The phrase "peak oil" was in vogue a few years back. Geologist M. King Hubbert theorized the world was about to hit the peak of its petroleum-extraction capabilities and it would all be downhill after that.
Well, now I'm wondering if we're nearing "peak football". The list of problems facing the NFL gets longer all the time. The league's attempt to settle a lawsuit filed by those who suffered brain damage after playing football has been rejected by a judge who's concerned that the $765 million won't be enough. Youth football registration is down as concerned parents keep their kids away from a sport they think is dangerous.
And now, eight former players, including Cal and 49ers alum Jeremy Newberry, are suing the league, alleging it operated as little more than a drug pusher. Newberry's description of life in the NFL, as told to KPIX 5's Dennis O'Donnell:
"The general public wouldn't believe. It’s almost like a cattle call when you have 20 to 25 guys standing with their pants half down, waiting in line for a doctor who’s got a hundred different syringes lined up and you walk through, they’re sticking you one at a time, you walk in and out, takes all of a couple seconds, they've got the needles pre-loaded and they’re shooting up half the team in some cases.”
Newberry is 38 years old. As an offensive lineman, he may well be suffering from the repeated-concussion syndrome that is believed to have irreparably damaged the brains of many other NFL veterans. We don't know that yet.
But we do know that Newberry says his kidney function has been reduced by 70 percent, and he blames years of Toradol injections. The painkiller is widely used in the NFL. Many players have described how a jab with Toradol is what allowed them to play the violent game with reckless abandon, literally feeling no pain.
The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. It dominates the national consciousness and fuels the television and media industries. Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars every year on tickets, wearables, fantasy leagues and more.
I know I'm not the only fan who's feeling queasier all the time about this love affair. I'm past the age of having to answer the "would you let your son play this game?" question. But I'm having a harder time getting fired up to watch a game that uses its players up and spits them out as broken hulks.