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The health of former NFL players has received plenty of attention in recent years. The suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, along with stories of retired players in only their 40s and 50s affected by dementia and ALS, have revealed the toll that a professional football career can take on a man’s body and brain. In their new book Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL (New York University Press, 2014), James Holstein, Richard Jones, and George Koonce, Jr., discuss the discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy as well as other physical problems that afflict former NFL players. Yet the most stunning finding of their research is not how life in football affects players’ health, but rather how it affects their ability to find and hold a job, to maintain relationships, even to engage in basic social interactions.

The research leading to the book began with George Koonce, a nine-year veteran of the NFL. George’s career ended like those of most NFL players, not with a press conference announcing his retirement but with word from his last team that they “were moving in a different direction” and then a long wait for another team to call. After finally accepting that his playing days were over, he went on to earn his doctorate at Marquette University, writing his dissertation on the transitions of players into and out of professional football. Jim and Rick joined with their former graduate student to expand the research, accumulating thousands of pages of interview transcripts with former NFL players. The result is a candid look inside the “bubble” of NFL life and then the difficulties experienced by former players—men in only their late 20s and early 30s—when they leave that isolated, abnormal world.

A transcribed excerpt of this interview is available at The Allrounder.

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Jules BoykoffActivism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London

December 22, 2014

A new chapter in the history of the Olympic Games appears to be opening. As one city after another has dropped out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee has been faced with the prospect that no one might be willing to host its wonderful, expensive party. Meanwhile, American cities […]

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Eric Allen HallArthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era

November 4, 2014

When he died from AIDS in 1993, Arthur Ashe was universally hailed as a man of principle, grace, and wisdom—a world-class athlete who had transcended his game. But a closer look at Ashe’s life reveals a more complex picture. Certainly, Ashe was an admirable figure. When tennis tournament organizers barred the teenage phenom because of […]

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Matthew AlgeoPedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport

September 4, 2014

Once upon a time, before baseball drew crowds to America’s ballparks and English workers spent their Saturdays at the football grounds, one of the most popular spectator events in both countries was watching people walk. Pedestrianism had its start outdoors, as walkers set off on long-distance treks for the simple challenge of it—or to win […]

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Stefan Rinke and Kay Schiller (eds.)The FIFA World Cup 1930-2010: Politics, Commerce, Spectacle and Identities

August 1, 2014

The history of globalization is found in more than international political organizations and multinational corporations, free-trade agrteements and foreign direct investments, satellite communications and special export zones.  When looking at the forces that have driven globalization over the last decades, we must also look to football and especially the World Cup.  Indeed, there is no […]

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J. C. HerzLearning to Breath Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness

July 18, 2014

In industrial parks, converted warehouses, and pole barns across the country, a fitness revolution is taking place. It’s a revolution, according to J.C. Herz, that’s leading us not so much forward as back, into what she calls “the primal future of fitness.” This future is one in which fitness connects us with the deep memories […]

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Roger Kittleson, "The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil" (University of California Press, 2014) and Joshua Nadel, "Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America" (University Press of Florida, 2014)

June 24, 2014

Passion. Flair. Instinct. Improvisation. As the World Cup advances to the knockout stage, you’ll hear these terms associated with the football styles of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico rather than those of Belgium and Germany.  As historians Roger Kittleson and Joshua Nadel explain, the soccer cultures of Brazil and other countries of Latin America have long […]

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Travis VoganKeepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media

May 16, 2014

Last weekend was the NFL Draft, the annual event when teams select college players who have shown the talent to advance to the professional ranks.  Staged at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, broadcast live on two cable networks, and surrounded by ceaseless media attention and analysis, the Draft is the spring anchor-point of the […]

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Lucia TrimburCome Out Swinging: The Changing World of Boxing in Gleason’s Gym

April 25, 2014

Imagine a boxing gym. What probably comes to mind is a large, run-down room on the upper floor of an old brick building, somewhere in a trash-strewn, depressed neighborhood. The room echoes with the thud of the heavy bag, the rat-tat-tat of the speed bag, the quick whisks of the jump rope. The men training […]

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Lincoln HarveyA Brief Theology of Sport

April 4, 2014

Does God care who wins the game? According to a recent survey, plenty of American fans think so.  The Public Religion Research Institute found that a quarter of fans said that they had prayed to God for a favorable outcome to a game.  Add in those who practice some personal ritual in the hope that […]

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