Adam Ruins Football

Aug 28 2016

Adam hits the gridiron – hard – to tackle why playoffs almost never determine which team is best, how myths about hydration are putting kids at risk and why the game must change due to football-related brain injuries. Instead of a playbook, here are his sources.


"The fact is, the team with the best record wins the Super Bowl less than half of the time. It's actually more common for a worse team to win!"

Boeck, Scott. "For Super Bowl winners, the most vital stat to victory is…" USA Today. Gannett Company, 27 Jan. 2009. Web. 

"But on February 25, 1981, Billy beat Bruce for Best Rock Vocal Performance. Despite the fact that Bruce is clearly the better artist…"

"23rd Annual GRAMMY Awards." Web. 

"That means one hot streak can win you the whole championship! Since 1995, the team with the best regular season record has won the World Series just 16% of the time. The baseball playoffs don't reward skill -- it's f***ing luck."

Terbush, Jon. "May the best team not win: Baseball's winningest clubs rarely win the World Series." The Week. Dennis Publishing, 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 

"Because science says drinking water prevents neither."

McIntosh, James. "Only drink when thirsty to avoid health risks." Medical News Today. MediLexicon International Ltd., 30 Jun. 2015. Web. 

"The International Bottled Water Association published a 'Hydration Calculator' that can recommend you drink two liters of water a day."

"Hydration Calculator". International Bottled Water Association. Web. 

"Vittel developed a special cap that reminds you to drink their expensive water once an hour."

Kooser, Amanda. "Timer in water bottle's cap reminds you to hydrate." CNET. CBS Interactive, 28 May 2014. Web. 

"And in Runners World magazine, Gatorade ran an ad that looked like an article titled Hydration 101. It included tips like 'Drink Early and Often,' 'Don't wait until you feel thirsty' and 'Always Drink Sports Drinks.'"

Gatorade Sports Science Institute: Hydration 101. Advertisement. Runner's World. June 2002: Print.

"Its scientific mission? To research all the exciting new reasons people should drink their product."

Eig, Jonathan. "Gatorade's Formula For Staying On Top: A Blitz of Research." Wall Street Journal. News Corp, 5 May 2000. Web. 

"When exercising, you should drink 'as much as tolerable.'"

Convertino, Victor A., et al. "American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 28.1 (1996): i-vii. 

"In a study of the 2002 Boston Marathon, nearly one sixth of the runners studied were shown to have hyponatremia. These runners drank so much during the race that by the finish line, they actually gained weight."

Almond, Christopher SD, et al. "Hyponatremia among runners in the Boston Marathon." New England Journal of Medicine 352.15 (2005): 1550-1556. 

"This is a real problem in sports. At least 12 athletes have been killed by overhydration."

Winter, George. "Over-drinking can be deadlier than dehydration." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 

"And those are just the concussions we know about, since as many as 80% are never even reported."

Baugh, Christine M., et al. "Frequency of Head-Impact–Related Outcomes by Position in NCAA Division I Collegiate Football Players." Journal of Neurotrauma 32.5 (2015): 314-326. 

"Unfortunately, it does. We found signs of CTE in 96% of former professional players brains that we studied."

Breslow, Jason M. "New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease." Frontline. PBS, 18 Sep. 2015. Web. 

"In fact, the NFL has admitted that playing football is linked to CTE! They just don't take it seriously. When asked whether football was dangerous, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said 'Hey there's risk in life. There's risk to sitting on the couch.'"

Gutierrez, Paul. "Roger Goodell: If I had son, I'd 'love' to have him play football." ESPN. ESPN, Inc., 5 Feb. 2016. Web.

"But hey, I guess it's easy to ignore the truth when you're getting paid $34 million dollars a year to maintain the status quo."

Knowlton, Emmett. "The non-profit NFL has paid Roger Goodell nearly $80 million the last 2 years." Business Insider. Axel Springer SE, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 

"Almost 2/3 of players leave with permanent injuries"

Campbell, LaMar C. "For retired NFL players, most challenging 'season' just beginning." CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, 8 Sep. 2011. Web. 

"And their contracts are non-guaranteed. 78% of NFL players will be broke just two years after retiring. 78%."

Torre, Pablo S. "How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke." Sports Illustrated. Time Inc., 23 Mar. 2009. Web. 

"If I had a 10-year-old boy, I don't know that I'd be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury. I'm concerned right now overall with the long-term viability of our sport."

Aikman, Troy. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. HBO. 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 

 "[This is] Adrian Jr. He won't be playing football."

 Peterson, Adrian. TMZ. Web. 

"If I had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football."

McIntyre, Brian. "Terry Bradshaw wouldn't let son play football now." NFL Enterprises LLC, 14 Jun. 2012. Web. 

"My grandson knows he's not allowed to play football. And knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have played either. "

Carson, Harry. Frontline. PBS, 4 Sep. 2013. Web. 

"You know what used to be two of the most popular sports in America? Horse racing and boxing."

Nelson, Murry R. American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. Westport: Greenwood, 2013. Print.

Additional Bibliography

Cohen, Deborah. "The truth about sports drinks." The BMJ (2012): 1-10. Web.

For More on This Topic

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim breaks down seemingly simple sports stats to reveal surprising truths.

Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports: Timothy Noakes' book explores our obsession with guzzling fluids, and the sinister marketing efforts that sparked it.

League of Denial: Frontline's masterful 2013 documentary on CTE in former football players features this episode's guest expert, Dr. Ann McKee.

The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football: John J. Miller's book details football's brutal early history leading to the invention of the forward pass.