Was I Responsible for Junior Seau’s Death?
I love football. I would venture to say that “Sunday Funday” during football season is one of my favorite things. My buddy Trevor and I usually go to a somewhat neutral spot to watch the games (he being a Giants fan, me being a Patriots fan) where the NFL package has every game playing. A lovely place called the Stumble Inn. We find a spot close enough to the bar and centered between the TVs playing our teams if they so happen to be on at the same time. We have fun, there are a bunch of other regulars we know, and we usually get tater tots that are smothered in cheese. Bud Light, tater tots, and football. The new Budweiser, apple pie, and baseball.
The NFL has been America’s favorite league for almost twenty years now (that is my humble opinion). After the baseball strike of 1994, the MLB lost any of the last strings of a hold it had as America’s game. I still think it will long be our past time, but in regards to a sport people watch football just became too fast, too strong, and too full of:
“Holy shit did he just do that?”
“Did you see that hit?”
“How did he hold on to that ball?”
“He ran him over!”
“What a beast!
The NFL became a league of machines. Men who were no longer merely human. They were learning how to prepare and sculpt their body’s in such a way that Greek Gods might peak down once in a while to get a glance of perfection. With this came bigger hits, receivers jumping higher in the air making them sitting targets for the highlight reels, lineman smashing helmets together as they had done for fifty years, but now fifty pounds heavier, fifty pounds of muscle, all moving faster. And we, as American’s loved every moment.
I was swept up in the games. The hits, the action, the athletic ability that even with the best training and injections I would never see for myself.
Which brings me to this question – what am I to think of myself (now that it has been well documented) the game of football is not good for your head? The suicide rate, the dementia, the guys who plain and simple lose their mind – because I want to watch them play a game where they have been trained to punish each other in between the lines of a field since they were 6 years old. When their Pop Warner coach taught them to lead with the head, to shake it off if their “bell got rung”, to be a man, and to (as Peyton Manning famously said in one of his 381 commercials he has done) “rub some dirt on it”. These athletes have been taught from a young age to be professional tough guys, so why is it shocking that many of them are paying the price?
Junior Seau played 20 seasons in the NFL (according to Sports Illustrated). Before that he was a star at USC and before that he worked his way to that point as a youngster. He was one of the best linebackers in the history of the NFL. In 1994 he was named sportsman of the year. He ran a charity in his hometown San Diego helping kids. He was by all means a good guy………..which is why I paused when I heard he had been charged with assaulting a girlfriend of his. It didn’t seem to fit. Then he drove his vehicle over a 100 cliff and survived with little bodily harm. And now, he is dead, from an apparent self inflicted gun wound to the chest. The same way former NFL and Chicago Bear Dave Duerson committed suicide so that his brain could be studied. Think about how careful you have to plan a suicide to take saving your brain for science into the equation. Another scary fact – Seau is the 8th player on the 1994 San Diego Charger to to have passed away. A very high mortality rate for a group of 53 men – all athletes performing at the highest level.
So I ask, was this my fault? Did I cause this? Was my Bud Light drinking, tater tot eating, action packed Sunday of enjoy America’s game, in part, responsible for this man’s death?
I’m not sure. We don’t even know all the facts. Maybe it was something else.
But I doubt that and as a football fan, as a Patriot fan who rooted for Seau the last four years of his career, it was anything else. I think football killed that man. Leaving behind a mother, three children, and a brain we have for science.
Will I still watch the NFL on Sundays? It will be there. It will still generate billions of dollars. The players know the risks.
So yes, I will watch football. I will eat my tater tots and I will drink a couple of Bud Lights. I will cheer for the touchdowns, the sacks, and (hopefully) the Patriot wins. I just think I’ll cringe a whole lot more when I see that big hit, because I don’t want to celebrate what happened to Junior Seau.