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The Usual Suspects

Concussions are too serious to ignore Add to ...

Postconcussion syndrome has become a scourge in professional athletics. Teams are said to be extra vigilant about protecting their players from head injuries.

In Saturday's Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Calgary Stampeders game on TSN, Bombers quarterback Michael Bishop was apparently knocked out when he ran into one of his blockers in the third quarter.

Bishop dropped the ball and lay on his back in what is a typical posture for concussion victims. TSN analyst Glen Suitor certainly felt Bishop had been knocked out and said as much.

The current protocol for anyone who is rendered unconscious is to keep him out until he passes a baseline test at minimum. Some teams hold a player out for a full week after a KO. Yet Bishop was on the field for the next Winnipeg series.

If he'd been knocked out - as Suitor reasonably suggested - should he not have been held out for the rest of the game?

Here TSN went mute. If it was not a concussion, TSN's sideline crew did not report any plausible alternative during the game.

Commentator Matt Dunigan, whose own career was ended by concussions, did not challenge the move on the studio panel.

After the game, Bishop openly admitted he had had his "bell rung," a euphemism for knocked out.

TSN's SportsCentre also had Bishop getting KO'd when it rolled the highlights.

And the audience was left to wonder how, with our current knowledge of postconcussion syndrome, a player who'd been knocked cold could immediately return to a close game.

Hockey viewers will remember a similar situation in Game 3 of the NHL's Western Conference final this year when Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks was knocked out on the ice by Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings only to - lo and behold - reappear the next game.

He then took a further head shot that necessitated him leaving that game as well.

If these were concussions, there's a discrepancy between what some teams say about protecting their players and what they will do in the heat of a close contest or playoff series.

While many in the press asked questions about Havlat's miracle recovery, there was still a lack of rigour on the part of other media outlets not to hold teams accountable for what they say and what they do under pressure when it comes to avoiding the postconcussion nightmare.

Radio Daze

Awkward. Toronto Blue Jays announcer Jerry Howarth was doing one of those routine exchanges on Saturday with his radio partner, Alan Ashby, about the next game's starting pitchers. Tell us about Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles, Howarth said. Umm … right, laughed Ashby, who was clearly left-footed by the request. Instead of a madly bluffing until he could call up Matusz's stats, Ashby deftly launched into a critique of the Blue Jays for not taking advantage of Baltimore's inexperienced pitchers during the three-game series, which the Jays won 2-1. Everyone else was beating the O's like a cheap rug, so why not the Jays, Ashby asked.

Sermon delivered, Ashby located Matusz's stats, and the baseball world went on spinning. Which showed two things. Ashby has come a long way technically on the Jays' radio broadcasts. And while the former Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians and Blue Jays player may be approved by Toronto management, he is not a shill for the team, either. If you've listened to other radio teams around the majors, that's no small order.

Frankly, we weren't sure about Ashby when he took the chair next to the avuncular Howarth. He seemed a little formal, a little structured compared to the genial Howarth, who sounds like the neighbour who's been borrowing your hedge clippers for about 25 years. Plus, there was the challenge of how much a former player would rip Jays players or management in what were clearly challenging times for the drifting franchise.

But Ashby has disabused the notion that he's a mouthpiece for the team with incisive criticisms of players such as Vernon Wells and Alex (How Many Outs?) Rios. He's criticized manager Cito Gaston's strategy as well. Plus, he hasn't acted as if the Blue Jays' 2009 Voyage of the Damned is a fluke. Part of Ashby's comfort level is no doubt because of Howarth, who makes Perry Como sound nervous. The long-time Toronto radio voice creates a space for Ashby that allows him to contribute, but also to breathe when he needs a little space.

And he can laugh at himself. During the Aug. 1 Blue Jays game with the Oakland Athletics, Ashby announced, while checking the out-of-town scoreboard, that the New York Yankees had defeated the A's 7-4. "Wait, this can't be true," Ashby said. Instead of panicking, the former catcher simply joked, "Must have been a split squad." 

Party Boy

Proof again that hell hath no fury like a cellphone camera at an athlete's kegger. Outfielder Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers is the latest to experience what happens when cellphone cameras meet the Internet, as he was caught partying hearty with several young things last January. Groping, biting, spilling - the usual frivolity which, naturally, became an online sensation. The problem for Hamilton is that a) he's married and b) he's supposed to be sober after famously turning his life over to the ultimate designated driver, Jesus. Hamilton, who became a sensation at the 2008 All-Star Game home-run hitting contest, has admitted falling off the wagon. No disciplinary action is expected. But should Hamilton feel the temptation again, he should just look at that little icon on his phone that says camera. And tell the party girls you have a headache.


Finally, the NFL season has arrived with the post-John Madden era dawning last night. Broadcaster and former player Cris Collinsworth, who almost signed with the Montreal Alouettes once upon a time, took over the chair from the Tough Actin' Tinactin guy in the NFL Hall Of Fame game. We'll have more on Madden and the transition to Collinsworth in a future column. Perhaps even more compelling than that news, HBO has chosen the Cincinnati Bungles as the subject of this year's Hard Knocks training-camp documentary. HBO will follow the only franchise not worse than the Detroit Lions throughout camp with behind-the-scenes looks at the team. Hey, with Chad Ochocinco, (Mad) Marvin Lewis, Chris Henry and half the team on probation, what could go wrong?

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