unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

Fear Before the Super Bowl

It goes without saying that the Super Bowl has gone well beyond a mere sports event.  For all intents and purposes, it is an unofficial national holiday and cultural event, with parties, attention on the commercials and on the half-time entertainment.

But the game of football itself may be showing signs of vulnerability.  A new NBC News/WSJ poll shows that many Americans are afraid of football concussions.  According to that poll, 40 percent of Americans want their children playing any sport other than football.  The new awareness (and fear) of the dangers of concussion and of repeated small hits is especially strong among parents with higher levels of education and income.

Another possible reflection of that fear:  in recent years, Pop Warner, the country’s biggest youth football program, has seen a drop in participation of almost 10 percent.

This comes as football players at Northwestern are seeking to form a labor union to earn a place at the table to discuss key issues like medical care and health consequences which arise long after a player’s career is over.

Bottom line:  the game is in a state of flux.  Down the road, it could become a game that attracts as players mostly those from poor families with lower levels of education, awareness, and options.  And even if the collegiate unionization effort fails, it’s a shot across the bow from players who want a greater say in what happens to their bodies and their futures.  We talked about the unionization effort on last night’s show.

This should give all of us who watch Sunday’s game much more to munch on then just guacamole and chips.

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This Weather!!!

How many times in the past few days have you thought, said, or heard someone else say, “I. Am. So. Over. This. Weather.”  Count me in that group.  And if one of your chores is to shovel snow, the prospect of even more snow this weekend is, well, draining.

I’ve been trying to rationalize my way out of feeling bummed out about how painfully cold it’s been and the best I can come up with is this:

  • There’s no city I’d rather live in than Chicago.  I love it.
  • All good things come at a price.
  • This weather is the price we pay for living here.

Simplistic, I know.  But there it is.

When discussing this with my esteemed Chicago Tonight colleague, Paris Schutz, he optimistically said, “It just means we’re going to have a great summer and we will appreciate it that much more and not take it for granted.”    Cold comfort now, young Skywalker.  Cold comfort!

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Flu Hubris

Like many people, I dutifully got a flu shot last fall knowing that it wasn’t a guarantee against getting sick–just a safeguard.  And a couple of weeks ago, I got a mild bug that put me out of sorts for about twelve hours–chills and a headache.  But a good night’s sleep seemed to take care of it.  I thought my flu season was over.

But, in the past week, several family members got a much worse stomach bug, one that went well beyond mere chills and a headache.  While making trips to the drugstore for them for flu medicine (and Gatorade!) I mentally patted myself on the back for having avoided a case as bad as theirs.

Ha!  Pride goeth before the fall (or something like that.)  After Tuesday night’s show, I drove home and I could feel chills coming on.  I had a hunch something bad was coming so I barely ate any dinner.  My hunch was right as another bug, much more powerful than the one I had earlier, kept me up all night.  And yesterday I was miserable–a headache, muscle aches and cold sweats.  The cats didn’t know what to make of me curled up on the couch during the day (“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”)

I’m a lousy and pathetic sick person.  Now it was my turn to have someone bring me medicine and Gatorade.  While at the height of my flusteria, my wife assured me that I would feel much better in 24 hours.  She was right.  I am feeling much better.

And I’m completely confident it couldn’t possibly happen again this winter.  I’m sure of it.  Truly.  You believe me, don’t you?

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What If You Lost Your Memory–Through No Fault of Your Own?

Imagine “waking up” on a train platform in a foreign country and having no idea of who you are, where you are or why you are there.  You are taken to a mental hospital where you hallucinate so severely you have to be tied down.  But you cannot remember family members or even the woman you are told you love.  And, no, you were not experiencing the consequences of recreational drug usage — but rather, it all stemmed from medicine you’d taken to prevent malaria.

And imagine that more than years after the event, you are still trying to fill in gaps of the person you had been.

This is what happened to Chicagoan David MacLean when he was on a Fulbright Scholarship in India.  He tells his remarkable story in a beautifully written and provocative new book, The Answer to the Riddle is Me:  A Memoir of Amnesia.  He was on the show last night to talk about it.  He was fascinating. Watch the interview below and read an excerpt from his book.

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