Looking ahead to the 2016 season and beyond, a request to readers to submit ideas on what they’d like to see on this football site. Plus mailbag questions answered on Ali, Las Vegas vs. Texas, sideline video and more
POUND RIDGE, N.Y. — So we’re out here in the wilds of northern Westchester County, 50 minutes above New York City, trying to chart the course of The MMQB for 2016 and beyond. And I’d like your ideas.
I spent Tuesday and will spend today with the staff—editors Mark Mravic, Matt Gagne, Gary Gramling and Dom Bonvissuto; reporters Jenny Vrentas, Robert Klemko, Emily Kaplan, Andy Benoit, Kalyn Kahler and newbies Albert Breer and Tim Rohan; business man Andrew Brandt; and videographer John DePetro—idea-wrangling. Lots to discuss, because none of us knows the direction of information dissemination in the next few years.
We live in a different media world than the one I inhabited for the first 30 years or so of my journalism life. The 2016 season will be the fourth in the life of The MMQB, the fourth year I’ve been significantly concerned with partnering with the business community to support our site, the fourth year I’ve wondered how much we should be dipping our toes into social media (it’s never enough is the lesson), and the fourth year trying to balance storytelling through video with storytelling through words.
We're up here sitting by a lake, gazing at navels, trying to figure it all out. I don’t think we reach out enough in the media generally to take the temperature of the people who consume our product. And you’ve been incredibly loyal to us, growing every year. In 2015, 21 million of you came to The MMQB to learn something about pro football, and we’re going to expand into a wider scope this year. We’re planning a weekly college football column, for instance. We’ve got other ideas in the incubator too.
And so this is where I thought I’d take the very unscientific step of reaching out to you to ask three things about our efforts in 2016:
1. What do you want to see The MMQB do more of? Video stories? Investigations? Social media expansion? Other stuff?
2. What do you want to see The MMQB do less of?
3. What stories would you like to see us do? Give me some idea. Do you want more focus on specific aspects of the games—technology, analytics, players off the field? Give us your ideas as we debate how to assign our reporters.
I’d appreciate any ideas, and soon. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “The MMQB ideas” in the subject line. We’ll read them all, and I hope we implement a lot of them too. Thanks in advance.
Now onto your email for the week:
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BOXING AND CONCUSSIONS
I immensely enjoyed your early edition of MMQB to pay tribute to Ali. Thank you. Out of curiosity has the NFL ever been linked to any concussion studies on boxers? Does boxing even have a concussion protocol? I think it would be a wonderful story to hear about and another way to pay tribute to the most influential boxer who ever lived. I do believe many think that Ali's Parkinson disease and boxing career are linked together
—Joe H, Nevada
Joe, the NFL has combined with the military to study concussive effects on soldiers, and how the protective gear worn by our enlisted people helps when they suffer head trauma. But I don’t think they’ve worked with any organized bodies policing boxing. It’s highly likely that Ali’s condition was either caused or speeded up by prolonged exposure to boxing. Since covering boxing in the early eighties, I always wondered if one day fighters would wear protective headgear—and I think they should.
ALI AND THE DRAFT
Muhammad Ali was a great boxer. I'm too young to have seen him in his prime, but I recognize his greatness inside the ring. The issue I have is with your glorifying his decision to reject the draft. This is indicative of the current relationship of the United States' military and the citizenry it is sworn to protect. Less than 1 percent serve and more and more feel disconnected from the military. More and more do not understand the sacrifices required to serve. Muhammad Ali's decision in 1967 to eschew the civic duty of answering when his country called is reprehensible. Your glorifying that decision in 2016 and a week after Memorial Day is baffling. The Vietnam War was a dark day in America's history. The treatment of many Americans was equally dark. That doesn't change the fact that the United States was a nation that allowed Muhammad Ali to get filthy rich in pursuit of his dream to be the greatest boxer in his day. That doesn't change the fact that Muhammed Ali was WRONG to reject his duty to serve when called. I have no sympathy for the three years of boxing that that decision cost him. Tell the families of the 58,315 names written on the Vietnam War Memorial that their sons and daughters were on the wrong side of history. I think you expressing this decision as something admirable to your readers is a slap in the face to myself, my family, and my brothers and sisters in uniform.
—Ben, Stuttgart, Germany
Ali saw a war he disapproved of (as did tens of thousands of young American men) and he chose not to fight. For that, he had his heavyweight title stripped, he lost three-and-a-half years of prime earning potential, and he lived with a majority of Americans hating his guts for a few years—maybe longer. He paid the price for his beliefs, the same way many Americans did at that time. It’s my opinion that if a person doesn’t believe in fighting in a war, he should have the right to not serve and pay whatever the consequences are. Ali paid. Now, my opinion is his decision was the right one, because it was the right one for him. One other factor in his decision is that it might have (might have, I say) played a part in what became a firestorm of American feeling against the way and could have helped shorten United States involvement in Vietnam. If that is the case, it is conceivable that Ali’s involvement helped that number (58,315 dead) stay below 60,000, or 70,000. And wouldn’t that be positive? Any death in war is a tragedy, certainly. But if fewer men died in Vietnam because Ali and other protested so vehemently, I think their protestations were laudable.
LAS VEGAS VS. SAN ANTONIO RAIDERS
Despite the sudden groundswell of support for it, I fail to see how Las Vegas is a better destination for the Raiders than San Antonio would be. While it is true that the Vegas and San Antonio metro areas are very similar in size (2.0 million for Vegas versus 2.1 for San Antonio), there are another 1.25 million potential Raiders fans less than 100 miles away in the Austin metro area. While it is true that San Antonio currently has a majority of Cowboys fans, the Raiders would be an excellent choice to move to San Antonio because they have no real rivalry with the Cowboys (making it easier to quickly gain local support), AND they would make great local AFC rivals for the Texans. San Antonio and Houston fans already heavily go back and forth about basketball. The cherry on top is that the Raiders would have an NFL-ready stadium to use (Alamodome) until a new one could be built, the lack of a state income tax would help attract free agents, and this is TEXAS...football is king. Texas is beyond ready for a third NFL team. So, why should the casinos beat out the Alamo?
—Jerard P., Kingsville, Texas
Jerard, if the city fathers of Las Vegas deliver the franchise the $750 million they have promised, I think Nevada will get the Raiders. Money will determine the outcome here.
Given all of the sideline communication issues that already exist, along with accusations of home teams interfering in them, I think it makes sense that the NFL isn't allowing video technology on the sidelines. Last year there were games when the tablets wouldn't be working for some teams but they could switch to the older printed still shots and not be too disadvantaged. There's no obvious way to replace video if it's not working for one of the teams.
There is a mechanism in place for that right now. If one team has its sideline communication knocked out, the other team has to have its communication disabled as well. There is no reason, I think, to discard obvious technology that would serve both teams well just because of the fear that one sideline would lose the ability to get video.
If you do not have one, get a foam roller for your leg issues. They are wonderful for the glute issues you are having. I am slightly older than you, active like you, and I use it throughout the week. Get one!! You will be glad you did!
Thanks much for the advice, John. I actually use one daily. It’s a foam roller, but it’s one of the ones with ridges, to dig deeper into the affected tissue. Thanks to you and to the several similar letters with health tips. A couple of you told me to stop running because it’s too tough on the joints as one gets older. I am sure it’s not good for some joints, but I do thoroughly enjoy running and the effect it has on my mental state—particularly when it’s over. Reminds me of what Mark Twain once said about the craft of writing: “The greatest thing about writing is having written.”
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