to o’ffend O’Conor. The ironic thing about her description of a Birthright trip and all that it omits from the itinerary is that her own seems somewhat far from complete. Here is a list of her experiences on this recent trip — the locations, people, and organizations she writes of having visited:

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The royal baby is at risk of inheriting a rather unfortunate genetic trait — but there’s still some hope

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There’s a stereotype, not entirely undeserved, that royal lineages suffer from inbreeding and other genetic disorders. The British monarchy is no exception, and geneticists have made parlour sport out of predicting the family’s imminent and inevitable decline into grotesque deformity for quite some time. This post is just meant to pile on by presenting additional evidence of genetic breakdown following the recent birth of the future tyrant King George Alexander Louis VII [with those namesakes, how could he turn out to be anything but?].

Specifically, I’m talking about the ability to properly secure a seatbelt. Prince William and Duchess Kate caught some flak after appearing in public the first time for the way they fastened their precious bundle into his car seat:

Once photos of the debut appeared online, viewers noticed something apparently amiss with how the Royal Baby’s car seat was secured.

Childcare blog Baby Center pointed to website ChildCarSeats.co.uk, which states that the belt should be properly adjusted across the child, laying tightly against the body so only two fingers can fit between the chest and harness. The blog’s community started buzzing.

“If you scroll down to the photos of the baby in the carseat you will see he is not properly strapped in AT ALL!!” wrote one commenter. “Very disappointed! I’m sure they were in a hurry, and I hope that Kate will fix it once they are in the vehicle as it appeared she was sitting in back with the baby.”

Other apparent mistakes were pointed out on iVillage, which advised parents to “[n]ever put a swaddled baby in a car seat.” The site also advised that car seat “[s]houlder straps [should] go over baby’s shoulders … [and] should be snug enough that baby can’t get hands under them.” Woops.

Some royal baby-watchers speculated that certain elements of the baby’s initial appearance were meant as an homage to Prince William’s late mother, Princess Diana — and more specifically, his own first appearance in public:

The scene was reminiscent of when William was introduced to the world by his parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana outside the same hospital wing in 1982.

If the tribute was indeed intentional, this seatbelt fail is unlikely to have made Di smile down from heaven, as she seems to have suffered from similar difficulties — and learned her lesson all too late:

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed would have survived if they had been wearing seatbelts when their car crashed, a police expert told the inquest into their deaths yesterday.

Senior accident investigator Anthony Read said he could “almost guarantee” that the couple would have survived had they been strapped in and travelling at the speed limit when their Mercedes crashed in Paris’s Alma tunnel.

If even the commoners who marry into the royal family pass on the least-adaptive of their own genetic inheritance, what chance does the monarchy have?

And now for that glimmer of hope: just because Diana and William can’t work a seatbelt doesn’t mean Georgy can’t either. There’s always the possibility that the royal baby will inherit some seatbelt sensibility from his mother, who hails from the wee town of Bucklebury.

Admittedly, this post is in rather poor taste — and might be blocked by David Cameron’s brand-new all-encompassing internet filter — but it’s always worth seizing the opportunity to remind y’all to Buckleham [Palace] up.

The Lincoln Memorial was vandalized last night — or was it?

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The CBS headline is blunt — “Lincoln Memorial vandalized“:

Green paint was splattered overnight on parts of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., U.S. Park police say.

They say a patrol officer found green plant splashed on the floor near the famous statue of President Lincoln, and some on the base of the statue, at around 1:20 a.m. local time.

The memorial, on the National Mall, will be closed until the U.S. Park Service can clean it up.

NBC changes a few of the details, but still reaches the same conclusion — “Lincoln Memorial vandalized“:

The Lincoln Memorial will be closed until further notice after green paint was discovered on the monument Friday morning.

A visitor found the paint splattered on the statue and on the floor around it just before 1:30 a.m. and reported it to police. No words or symbols were written on the statue, News4′s Megan McGrath reported.

The U.S. Park Police say the monument will reopen once the National Park Service cleans the statue. There’s no estimate on when that work will be done, but maintenance crews are expected to arrive Friday morning.

Some people have predictably overreacted:

Clubbing seals is horrendous. Assassinating the President is horrendous. Enslaving another human being is horrendous. This is just paint.

But while it’s tempting to pin the crime on a marauding band of Germanic barbarians or the University of Idaho football team, I’m not so sure vandals were responsible. There’s another possibility that seems not to have been considered, and might just put Mr. Klapper’s outrage to rest — perhaps the Lincoln Memorial turning green is simply natural processes at work:

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Hey PETA, that’s kind of what’s supposed to happen

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About a month ago, I presented a passionate defense of the mandatory study of my major – biology – in schools. I ended off the post by sharing a truly horrifically graphic video that even I couldn’t make it all the way through. The article I’m writing about today is just about as disturbing — though fortunately, it doesn’t include video — but the bottom line is the same: we need to do a better job with biological literacy.

An undercover investigator working for PETA — the kind ag-gag laws are trying to outlaw* — helped California police shut down the warehouse of an exotic animal distributor housing over 20,000 rats, snakes, and other reptiles. The warehouse owners were charged with 106 counts of animal cruelty and 11 counts of torturing or cruelly killing rodents.

*If camcorders are outlawed, only outlaws will have camcorders.

The details are pretty disturbing, and Newser was kind enough to share some of the lowlights:

Many [of the animals] were dead and maggot-ridden, and the rest had to be euthanized, the Press-Enterprise reports.

The smell of disease, urine, and feces overwhelmed the rescue team when they entered the exotic-animal distributor in December, the AP reports. Cleanup efforts cost the city of Lake Elsinore some $94,000. Animal rights groups, including PETA, had been investigating the company; PETA used an undercover informant who shot video of employees. Investigators and activists reported shocking cruelty:

  • Animals were starved and dehydrated, and “some were literally eating each other alive”;
  • Workers fired BB guns at animals;
  • Video shows employees swinging a rat by its tail;
  • Animals were slammed into objects and thrown in trash cans;
  • Snakes were transported in deli cups.

The company, which was opened in 2009, had a carbon dioxide chamber for euthanizing animals, but they were “repeatedly killed … in a very cruel, violent manner” anyway.

As I said, pretty horrific stuff, and I hope they throw the book at these people and more. But I have to say, one of the article’s examples of cruelty struck me as considerably less shocking than the others — the first. We’re talking about a warehouse full of rats and snakes. As a biology major, I feel safe noting that they’re kind of supposed to be “literally eating each other alive”:

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Sharks prefer men – so why did this one attack a woman?

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Judging by the reaction to Sharknado, people on the internet really like sharks. And while I don’t normally write for anyone but myself, I’m going to make an exception for the sake of making a truly tasteless* “joke.” OK, so I guess I am still writing for myself.

*1. Pun intended. 2. You’ve been warned.

A teenager was attacked and killed Monday by a shark off the coast of Brazil near Recife. She was in the process of drowning when the shark decided to lend her a hand… by biting off her leg. Per Newser:

It’s hard to imagine a worse way to die: Bruni Gobbi was drowning, with lifeguards on their way to help the 18-year-old and her cousin on Monday, when a shark attacked. It bit Gobbi’s left leg, and though rescuers were able to get her ashore, she died that night at a hospital, CNN reports. The Daily Mail adds that her leg was amputated before her death, but she had lost too much blood. Gobbi and her cousin were swimming at Boa Viagem beach in Recife, Brazil, at the time.

“The rescuers came in a matter of five minutes, but to us it felt like five years,” the cousin tells a local CNN affiliate. “We knew there were risks of an attack, but I didn’t think that it would happen in the shallow [water], but in the deep.”

I would quibble over the claim that it’s hard to imagine worse ways to die (there’s always ebola), but as things go, this one is pretty horrific. And I recognize that. Which is why I’m also aware that the remainder of this post is way over the fishing line. But the Newser article went on to share a curious statistic I was drawn to like a shark after blood — and quite frankly, I couldn’t help myself:

Such attacks aren’t exactly rare in the area: In the past two decades, about 23 people have been attacked off Boa Viagem beach. Gobbi is the first woman to die from an attack in the state of Pernambuco during that period. Officials believe she was attacked by a bull shark.

Apparently, Brazilian sharks have a preference for men — just like Brazilian piranhas.

I find the existence of sex preferences surprising. Gun to my head, I’d have guessed sharks find women tastier (and I’d have been totally wrong). Indeed, it’s unlikely sharks find people all that tasty to begin with, meaning that the question of Why hangs over just about every shark attack.

So what prompted this shark to gobble up Gobbi? My theory: a case of mistaken identity by a really bad speller:

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Three lawsuits in the news and why they’re really so silly

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Some lawsuits are a good idea. Some are not. This post is about three that have been in the news and that are not. None seemed worth a post on its own, but now that I have a little collection going, here we go:

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WWII rages on: U.S. invaders continue to haunt its Axis adversaries

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You might recognize the little guy you see above as a character from Pocahontas. In case you don’t remember him — and this will be important in a moment — his name is “Miko”. As it happens, Miko is also the Shinto term for “shrine maiden” — and what follows is an account of how Miko the cartoon raccoon is causing a lot of grief for shrine maidens all over Japan.

To fully understand this story, you have to go back to World War II. The roots of Nazi Germany are often traced back to the settlement terms of the Great War, which forced the defeated Central Powers to pay crippling reparations to the victorious Allies. When World War III breaks out, it will be tempting to trace its underlying cause to the damage and humiliation the United States continues to inflict upon the defeated Axis powers of World War II. I’m not talking about the U.S. military bases that still dot Germany and Japan, but about a different kind of invader — raccoons:

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