Is the game I love watching, killing the men who play it?

Posted: May 2, 2012 by DeadBefore50 in Editorials
Tags: , , , , , ,

   On the field, and thus often in their prime element, they are our heroes, our icons, and are often the men we wish we could have been. Off the field and away from the sanctioned brutality of their world, they are often left to combat far superior opponents. These are not the challenges of 300+ pound men paid to physically block your way and impart a toll in doing so. These are the physical, emotional, and mental foes whom seemingly appear out of thin air and, once the have taken hold, rarely relinquish their grip. On the football field few matched the intensity, reckless abandon, and passion for victory of Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau. Simply known as “Junior” the man was 6 foot 3 inches and 250 lbs of rarely rivaled strength and all but unmatched intensity. His shoulders bore the weight of a previously middling franchise cresting with an appearance in the 1994 Super Bowl. The 1994 San Diego Chargers carried a (45) man roster. Today, with the loss of Junior Seau, an eighth member of that team has passed away.

   As reiterated today via twitter, Simon Clancy reminded followers of the 2011 suicide of former Chicago Bears Safety, Dave Duerson. A handwritten note, presumably penned just prior to the self-inflicted fatal gunshot to his chest, read “Please see that my brain is given to the N.F.L.’s bank” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/sports/football/23duerson.html?_r=1). Duerson, whom months early began fearing deteriorating brain function/capacity, seemingly preserved his trauma ridden brain so as to allow science, and the NFL, a window to it’s damaged workings. Dave Duerson, as verbalized by son Tregg, “was looking for an answer. An he was hoping to be part of an answer”. The question, asked prior to Duerson’s 2011 death and forced into today’s headlines with the loss of Seau, may no longer be a question at all. Repeated and traumatic brain injury can, and often does, lead to decreased cognitive skill, increased emotional extreme, and acute depression. The connection to “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” garnered national attention with the passing of Duerson. As is case the case with most sensationalized events, the attention waned and connection, at least amidst public perception, faded. Albeit it too early to link the motive(s) behind Seau’s decision, not only to take his life but do so in the manner in which he did, to that of Dave Duerson, early supposition has us headed that way.

   David Griggs (1995), Rodney Culver (1996), Doug Miller (1998), Curtis Whitley (2008), Chris Mims (2008), Shawn Lee (2011), Lew Bush (2011), and now Junior Seau (2012).  The names of the eight men, each members of the 1994 San Diego Chargers, who passed away before the age of 45 Rodney Culver (plane crash) and Doug Miller (struck by lightning) fell victim to the unpredictability of life. The others however, Griggs (drunk driving), Whitley (overdose), Mims (enlarged heart), Lee (heart attack), Bush (heart attack), and now Seau, appear to have fallen victim, in at least some degree, to the trappings and consequences of the game by which each earned his living.

   If it turns out Seau did fire the shot which ended his life, and targeted his chest so as to preserve his brain for research and study, it will be all but impossible to comprehend the thought process of his final days. Unwilling, or more likely, unable to continue the fight against the demons which may have plagued him, nonetheless possibly mustering the intestinal fortitude so as to keep clear the lasting good which may come in the study of his besieged mind. It’s all mere supposition at this point. More will come. Some smattering of truth, many more gorged in sensationalism. There’s a sick feeling to my stomach. Is the game I love watching, killing the men who play it?

Possibly too early to tell. Undeniably too early to have gone.

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