Archive for September 9th, 2010

In Response to Mick Foley on the Media on Linda McMahon

Pro wrestling star and bestselling author Mick Foley blogs today about his experiences in the media coverage of the Linda McMahon Senate campaign. Not surprisingly, Foley’s thoughts are well considered and well put. Go read “Whatever Happened to Research,” http://mickfoley.typepad.com/mickfoley/2010/09/that-time-i-metrachel-maddow.html, and then come back.

I said Foley was thoughtful and articulate. I didn’t say he was right. His complaints about the media are boilerplate, unspecific, and unfair. They’re also ironic coming from a professional in media manipulation.

Regarding Ray Hernandez of The New York Times, I agree with Foley that Hernandez turned out a poor piece – but for completely different reasons. As I said in my initial reaction blog, “New York Times Sets a New World Record: 2,300 Words on Linda McMahon – Not One of Them ‘Benoit’ or ‘Death’,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/new-york-times-sets-a-new-world-record-2300-words-on-linda-mcmahon-%E2%80%93-not-one-of-them-%E2%80%98benoit%E2%80%99-or-%E2%80%98death%E2%80%99/, I was flabbergasted that The Times would publish a piece with this particular slant, but do so only in vague code. (I later acknowledged that my disappointment in The Times here was too strong, and suggested that readers go to the more balanced review of the piece by Keith Harris of Cageside Seats.)

But, unlike Foley, I didn’t then and I don’t now presume to complain publicly about whom Hernandez chose to quote, and how. That is his business. For those following this blog, it should be obvious that political reporters, like everyone else, have agendas and pressures that only they can understand on deadline; it also should be obvious that voices like mine are driving coverage to a much greater extent that our mere quotient of quotes and sound bites would suggest.

Foley has the same problem in talking about the work of Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register: Foley talks about the process instead of the product. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem that Stannard had never heard of John Cena; rather, I think it’s to Stannard’s credit that he acknowledged to Foley that he didn’t understand the reference. That belies the headline of Foley’s post, as the point of the anecdote is precisely that the reporter was doing research. As they say, “He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child – teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he  knows not is a fool – shun him.”

Stannard’s story is very good and that’s all that’s important — not whether he came to it with a large base of preexisting knowledge.

Finally, I agree with Foley that it would be wrong for the Connecticut election to become a referendum on the wrestling industry’s taste or status. But a referendum on Linda McMahon’s accountability for a pandemic of industrial deaths on her watch? Jesus beezus, she’s running for high elective office based only on her experience as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Mick Foley and I might disagree on the level of Linda’s accountability, but in playing the self-pitying cultural populist, he’s trying to turn attention away from real life-and-death issues. And I don’t buy that attempt.

Call me if you want to talk more, Mick.

Irv Muchnick

Of Course, No One Cares About the Deaths in Linda McMahon’s Wrestling Company — Except for Those Who Do

I’ve been hearing a lot from wrestling fans, and the various journalists informing them, that the story of systematic death in Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment has no traction in the media coverage of the U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut.

I’m looking at the same evidence and I think the only place where this topic has no traction is the wrestling media.

Here’s the latest, a good one, from Talking Points Memo:

“Does Linda McMahon Have a Dead Wrestler Problem?”

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/09/does-linda-mcmahon-have-a-dead-wrestler-problem.php

Irv Muchnick

More on the 2008 Meeting of Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director at the West Virginia Brain Institute

In an email exchange this morning, another participant in the October 1, 2008, meeting of experts at the West Virginia University Brain Injury Institute – where World Wrestling Entertainment medical director Joseph Maroon was shown studies of dead wrestler Chris Benoit’s brain – has added valuable information.

For the full background, see “Muchnick Flashback: EXCLUSIVE – Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/muchnick-flashback-exclusive-linda-mcmahons-wwe-medical-director-met-with-chris-benoit-brain-experts-in-2008/.

Among the participants in that meeting was Peter Davies, professor of pathology and neuroscience at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Davies holds an endowed chair in Alzheimer’s Disease research and directs a center on Alzheimer’s and memory disorders.

Here is Davies’ full statement to me:

I was at a meeting in West Virginia in October 2008, originally at the request of Dr Ira Casson, who at the time was a member of the NFL Head Injury Committee (I’m not sure exactly what it was called then). Ira asked me to try to look at the material collected by Dr Omalu and Dr Bailes because I am considered to be an expert in the kind of pathology that Dr Omalu had reported seeing in the brains of ex-NFL and WWE cases. Dr Omalu was not an expert in this kind of pathology, and Dr Casson wanted an outside expert to see if there was anything significant going on. I was not then nor am I now affiliated with the NFL: I flew to West Virginia at my own expense: Dr Maroon (who was also a member of the NFL committee) “brokered” the meeting, arranging for me to meet with Dr Omalu and Dr Bailes and I did have the chance to examine several brain sections.

It was clear that there was pathology in these cases, although Dr Omalu had not done the kind of extensive staining of tissues that my lab has developed. I suggested to Dr Omalu that my lab could do much more extensive staining on these cases, to better define the pathology. Dr Omalu readily agreed, and sent me samples from several brains. We stained them, and reported on our findings to the NFL committee in June 2009: a brief summary report was prepared ahead of the meeting and sent to Dr Maroon, Dr Omalu, Dr Bailes and the NFL committee. The issue I had been asked to address was the nature and extent of the pathology in these cases: I reported that there was a unique and very serious pathology. I did not and do not discuss individual cases in a manner that can lead to their identification, although others involved with examination of this material have done so.

At the same time, the Boston University group also obtained samples of these cases from Dr Omalu, and has published extensively on their findings. There is no doubt that what is called CTE exists and is a serious concern for professional athletes in sports where the risk of concussions is high. Quite how common CTE is remains a question, as are the nature of the risk factors for development of CTE. I am now part of an NFL Players Association group trying to further investigate this.

Having read your blogs, I should add that I have never had any involvement with the WWE, and that I have never been contacted by anyone with a declared interest in the WWE.

Irv Muchnick

More on the 2008 Meeting of Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director at the West Virginia Brain Institute

In an email exchange this morning, another participant in the October 1, 2008, meeting of experts at the West Virginia University Brain Injury Institute – where World Wrestling Entertainment medical director Joseph Maroon was shown studies of dead wrestler Chris Benoit’s brain – has added valuable information.

For the full background, see “Muchnick Flashback: EXCLUSIVE – Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/muchnick-flashback-exclusive-linda-mcmahons-wwe-medical-director-met-with-chris-benoit-brain-experts-in-2008/.

Among the participants in that meeting was Peter Davies, professor of pathology and neuroscience at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Davies holds an endowed chair in Alzheimer’s Disease research and directs a center on Alzheimer’s and memory disorders.

Here is Davies’ full statement to me:

I was at a meeting in West Virginia in October 2008, originally at the request of Dr Ira Casson, who at the time was a member of the NFL Head Injury Committee (I’m not sure exactly what it was called then). Ira asked me to try to look at the material collected by Dr Omalu and Dr Bailes because I am considered to be an expert in the kind of pathology that Dr Omalu had reported seeing in the brains of ex-NFL and WWE cases. Dr Omalu was not an expert in this kind of pathology, and Dr Casson wanted an outside expert to see if there was anything significant going on. I was not then nor am I now affiliated with the NFL: I flew to West Virginia at my own expense: Dr Maroon (who was also a member of the NFL committee) “brokered” the meeting, arranging for me to meet with Dr Omalu and Dr
Bailes and I did have the chance to examine several brain sections.

It was clear that there was pathology in these cases, although Dr Omalu had not done the kind of extensive staining of tissues that my lab has developed. I suggested to Dr Omalu that my lab could do much more extensive staining on these cases, to better define the pathology. Dr Omalu readily agreed, and sent me samples from several brains. We stained them, and reported on our findings to the NFL committee in June 2009: a brief summary report was prepared ahead of the meeting and sent to Dr
Maroon, Dr Omalu, Dr Bailes and the NFL committee. The issue I had been asked to address was the nature and extent of the pathology in these cases: I reported that there was a unique and very serious pathology. I did not and do not discuss individual cases in a manner that can lead to their identification, although others involved with examination of this material have done so.

At the same time, the Boston University group also obtained samples of these cases from Dr Omalu, and has published extensively on their findings. There is no doubt that what is called CTE exists and is a
serious concern for professional athletes in sports where the risk of concussions is high. Quite how common CTE is remains a question, as are the nature of the risk factors for development of CTE. I am now part of an NFL Players Association group trying to further investigate this.

Having read your blogs, I should add that I have never had any involvement with the WWE, and that I have never been contacted by anyone with a declared interest in the WWE.

Irv Muchnick


A blog reader writes, “I love the Linda McMahon for Senate Google ads on your site. The irony is rich.”

No way, I reply. My blog doesn’t have ads.

Way, my correspondent says. He sends me the screen shot:

Then I remembered that I’d recently approved new features on my WordPress blog dashboard  inviting me to add automated links to “similar” posts at the end of mine, plus gadgets to facilitate the forwarding of my posts via social networks. What I didn’t realize – I’m guessing – is that these wrinkles were accompanied by an implicit arrangement allowing WordPress to monetize them with clicks on automatically generated Google ads.

I immediately convened an emergency meeting of the directors of Wrestling Babylon Blog LLP.

We discussed the following options:

1. Post an item about this.

2. Do nothing.

3. Remove the features that insert ads.

4. Bill Linda McMahon for her ads.

5. If yes on No. 4, determine whether the invoice should be sent to Linda McMahon for Senate in West Hartford, or World Wrestling Entertainment in Stamford.

Of course, I’ve already done No. 1. Readers with recommendations on options 2 thru 5 are invited to email me at poll@muchnick.net.

Irv Muchnick


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