Editor’s note: Nate Jackson, a San Jose native, spent six seasons in the NFL. This is his weekly Fantasy Football column for the Bay Area News Group. His books include “Slow Getting Up” and “Fantasy Man.”
The tendency to accentuate the negative can throw a team off its game. Instead of eyeing the next opponent, many teams play Whac-A-Mole with their problems from the previous week, chasing ghosts around the garden, and losing sight of the challenge that lies before them.
“They might beat us,” an insecure coach will say while watching film of the next opponent, “but this guy sure as hell won’t!” And he’ll point to the stud running back who is getting all of the press. “He will not beat us!” says the coach.
So he caters his game plan to stopping the run — and the team gets scorched through the air.
This is important to understand as a fantasy football owner: everyone is gunning for last week’s stud. If red hits one week, the next week, you may want to bet on black.
But maybe I shouldn’t be giving advice. Last week I bet on red — the 49ers — and lost. Not smart, in hindsight, but optimism has no landing gear. We tell ourselves, every week, that we will win. And we believe it every time.
I miss that part about football: the absolutism, the unchallengeable result of a contest, the constant reckoning. Out here in the “real world,” wins and losses aren’t as easily determined, and the weeks are all the same.
Yesterday, I got another letter from a lawyer who wants to represent me in the NFL’s billion dollar concussion settlement. I get a lot of these letters.
“Brother,” it always starts out, or “Fellow NFL Veteran”—then they give the pitch. If I sign on with their firm, they’ll collect 15 percent of my future dementia payments and will handle all of the paperwork, which will “maximize our payouts.” Payouts are said to be high, which explains all of the lawyers hanging around.
But Judge Anita Brody, who is presiding over the settlement, said that we don’t need representation. The testing procedure is in place.
You simply sign up and await instructions. But that has not stopped lawyers from assuring uninformed players that representation is needed — and in some cases, even giving cash advances to potentially demented (fingers crossed!) former players, so they’ll sign over 15 percent of up to $5 million in future payouts.
The most recent letter I received appealed also to any girlfriend or spouse who has been affected by the behavior of a brain damaged lover. She is entitled to settlement money, too, the law firm insists. In addition, this lawyer would be happy to represent me in the new class action suit against Riddell, the helmet-maker—another company in the saga’s legal cross-hairs.
Last week, I toured a concussion rehabilitation facility in Southern California. They use a series of treatments — diet, yoga, meditation, brain games, art therapy, acupuncture, rest, light-control, brain mapping machines, etc. — to heal the injured brain. It’s a full-immersion program in a controlled environment that lasts 30 days — and it only costs $50,000. They’re trying to recruit football players who are fresh out of the league — and who still have a generous insurance plan. Vested veterans receive 5 years of post-career health coverage.
After a tour of the facility, then a PowerPoint presentation, it was time for a demonstration of the equipment. I volunteered to be hooked to the machine. They put a cap on my head with wires sticking out of it and holes in it, filling the small holes with gel to stimulate the brainwave connection through my scalp.
I sat in a soft chair in front of a big flat-screen TV, watching my brain waves move across it, trying to control my racing heart. I noticed how each errant thought, each whimsy, each recognition of the test in process — caused a jump or spike on the lines running across the screen.
“It’s very sensitive,” said the technician in a soothing voice, inches behind my ear. “For instance, when you blink, these lines are affected. Here…see..” I blinked and the lines jumped.
She studied the lines. “Hmmmm,” she said, then switched to a rotating, 3-D scan of my brain, which could isolate the brain activity in each section. Green/blue was good. Red was bad. Most everything was greenish, but — wait a minute, look at that! There’s red flashing in my brain!
She isolated the prefrontal cortex on the screen. Yep, definitely red. Damn. But why was it flashing? In defiance of the test? Or is that brain damage?
“Do you have a hard time falling asleep sometimes?” she asked. “Or do you dwell on a thought and can’t let it go?”
“No. Well, yeah, I mean, sometimes.”
“Yep, I can see that right here. And the beauty in this treatment is that you can fix it without taking any drugs whatsoever. It becomes as easy as … here, I’ll show you.”
With a few clicks of her mouse, she replaced the image of my prefrontal cortex with a video game — football, of course, so that I could understand.
The TV lit up with familiar colors: a green field with white lines across it. A quarterback stood alone on the goal line, 20 yards from a striped bucket.
“Throw the ball in the bucket,” she said in a smooth monotone. I looked at the quarterback and he threw the ball, a spiral, which landed 5 feet in front of the bucket. Then I looked at the bucket and the next throw bounced off the lip. Then I really looked at the bucket, and the ball went in.
The deeper I stared into the bucket, the more balls went in. The bucket moved back to 30, 40, 50 yards. Still, the balls went in — one after another. I heard them talking behind me — about me, about the treatment — but the words floated over me like clouds. It was only when I acknowledged them and tried to engage them — with a wink or a smile — that the circuit broke, and the ball fell short.
There are a lot of experts analyzing Week 1 of the NFL. They are holding caps with wires sticking out. They want to play Whac-A-Mole. Pay them no mind. Just focus on the bucket.
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