National Commentary

The Brain-Mashing of Trump & Football

Will the adults in the room please do something?

The insufferable petulant, adolescent bully-coward we’re enduring as our president has now stooped to a new low with his clueless assault on the sensibilities of 30,000 young boys at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this week, among other things possibly dealing a death-blow to the long-revered organization.

Trump’s remarks were crude, disgusting, alluding to images of adult orgies, revering “winning,” taunting “losers,” and burying beneath his egoistic heel the Boy Scout pledge because, well, because it evokes all the personal qualities he himself both sorely lacks and denigrates. Worst of all, he impressed them with an image of the presidency, and leadership in general, which could turn them into terrible adults and scar them for most of their lives.

So, American people, I ask you, what else can he do beyond this vicious assault on our children to convince you to put a stop to this?

Or, are we all too corrupted to act? How can a nation that worships the most dangerous sport since Christians were thrown to the lions, have the mental and emotional wherewithal to reinstate civility to its highest office?

The headlines Tuesday underscored this national disgrace. It’s something that medical and other professionals have been screaming about for years (myself included, I have long since gone editorially hoarse). Here it is: the latest study shows that almost 100 percent of National Football League players whose brains were examined posthumously (the only way to discover the condition) were found to have been afflicted by a degenerative brain condition (known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE) that usually leads to severe mental impairment, dementia and early death.

What this latest study by the Boston University School of Medicine and the Veterans’ Administration Boston Healthcare System reports is not new. It’s been a known lethal side effect of tackle football for a decade or more. It was the subject of New Yorker brainiac and best selling author Malcolm Gladwell’s talk at the University of Pennsylvania in February 2013 that went semi-viral on YouTube, and the docudrama film, “Concussion,” starring no less than Will Smith as a crusading medical researcher, based on an article, “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, that appeared in 2009 in GQ magazine.

Notwithstanding coverups and denials by the NFL, it’s the football-obsessed American people who’ve systematically denied and ignored the data such that they continue to revel in a sport where the players are routinely smashing their brains into mush right before their eyes.

This includes denials about the effects of the sport on their own children. No wonder no one is worried about Trump’s effect on Boy Scouts! I’ve argued personally with parents of kids who justify encouraging their participation in the sport at very young Pop Warner ages, much less in high school and college.

But the latest study shows that the irreversible brain damage is overwhelmingly prevalent in the sport at these younger ages, too. Eighty-seven percent of the donated brains of participants at all age levels revealed damage associated with CTE.

So we live in a land where we prefer to ignore this incontrovertible evidence in favor of continuing a vicarious enjoyment of manslaughter. Even in institutions dedicated most highly to the development of the brain we get angry justifications for smashing them up on the gridiron, with everybody, all the moms, the uncles and girlfriends, watching and cheering.

This is what Trump means by “loyalty.” Dare to open your mouth, dare to forcefully challenge, and you are disloyal to playing out this national death ritual.

It neither used to be nor has to be this way. But that’s not the point. We live in a world where the power of the mind and its potential has never been greater. But by tolerating Trump and tackle football, the nation is seriously risking losing it all.

Thank God for the Tour De France, and for France, for that matter. The race takes a month and shows the world that all the grueling challenges, joys and thrills of competition can be enjoyed without anybody’s brain being smashed up. And figuring out all the rules helps brain growth, too.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at