Just In Time For The Super Bowl, Let Me Tell You Something About Football

Before now there’s only been one time in my life where I felt comfortable telling anyone anything about football. I have never been a hardcore sports fan and much of what little I know I acquired by osmosis from teaching and drinking beer with high school coaches.

In 2012, however, I was in NYC waiting for my daughter and granddaughter to shop themselves out and I took refuge in a corner tavern. Sitting at the bar a couple of stools away from a young woman the Saturday college football game was on the nearby wide-screen TV. Something happened in the game that she didn’t understand and she turned to me for an answer. Luckily it was something I knew something about and with that and a little bullshit, I came away with her thinking I was an expert.

In the past several years I have become a fan of both college and professional football and watch far more games than I should. I still don’t know a lot and with the passing of my friend and sports advisor and mentor, John Wend, I’ll probably never learn much more.

I have, however, resulting from a Facebook question, become very informed on the subject of football helmets. I’m not, as Professor Irwin Corey would claim, the world’s foremost authority, but I have moved up a couple of notches.

One Sunday afternoon, a couple of years ago, I tossed out a question about those ubiquitous helmets with the flap looking thing on the forehead. It was suggested by a couple of people that they were part of a design to minimalize head injuries and lower the risk of concussions. I did a little research and learned they are made by a major manufacturer, Riddell, and were a design they call Speedflex and the flap allows the helmet to flex under impact and thus absorb energy.

While reading about the Speedflex helmet I came across an article about the various helmet models approved for use in the NFL and the one that was rated the best was a new brand made by a startup company named, Vicis, pronounced Viseiss. In lab studies, the Vicis design was found to best absorb impact and thus, best protect the head from the causes of concussion and brain damage, or as comedian Bob Nelson says, “dain bramage.”

I began researching Vicis and learned that they were as much as 50% more expensive than other high-end helmets. Others run around $1,000 an issue while the Vicis approaches $1,500. While that is expensive so is the long-term care of a brain-damaged former wide end.

My next project was to learn how to identify the Vicis helmet when seen on the field, how to pick out the players who were wearing them. This required looking at lots of photos and learning their unique design features. That done, I had to train my eye to identify those features as they flashed by during a game. It became a sort of obsession and for the past two years, I’ve probably spent as much time looking for helmet features as watching the action on the field.

Here’s what I’ve learned. The ear hole in the Vicis helmet is elongated and runs almost verticle. Most other helmet makes use of elongated holes that are mostly horizontal. The most common Schutt helmet has a triangular hole that lays on its side and that has two openings per side. The Vicis also has two unique vent holes just above the player’s eyes and two more, just as unique, on the rear of the helmet. The real differences are inside the various helmets and consist of the unique types and shapes of padding and material choices.

Top photos show the various views of the Vicis helmet. On the bottom left is the ubiquitous Riddell Speedfles and to the right is a common Schutt design.

If you love sports trivia and factoids here’s a list of stuff to commit to memory. In the NFL…

  • Riddell has about 60% of the helmet market and Schutt has around 35%. The other makers are vying for the remaining 5%.
  • Helmets take some time to break in and once players get comfortable with their helmet they seem reluctant to try something different.
  • Players can wear any helmet they wish as long as it is on the NFL list of approved equipment. Tom Brady was forced to change this season and opted for the Speedflex design. Aaron Rogers has to change before next season and since he owns shares in Vicis, he’s considering that brand.
  • Vicis helmets are becoming more common in the NFL but the company is hemorrhaging money. On about every college or pro team I’m noticing a couple of players wearing them.
  • Notre Dame is probably playing the largest number of Vicis helmets since they decided safety was utmost and an alumnus forked up enough coin to buy 250 of the helmets.
  • Link to 2019 NFL approved helmets and safety results. Click HERE.

I don’t quite know how to end this blog but to say that I’ve enjoyed this chance to talk and tell you something about football you didn’t know. As far as the future goes, don’t expect much. Just yesterday I learned what a play-action play was. Next year I’ll be working on identifying and understanding tight ends.

UPDATE: We now know who will be playing in the Super Bowl so look for the Chief’s quarterback Mahomes and San Francisco’s defensive tackle, Earl Mitchell, they both wear the Vicis Zero1 helmet. (1/20/2020)


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