League of Fans' Sports Forum
By Ken Reed
Sports Forum is an ongoing discussion about current sports issues. The host is League of Fans' sports policy director Ken Reed. The goal of the podcast is to find ways we can improve the sports experience for all stakeholders by enhancing the positives and mitigating the negatives in today's sports environment.
Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball
In this episode, we chat with Gary McCoy, an innovative strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked in many capacities throughout his career, including with several Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations. He's an Australian native who serves as head of performance for Team Australia's baseball program. He's also currently Vice President of Performance for Kinetyx Sciences USA, a data-based movement technology company. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what's causing it and how it can be fixed. We start off with McCoy's experience with a Taiwanese professional baseball team and how he helped the team drop from an average of 32 soft tissue injuries a year to eight in his first season with the team and an amazing zero soft tissue injuries by his fourth season. McCoy's strength, conditioning and performance philosophies and theories often go against the grain when it comes to the norms in his field. However, he has the numbers to support his data-driven approach. McCoy believes 80% of baseball injuries are preventable. His reasons underlying that belief make for compelling listening.
September 14, 2021
A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What's Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better
This week we get to pick the innovative and progressive mind of Dan Evans, former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Evans has also served in leadership roles for the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Currently, he's a consultant for a variety of baseball organizations, including Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site. Evans was a key figure in the development of the recent MLB game at the Field of Dreams, featuring the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. Dan serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including Athelytix Inc., a developer of a GRID-based sports analytics system that is used for player evaluation and athlete development. He's also a national board director for the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). In this episode, we discuss Dan's experience at the MLB game at Field of Dreams; his thoughts on the appeal of the Field of Dreams, and baseball in general; what can be done to make the baseball fan's experience more enjoyable; and his thoughts on the experimental rules being studied in the minors and independent leagues. We also touch on what might be causing the epidemic of baseball injuries and discuss his role in the baseball career of Kim Ng, the Miami Marlins general manager and the first female GM in the major professional sports leagues in the United States. Finally, we talk about his time with Michael Jordan, when Jordan decided to pursue a baseball career with the Chicago White Sox organization.
August 25, 2021
A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
We take a lighter path in this episode. Our guest is Dan Gutman, author of the 12-book Baseball Card Adventure Series for children. The series features a boy who has the amazing ability to travel in time. Equipped with his trusty baseball cards, the boy uses his one-of-a-kind power to meet legendary baseball players -- including Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Roberto Clemente -- as part of a daring quest to alter history. Along the way, readers learn a little American history and pick up a life lesson or two. Gutman's books are fun, entertaining and educational, for kids and kids at heart.
July 26, 2021
The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation
In this episode, we're fortunate to spend 45 minutes with Dr. Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a non-profit leading the fight against concussions and CTE and dedicated to improving the lives of those impacted. Dr. Nowinski is the author of "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis" and has been profiled on HBO's Real Sports and ESPN's Outside the Lines. VICE Sports has called Nowinski "the man most responsible for making CTE part of the national conversation." During our conversation, we talk about why media coverage of CTE has fallen off the last couple years, why repetitive subconcussive blows to the head are as dangerous as concussions when it comes to CTE and long-term brain health, why the focus needs to shift from NFL players to youth and high school football players, the future of youth and high school football, some of the latest CTE research, what can be done in football and other sports to lessen the risk of brain trauma, and how close we are today to diagnosing and treating CTE in the living.
July 15, 2021
An Issues Discussion With Cleveland Indians Owner/CEO Paul Dolan
Cleveland Indians Owner/CEO Paul Dolan joins us on this episode of Sports Forum. We jump right into a hot topic: the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams in general and the Cleveland Indians in particular. Dolan describes the process the team went through in dropping the Chief Wahoo logo, banning face paint and headdress at the team's home field, and the decision in December of last year to change the club's name. Other topics include the team's move to put safety netting down the foul lines at Progressive Field, the club's Covid safety protocols, and the upcoming collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players' union. We then touch on some baseball issues, including the record level of strikeouts in Major League Baseball (MLB), pace of play, the lack of action in today's game, and what to do, if anything, with the shift. We conclude by talking about how to get more kids from all backgrounds playing the game, and touch on MLB's decision to move its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado.
May 11, 2021
Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader
We have a very special guest on this episode of our Sports Forum podcast: Ralph Nader. Nader is a long-time consumer advocate and four-time presidential candidate. He was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. Nader is also the founder of League of Fans. Our conversation begins with a discussion about how he became interested in sports as a child, and who his favorite baseball team and player is. We then talk about why he formed the League of Fans, and turn to several sports issues he’s interested in, including the focus on spectator sports vs. participatory sports in the United States, the decline of physical education and intramural sports during a childhood obesity epidemic, concussions and CTE, and the need for a National Sports Commission. We touch on a couple additional sports issues as well, highlighted by Nader's rant about the ubiquitous, obnoxious in-game ads on baseball radio broadcasts. Towards the end, we spend a few minutes talking about an affliction called Sports Syndrome and conclude with a Nelson Mandela quote and a short discussion about sport’s potential to positively impact society.
May 6, 2021
How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization?
My guest in this episode is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor at Ohio University. He teaches classes with a focus on Governance, Ethics, Leadership and Intercollegiate Athletics. He is also a member, and past president, of the Drake Group, whose mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports. Our conversation begins with a discussion about college athletes' fight for the right to control -- and profit from -- their names, images and likenesses (NILs), a right every other student on campus already enjoys. We also talk about the NCAA's failure to protect the health and safety of college athletes, highlighting recent examples associated with the Covid pandemic, as well as in the area of brain trauma and concussions. This failure is especially troubling given the fact the health and safety of athletes was the original reason the NCAA was formed. We discuss how little educational objectives factor into decision-making in college sports, especially at the big-time power conference schools. We touch on how the European model for athletics is preferable to the American model. Finally, we talk about the shame that is 1,900 schools in the United States still having Native American mascots and nicknames.
April 2, 2021
Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee
This might be one of the most important Sports Forum podcasts we've done, or will ever do. Our guest is, Ann McKee, M.D., a true superstar in the field of neuropathology and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Dr. McKee has been named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World and one of the 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare. She is an expert on brain trauma and its impact in the world of sports. Dr. McKee has examined the brains of hundreds of former football players, at all levels, from high school through the NFL. She has demonstrated that "mild" repetitive head trauma can provoke CTE, a devastating neurodegenerative disease. In this podcast we talk about how Dr. McKee got involved with examining the brains of former football players and the mechanism by which repetitive brain trauma can turn into CTE. She says this isn't just an NFL player issue, and explains why youth and high school football players are suffering brain damage as well. Dr. McKee debunks the idea that there is -- or soon will be -- a high-tech football helmet that prevents, or greatly lessens, the risk of brain injuries and ultimately CTE. Later in the episode, Dr. McKee talks about the risk of developing CTE based on how many years one plays football. We discuss the controversial topic of whether or not public schools should be sponsoring football and end with some positive developments in detecting the presence of CTE in the living and possible treatments.
February 12, 2021
The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever
In this episode we chat with SHAPE America board member Clayton Ellis. Clayton is a former national physical education teacher of the year. He's one of our nation's leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active so they can enjoy the physical, mental, behavioral and academic benefits. Clayton and I talk about the physical inactivity epidemic plaguing our youth and how the problem has worsened since the onset of Covid-19. Over 75% of our young people aren't active for even 20 minutes a day. Physical education isn't just about physical wellness, it's also about mental wellness. Fit kids perform better academically and have fewer behavioral problems. We talk about Phil Lawler, the "Father of the New PE" and how he created a model physical education program in Naperville, IL. Clayton ends with some comments about how the pandemic represents a great opportunity to modify education in general and physical education in particular.
January 12, 2021
Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from "win-at-all-costs" to a positive, character-building experience. PCA conducts thousands of workshops every year for youth sports leaders, coaches, parents and athletes. Thompson is the author of numerous books on youth sports, including Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports; Elevating Your Game: Becoming a Triple Impact Competitor; and The Positive Sport Parent. In this episode, we discuss what the biggest problem in youth sports is today, why the actions of adults contribute to burn-out for young athletes, the scary trend of sport specialization by young athletes, the lack of child development training for youth coaches, the need for more "double goal" coaches, and why kids say they quit youth sports. We also chat about Jim's upcoming book on the need for a new vision for youth sports. Finally, we talk about Jim's new passion: fighting climate change.
December 11, 2020
The Biggest Issue in Sports Today? Brain Trauma
In this episode of League of Fans' Sports Forum podcast we talk with Patrick Hruby, a journalist who has done extensive research and in-depth writing on the topic of brain trauma in sports, most notably football. Patrick believes brain trauma is our country's most important contemporary sports issue. We touch on brain injuries and CTE at the NFL and college levels, however, the focus of our discussion is on the millions of kids playing football at the youth and high school levels. Patrick and I talk about how repetitive sub-concussive impact can be as damaging long-term as multiple concussions and how it's very unlikely that a high-tech helmet will ever be developed that will protect the brain inside the skull. Our discussion moves on to other sports in which brain injuries can occur, like hockey and soccer, and why football presents unique challenges. We close with Patrick discussing current scientific efforts to develop a way to detect CTE in the living and what that could mean for football's concussion crisis.
November 24, 2020
Coaching Styles: Moving From Autocratic, Dehumanizing Approaches to More Humanistic Coaching Methods
In this episode we talk coaching styles with veteran sports sociologist Jay Coakley. Jay is a former college basketball player who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Notre Dame. He then became one of the nation's preeminent sports sociologists. He is the author of the leading sports sociology text, "Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies," now in its 13th edition.
November 12, 2020
College & High School Athletics: Where Do We Go From Here?
In this episode, we chat with John Gerdy, a former college athlete and NCAA and SEC administrator who became a sports reformer later in his career. We talk about the current situation in college athletics amidst a pandemic; compensation for college athletes; big-time Power Five college sports vs. Division II and Division III athletics; how college athletes might gain a stronger voice on policy matters; the role of high school athletics in public education; and which delivers the better bang for the buck, varsity athletics, quality physical education programs or top-notch music programs. We end with a look forward for college and high school athletics.
November 5, 2020
Talking Title IX and Equal Opportunity in Sports with Donna Lopiano
Title IX, the landmark law that was created in 1972 to prohibit educational programs that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex, has been a great success in terms of creating athletics opportunities for girls and young women in high schools and colleges across the country. That said, the gap in athletics opportunities and athletics funding between males and females is still quite significant, and sadly, the gap is increasing in recent years. In this episode, we talk with Title IX pioneer, Dr. Donna Lopiano, the former director of women's athletics at the University of Texas, and the long-time CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. She has regularly been named one of "The 100 Most Influential People in Sports" by the Sporting News. We chatted with a passionate Lopiano about her early experiences fighting for equal opportunity in the '60's and 70's, why Title IX enforcement has been lax, the myth that Title IX hurts male sports, the shortage of female athletics administrators, how Title IX benefits society as a whole, and what's needed for us to finally reach true equal opportunity in sports.
October 20, 2020