Wednesday, January 8, 2014


My essay "A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is out today in The New Inquiry's issue 24, "Bloodsport." Since The New Inquiry doesn't take footnotes, I am putting my footnotes here, sans context. Gotta cite those works.

Update 1/31/2014: My attention was recently brought to Daniel Goldberg's useful article "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, the U. S. National Football League, and the Manufacture of Doubt: An Ethical, Legal, and Historical Analysis," which also uses a Geertzian framework for understanding the NFL's management of evidence.
Lindsey adds this.

1. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth (New York: Crown Books, 2013), 13.

2. Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” Daedalus 101, no. 1 (January 1, 1972): 1–37.

3. Geertz, “Deep Play,” 27-8.

4. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Simon and Schuster, 1926), 136.

5. Geertz, “Deep Play,” 5.

6. Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru, League of Denial, 13–4.

7. The joke’s on us if we compare football to war. In Stephen Crane’s iconic tale of scrambling toward masculinity, “[h]e ducked his head low like a football player.” Setting aside that the comparison is already anachronistic—American football was a post-Reconstruction Era phenomenon—as Bill Brown, like Geertz, suggests, play is conventionally a structuring metaphor for war rather than the reverse. In 2011, Bennet Omalu would connect CTE, the condition he diagnosed in former Steeler Mike Webster, to post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans. Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, and Other Stories, ed. Pascal Covici (New York: Penguin, 1991), 110; Bill Brown, The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane and the Economies of Play (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1996), 2; Bennet Omalu et al., “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in an Iraqi War Veteran with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Who Committed Suicide,” Neurosurgical Focus 31, no. 5 (November 2011): E3, doi:10.3171/2011.9.FOCUS11178.

8. Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011); cf. Donna Jeanne Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience (New York: Routledge, 1997).

9. Shapin and Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump, 66.

10. Claude Bernard, Introduction à l’étude de la médecine expérimentale (Baillière, 1865).

11. Ira R. Casson, Elliot J. Pellman, and David C. Viano, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player (letter),” Neurosurgery 58, no. 5 (May 2006): E1003, doi:10.1227/01.NEY.0000217313.15590.C5.

12. See e.g. Robert Proctor and Londa L. Schiebinger, eds., Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2008). See especially Part II: Lost Knowledge, Lost Worlds.

13. In the book, Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru make a strong distinction between Omalu’s reception and McKee’s; indeed, “BU’s researchers [McKee among them] literally kept a file on what they alleged were Omalu’s exaggerations”; in the book, Omalu is widely characterized as prone to overinterpretation (epistemological immodesty). Yet the distinction is also strongly associated with Omalu’s lack of social fit—his “inappropriate” inability or unwillingness to modify his academic presentation style for a room full of football players and family members, his lack of investment in football as a cultural phenomenon, and, indeed, his foreignness. “I think [his swift sidelining from scientific discourse was] because he’s a black man, I honestly believe that,” the former linebacker Harry Carson states. “And he’s not an American black man; he’s from Africa.” McKee, in contrast, is represented as a nearly ideal figure, “with blond hair and blue eyes, a Green Bay Packers nut from Appleton, Wisconsin, with a girlish giggle and a knack for making the brain accessible and fun.” Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru, League of Denial, 290–3; 255.

14. Gregg Rosenthal, “Michael Vick: I Lied to My Mom About Dogfighting,”, July 18, 2012,

15. It doesn’t end there. Vick is unpopular with “casual” fans, due to his dogfighting scandal, according to polling, but he is appreciated by “hardcore fans”—those, we might say, who “love the game.” Tom Van Riper, “The NFL’s Most-Disliked Players,” Forbes, October 21, 2013,

16. Rosenthal, “Michael Vick”; Dan Hanzus, “Michael Vick’s Book Reveals QB’s Dogfighting Mindset,”, July 16, 2012,

17. Perfetto’s occupation is mentioned in neither the documentary nor the book. Alan Schwarz, “Ralph Wenzel, Whose Dementia Led to Debate on Football Safety, Dies at 69,” The New York Times, June 22, 2012, sec. Sports / Pro Football,; Alan Schwarz, “Wives United by Husbands’ Post-N.F.L. Trauma,” The New York Times, March 14, 2007, sec. Sports / Pro Football,

18. As Perfetto notes, this dementia is often characterized by violent episodes, which are especially dangerous coming from exceptionally large men who are not yet old or even necessarily middle-aged. See Schwarz, “Wives United by Husbands’ Post-N.F.L. Trauma.”

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