Friday, May 11, 2012

Junior Seau and men dying young

America is a country fixated on sports, and I think one of the reasons for this is that it provides an escape from the daily grind of life.
We are all very busy people, and it seems our lives become more stressful and intense by the day. Because of this, we need something light and frivolous to distract us. Instead of sitting at home worrying about a project at work that is overwhelming us, we can turn on the television and cheer on the home team.
Sports also play a role in developing a sense of community. Let’s face it; sports often provide a way for us to bond together. People from diverse backgrounds can come together and share a common goal.
If the Tennessee Titans or Nashville Predators win a big game, then everybody shares in that. It does not matter if a person is living in a fancy mansion or a modest apartment. Their team has won, and for one brief moment, we are all unified.
Living in this bubble can be nice. Unfortunately, real life punctures this dream world occasionally. This happened earlier this month when football legend and certain Hall-of-Famer Junior Seau died at age 43.
He was found in his daughter’s bedroom, and he had a gunshot wound to his chest and a gun by his side. Officials quickly ruled the death a suicide.
Why would a man who had a remarkable career and the respect of his peers and the public end his life this way? While we do not know for sure at this point, his death is the latest in a series in which former NFL players died young and for some, their deaths may have been spurred by long-term injuries from their playing days.
For example, not too long ago former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson also committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. A primary reason Duerson ended his life this way was so experts could study his brain to determine the long-term damage playing football had on him.
While it is not known if Seau’s primary reason for killing himself in this manner was for this purpose, his brain is also expected to be studied and his method of suicide will allow this to take place. The bottom line is Seau’s death will continue to be a story in the coming months. Results from the study of his brain will likely be big news.
This is because more and more former National Football League players are suing the league because of long-term health issues they are having. A primary bone of contention revolves around concussions.
Many players state the league did not take seriously the long-term consequences of repeated concussions years ago, and the price is being paid now. The league disagrees.
If study of Seau’s brain supports either side, then expect that information to be used publically in a dramatic way. Do not underestimate the stakes in this situation. Professional football is a billion dollar industry, and both sides will likely use any means necessary to make their points.
As fans, this controversy should be very sobering for us. As much as we love football, the sacrifices being made by players are real and irreversible in some cases. We often do not think about this when a big hit takes place on the field. We only want results and for our team to win.
While nobody forces these players to play this game, maybe we all need to become more sensitive to the suffering going on around us. Should entertainment be this brutal? I love my football, but the conflict in my heart is growing.
How about you?

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