Skip to main content

Are head injuries the reason Ben Roethlisberger is such a colossal jerk?

That's the theory floated by Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein, in an interview with neuropsychologist Dr. Jordan Grafman -- Roethlisberger, after all, has suffered four concussions on the football field during his NFL career.

According to Grafman, two particular behaviors are endemic to people with moderate or severe frontal lobe injury, or to people with more mild but repetitive injury: 1) violating social rules by saying inappropriate things, and 2) saying appropriate or typical things in an inappropriate context.

"If you're married and you're flirting with another woman in an elevator with your wife next to you," Grafman says, "that's the kind of clearly inappropriate behavior." Roethlisberger is not married, but one man told me that Roethlisberger had asked out his wife while the man was present.

Granted, as Grafman notes, "we all say inappropriate things sometimes," but "it's the frequency with which it happens, and the unawareness. When you have a frontal lobe injury in particular, you often become unaware of your inappropriate behaviors. The observations usually come from wives or children." A typical situation in my reporting last week was something like this: I would hear that Roethlisberger had, for example, said inappropriate things to waitresses at a restaurant or walked out on a bill, so I would call the establishment. "I don't know if he walked out on a tab here," would be a typical response from whoever picked up the phone, "but he was really rude to my friend after he invited her over to his table." Tales of indecorous acts abounded.

Or it's possible that Roethlisberger is, you know, a colossal jerk. He wouldn't be the first multimillionaire athlete with dangerous delusions of entitlement, would he? Didn't we all kind of hate the jocks in high school?

And yet: If Epstein's onto something here, the morality of the NFL itself gets trickier and trickier to defend. There's already substantial evidence that playing professional football destroys the bodies and minds of the men who play it. If also it transforms them into moral monsters -- as a natural, organic byproduct of the game -- how could you possibly watch another game in good conscience? What redeeming value is left?


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…