Zombieland

Football killed Junior Seau. Now what?
Share |

Of all the sad, delusional and willfully vacuous things a professional athlete has ever said to me, this is the quote that will forever be stuck in my brain:

“I’m hoping that if I eat my blueberries every day and do my memory exercises, I’ll be okay.”

I had been interviewing NFL Hall of Famer, Immaculate Receptor and eventual Penn State Truther Franco Harris for Pittsburgh Magazine. Somehow, the conversation wandered to the brain trauma epidemic that has turned so many of Harris’ peers into shambling ghosts and corpses. Harris sincerely believed that his brain could be saved from the slow creep of brown tau proteins and the accompanying derangement of his psyche by a daily regimen of antioxidants and Boggle.

He admitted that he was scared by the suicides of Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and others. “We’re all scared,” he said. Instead of religion, Harris had turned to superfoods for protection.

Last week, the inevitable was finally confirmed. NFL legend Junior Seau was indeed suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when, seemingly apropo of nothing, he scribbled the lyrics to a sad-sack country song on a yellow legal pad, removed the SIM card from his cell phone, sat on the edge of a bed in the guestroom of his mansion and shot himself in the chest with a revolver.

Unlike other CTE victims, Seau did not appear to be careening into oblivion before his death. He wasn’t sleeping in a bus garage like Mike Webster. He wasn’t turned into an empty husk from senility like John Mackey. He wasn’t binging on prescription pills like Derek Boogaard. Immediately after his retirement in 2009, Seau was being groomed by ESPN to be the next in a long line of cheesing jock-0 chuckleheads — those absurdly windsored analysts wearing David Byrne dadcoats who cut studio wrestling promos about “What It Means to Be a Man in This League” and other self-help vagaries. Seau was so revered that when he drove his SUV off a cliff in 2010, everyone accepted his explanation that he’d accidentally dozed off at the wheel.

For decades, the NFL has survived on the dogma that the Reaper was never coming for pious company men like Seau. Even after 26-year-old Chris Henry’s brain was found to be as rusted with degenerative brain disease as an 80-year-old Alzheimer’s victim, the league office’s never-ending army of Mr. Smiths had the audacity to wag their power-thumb and hem-and-haw about “lifestyle factors” and “emerging science.”

Webster was a vicious drunk and a lout for the sake of it, you see, not because he was dealing with the ever-tightening vice grip of neurological erosion enabled by coaches and trainers telling him, for decades, to rub some gat-damn dirt on it. And Henry? Who can possibly say how his cornrows affected cranial impact? More study was required and all that.

Nevermind that researchers from Boston University and other labs were running around with their hair on fire, telling anyone who would listen that they’d begun finding CTE in athletes as young as 16, who were not exposed to lifestyle factors like alcohol and steroid abuse, which the NFL used to smear Webster and others. The NFL kept talking about the “unknowns.” All the while, Seau withered away quietly.

As late as 2008, after the sample size of CTE-ravaged brains had grown to more than 50, the NFL dispatched a cavalcade of skeptical neurologists, many of whom sat on NFL safety boards, to filibuster the narrative to death.

Finally, the NFL sent noted CTE skeptic Dr. Peter Davies, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an international expert on Alzheimer’s disease, to meet the team at the Brain Injury Research Institute and examine their research. The league expected Davies to criticize the emerging science with the typical milquetoast denialism. Instead, he became a full convert.

“It was beyond anything I had ever seen, and I have seen some wild things,” Davies told me of his experience viewing the brains. “Some of these individuals have a disease that goes way beyond anything that's reasonable. As an experienced person looking at these brains, the only thing you can say is, 'Wow. What is this?'”

Davies’ very public conversion combined with an admittedly hypocritical public outcry finally moved the NFL to DO SOMETHING© about PLAYER SAFETY© which they take VERY SERIOUSLY™. Seriously enough to commision a national advertising campaign winking at the quaint notion that players used to wear leather helmets (which happen to be just as effective at protecting the brain from the rotational forces of a collision as their $200 contemporary counterparts) and giving $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to study brain trauma, which was not given benevolently by the owners but was fought for by the NFLPA during the 2011 lockout.

And yet despite all this seriousness, and despite a recent study by Boston University, the most comprehensive ever, revealing that CTE was present in the brains of 34 of 35 former NFL players, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell channeled his Wayne LaPierre spirit animal and said this less than 48 hours after it was confirmed that Seau’s brain went dark, too: “[We] need to have a lot more research because there’s still unfortunately a lot of unknowns.”

At this point in the conversation, let’s address the inevitable:

“This is a man’s game,” says a grown-ass fella who gets genuinely upset when his friends leave “floaters” of Miller Lite at the Bar-N-Grille. “Next they’ll put a DRESS on der quarterback!”

“But they’re millionairzzz,” says some hyper-FHUPA’ed mommybot on Facebook.

And maybe these ambassadors from the underbelly have a point. Maybe we could save ourselves a lot of grief and money if the NFL’s moral conundrum was simply summed up as: It’s really bad to hit your head all the time!

Because really, what’s the league to do? Making killshots the issue and vilifying easy targets like James Harrison and Ed Reed isn’t a sustainable defense. And, anyway, it doesn’t address the problem, which is more endemic and less dramatic: in Boston University’s new study, linemen made up 40 percent of the confirmed CTE cases. The science is increasingly pointing to the conclusion that it’s not the human car wrecks that are the problem, but the fender benders inherent to the game.

Football is the problem. And we fucking love football. More than 35 million of us tuned in for the Broncos-Ravens playoff thriller. So maybe Seau’s death is really the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back on the Concussion Era? Maybe we should all just retreat from this moral turpitude and turn our gaze once more to the warm, yellow glow of the nacho dip rabbithole? Maybe there’s a certain kind of honor in neurological seppuku?

Ah, but then.

Then there’s the obfuscation. There’s the too-familiar politicized gall of an outsized corporation disguising itself as an American institution.

NFL players receive a paltry four years of post-career health care support from their $9-billion-a-year-snarfing employer and are consigned to the healthcare marketplace, loudly red-flagged by what are some very well-known pre-existing conditions. The NFL giddily and quite easily ransoms billions in corporate welfare from taxpayers, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the answer to this is a hearty “free market, free will, something-something.”

The NFL wants to make this living holocaust political. Because if it’s political, if there are commercials and press releases and Very Serious Debate and unanimous agreements to convene another hearing sometime soon (at which Hungarian glacial water would be appreciated), then the fourth wall still stands. Fans will order a bucket of wingdings and re-submerge in the hot sock-stink of the Sunday deprivation tank and tune out the real-time mushing of human brains. It will always be there, if not ever be quite present.

So long as the Reaper only comes for the bad guys, the endless supply of auto-spawning nimrods, the reckless booze hounds and scripper job creators who don’t remember to eat their handful of blueberries before they go to bed, the NFL is safe. But Seau took his vitamins and said his prayers. The former Walter Payton Man of the Year was the league’s poster boy for responsible self-immolation. And still, he sat in a spare room, surrounded by no one, and put a gun to his heart.

So, now what? The NFL’s process for diagnosing concussions on the sidelines is an outdated mess, the league does not require players to wear the best available helmets. And sometimes, coaches and players still publicly disagree over whether or not head trauma even occurred. Instead of scientific legerdemain and weepy TV commercials, the NFL can honor Seau’s ghost by starting there.


Share |

Comments

Then there’s the obfuscation. There’s the too-familiar politicized gall of an outsized corporation disguising itself as an American institution. Domino Online

I have got the superb information from these blogs finally.
payroll advance loans

I basically wish to offer a tremendous proceed for the OK information you have right here on this post. klusgekte

Every day I visit a number of blog sites to see content, however this offers quality based content.million dollar business secrets review

I am going to bookmark your site and keep up looking at for new of the plastic new information.Great tips and clear. instagram followers no survey | instagram like bot

environment is to take care of the people who depend on it. He said incentive programs like the "Salmon Safe" label are one way to do that here.rencontre gratuite

It’s amazing to visit again n again coming to your blogs the superb effort is here.carinsurancerates

A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing this data. I truly like your blog entry all that much. You have truly shared an educational and intriguing blog entry with individuals.. fat diminisher

the SIM card from his cell phone, sat on the edge of a bed in the guestroom of his mansion and shot himself in the chest with a revolver.
salle de réception lyon

engagement through the HNC’s highly visible and successful 25th anniversary celebration. The center is thrilled to have her at the helm and looks forward to many years of collaboration.tchat gratuit

This is such an extraordinary asset, to the point that you are giving and you give it away for nothing. I cherish seeing blog that comprehend the benefit of giving a quality asset to free. virtual ceo

Mr. Alireza Hesami who is a licensed Paralegal. He is currently studying law at the University of London International program to have a better understanding of his current legal expertihttp://www.ecostumes.org/

Your substance is absolutely splendid from numerous points of view. I think this is drawing in and educational material. Much thanks to you such a great amount for thinking about your substance and your perusers. Love Traction Lines

Whether somebody pursuit of his vital thing, hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here.
mind movies matrix review

Good blog along with the excellent quality stuff and I’m sure this will be greatly helpful.www.lifeinsurancerates.com

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. how to make a club flyer

I am giving astounding compliment. Essentially expected that would demonstrate to you that you have people like me who respect your work.
online boutique

We provide Legal Services for the clients of Toronto, Brampton, Richmond Hill, New Market, Markham Ajax, Pickering, Aurora, Barrie, Georgina and Oshawa approximately within 75 kilometres from our main office. paralegal services

I as of late went over your website and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don't comprehend what to say with the exception of that I have appreciated perusing. Pleasant online journal. I will continue going to this web journal regularly. Fat Diminisher System Review

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them
tchat webcam

It’s amazing in support of me to truly have a blog site, which will be valuable meant for my knowledge. Thanks admin.Virtual CEO lifestyle reviews

I respect this article for the all around scrutinized content and superb wording. I got so included in this material that I couldn't quit perusing. I am inspired with your work and expertise. Much thanks to you to such an extent. video traffic genie pro review

the team at the Brain Injury Research Institute and examine their research. The league expected Davies to criticize the emerging science with the typical milquetoast denialism. Instead, he became a full convert.trust registration

which the NFL used to smear Webster and others. The NFL kept talking about the “unknowns.” All the while, Seau withered away quietly.compare prices

Your substance is out and out splendid from multiple points of view. I think this is drawing in and enlightening material. Much obliged to you such a great amount for thinking about your substance and your perusers. Free Wordpress Themes

You have to kick and pivot and look in every direction, even straight up at the sky. You have to sway like you’re a conduit for music with a mournful hesitating heartache backbeat. You have to make the wholehcg

I absolutely getting a charge out of every last bit of it. It is a marvelous site and charming offer. I have to thankful. Dr. Alsahli

I was searching for decisive information on this topic. The information you have provided in the blog is really important.
baton rouge therapists

Your substance is absolutely splendid from numerous points of view. I think this is drawing in and educational material. Much thanks to you such a great amount for thinking about your substance and your perusers. bnb formula review

View Medical Center Monday after he rolled his car on Interstate 15 between exits 57 and 59 earlier that day.
tchatche

Hey buddies, such a marvelous blog you have made I’m surprised to read such informative stufcar insurance rates

Your contents provide me a lot of creative suggestions that I can seemingly utilize on my web page too.
Inbox blueprint 2.0

This A-line Alfred Angelo gown gives a full-figured bride the illusion of curves and a waist with its crossed bandagestyle detailing on the bodice.guess glasses

Wow what a Great Information about World Day its exceptionally pleasant instructive post. a debt of gratitude is in order for the post. naked women over 60

A debt of gratitude is in order for this extraordinary post, i discover it exceptionally fascinating and extremely well thoroughly considered and set up together. I anticipate perusing your work later on. Replica Watches

La Perla’s VIP List’s Leavers lace and stretch silk romper is an elegant choice for a new bride. 3. The French Levers lace collection in the Love line is an Agent Provocateur bestsellerSame dry cleaning near me

a debt of gratitude is in order for this usefull article, sitting tight for this article like this once more. http://www.cccam-server.sitew.eu/

Hello! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice info you've got right here on this post. I will probably be coming back to your weblog for more soon. EDDM Printing

confusion avec la plante sureau Hièble (yèble), une recherche sur internet est recommandée mais il y a peu de risques de se tromper.no verification payday loans

I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot! ig followers
| buying instagram likes

l.. butuh bukti buka saja di youtube, buanyak..!! di india malah ibu2 mau di gebuk batu sama polantas.. justru masih mending polisi di sini yang nontonshopify vs big cartel

a debt of gratitude is in order for this usefull article, sitting tight for this article like this once more. Pamela Anderson sextape

he'll see my dot blinking in snowy Montclair. Why suffer two monster commutes to New York just to write? At least that's my excuse.)landing the job

Your utilization of portraying out while saying your centers makes your target substances clear and direct. fishing rod

Hesami Legal Services founded by Mr. Alireza Hesami who is a licensed Paralegal. He is currently studying law at the University of London International program to have a better understanding of his current legal expertise. paralegal services

Hmm… I interpret blogs on a analogous issue, however i never visited your blog. I added it to populars also i’ll be your faithful primer. Lovetraction Lines Review

I may need to thank you for the exercises you had made for making this stunning content. https://twitter.com/noaahwt/status/716828027662036993

But we all should have the right to draw the curtain when we want. (If my editor looks on his Blackberry today, he'll see my dot blinking in snowy Montclair. Why suffer two monster Loft london

I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again Flyers

The games happen in stadiums and arenas and domes, but where these moments happen for most of us, or at least have happened for me, is a different location, one whose traits vary from place to place but not so much.London plumber