Newsletter: Excited about the Rams in the Super Bowl? We aren’t

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) with his teammates during a pre-Super Bowl practice in Flowery Branch, Ga.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Here is a list of L.A. County museums offering free admission this weekend for all you non-football fans. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Speaking of football, tomorrow millions of Americans will gaze at their televisions while armored, conspicuously oversized men collide at high speeds as they try to force their way down the field more frequently than their opponents, inflicting multiple brain injuries and shortened lifetimes, all to win a trophy that’s already been given out more than 50 times. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find football — let alone the Super Bowl — entertaining or that I won’t be watching the Los Angeles Rams humiliate Tom Brady and his New England Patriots on Sunday, but putting this spectacle in its most literal terms is my penance for supporting a violent game.

Among those who find it difficult to celebrate the Rams achievement is the editorial board of the team’s hometown newspaper. Football is football, and the editorial board finds little reason to be excited about it:

We’re a bit uneasy giving the NFL a full embrace. The league has struggled for years to get more diversity in top management and ownership, and has had a spotty record in addressing issues of domestic violence among its players. Most significantly, the league has not fully addressed the dark reality of brain damage among players, which in many cases has led to dementia and suicide.

For years, the league fought against arguments that the numerous and intense head impacts that players experienced were leaving many of them with significant long-term health problems, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. From 2012 through the end of this regular season, the NFL reported an average of 244 concussions per 256-game regular season.

The NFL initially downplayed the potential link between the violence of the game and its players’ brain health later in life. A 2016 congressional report accused the NFL of trying to influence research into CTE by withholding funding; the league has since donated $100 million for research. Yet as the nation watches the game Sunday — or any other game day during the season — odds are good that we are watching athletes whose performance will lead, in some cases, to their premature deaths.

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The latest Trump outrage: His top intelligence chiefs contradict his claims on Syria, North Korea and Russia in the most fact-based, nonconfrontational way, and the commander in chief says they’re the ones who are naive. “So the real problem isn’t that Trump belittles his own intelligence officials, though such behavior is petty and unpresidential,” complains the L.A. Times editorial board. “The more serious issue is that the president, for reasons rooted in egotism, seems unwilling to listen to information that might require him to confess error or reconsider a previous opinion.” L.A. Times

Is the middle class shrinking? No. Economist Brad Schiller says too much is made of the fact that the median household income in the United States has fallen, when we really should be looking at the median incomes of identical households. Schiller’s claim: The decline in income can be attributed to households shrinking in size — say, when a couple decides to split up partly because the economy is so strong, of course two households will have less income each than a single home with two incomes. But does that indicate anything bad about the health of the middle class? L.A. Times

Climate change will cause many casualties. PG&E might be one of them. The bankrupt utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. could be on the hook for billions if its equipment is found to have sparked the Camp fire, which destroyed communities around the Northern California town of Paradise last fall. Although we cannot attribute any single wildfire to climate change, PG&E’s troubles are a sign of the financial cost to come as global warming worsens. New York Times

Anti-vaxxer idiocy strikes again. The measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon that has sickened dozens of people and continues to endanger lives and livelihoods could have been prevented by the widespread use of a medicine that’s been proved exceedingly safe and effective for many years. “It’s an emergency, all right — of idiocy perpetrated by a few loud but uninformed voices who have scared parents into thinking that the medicine that will keep their kids safe will instead hurt them,” writes Mariel Garza. “There is no scientific evidence to support this fear, while the evidence grows steadily that allowing people to opt out of vaccinations for no good reason has real harmful consequences.” L.A. Times

Once and for all: Hormone replacement is good for women. That’s the assessment of oncologist Avrum Bluming and social psychologist Carol Tavris, who say the question of whether estrogen therapy for menopausal women poses an increased risk of cancer has been settled: “The good news about estrogen has been lost: namely that more than 70 years of findings from animal studies, human studies, observational studies and randomized controlled studies demonstrate the benefits of estrogen.” L.A. Times