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Mystery Science Theater: Severed Feet and Brain Damage

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As mysteries go, this one ranks up there with the all-time greats. Since August of 2007, eight human feet have washed up on the shores of the Pacific Northwest. The latest, a size 8 1/2, was discovered on October 27 by two men in a Vancouver suburb out for a walk on the beach. Like all the other feet, it was encased in a running shoe. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been investigating the matter for two years now with little success beyond confirming that one foot belonged to a man suspected of taking his own life, two others belonged to an unidentified man, and two more belonged to an unidentified woman. How those five feet—and three others—ended up in the same stretch of water is still unknown.

Less than 24 hours after this recent development in the Mounties' case, members of the House Judiciary Committee convened in Washington, D.C., to do some head-scratching of their own. The question before them: Does football lead to brain damage? Exhibit A: Former Green Bay Packers safety Willie Wood, who could not recall why he'd left home that morning. Exhibit B: Dr. Ann McKee, who has peered into the brainpans of deceased football players and concluded that the contents were indeed scrambled. And Exhibit C: An October 23 report by Alan Schwarz of the New York Times citing confidential NFL data corroborating a link between football and the sort of cognitive impairment Dr. McKee had witnessed. Case closed, right? Well, not so fast. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas sided with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has refused to see the connection. "While many of us would say we're fans of football," Smith argued, "Monday-morning quarterbacking doesn't necessarily qualify us as experts." Right. On same-sex marriage, he's an authority. On football, he needs more time for research.

To date, there is no evidence of foul play regarding the missing feet. Would that the same were true of the nation's response to football dementia.

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