Friday, June 20, 2014

Leaving It On The Field

Yes, I'm a football fan. I played the sport just long enough to understand that I was going to be much better off sitting on a couch watching others put their bodies in harm's way than going down on the field and hurling by own flesh and bones around in the hopes of making a touchdown. Not that I had a lot of opportunities, since mostly what I was doing was "blocking," or being pushed roughly to the ground. This occupied enough of the other team's players from time to time that other members of my team were able to use this distraction to score that touchdown, so hooray for me. I'm much better off as a spectator. I don't even bother going to the stadium to watch anymore, since that has its own dangers to my physical being.
So, who is it that's still willing to put their youth on the line in order for folks like me to enjoy their efforts vicariously? The NFL draft took place last month, and no one who heard their name called stood up and said, "No thanks. I'll try bullfighting instead." Spine and knee injuries make even the heartiest of souls old before their time, and if you manage to walk away from the game, who knows what kind of life expectancy awaits these men who are old before their time.
Like Rodney Thomas, former running back for the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons who just passed away at the age of forty-one. Forty-one. He played professional football for seven seasons and even made to to a Super Bowl, but didn't live to see much the start of his fifth decade. Then there's the sad tale of Jim McMahon, star quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Jim was known, in his day, for his reckless and bizarre behavior on and off the field. Now that behavior is all off the field, and when they say "That Jim McMahon is crazy," they mean demented. Clinically. The fact that he isn't sure if he had three, four or five concussions during his career suggest that maybe he was sacrificing his body for a sport that cared less for him than he cared for it. About five years ago, when he went to get an x-ray and MRI, he found out that somewhere along the line, he had broken his neck. That's about the time the dementia diagnosis came. Now he's part of the class-action suit filed by former players against the NFL. It's for millions of dollars. I hope he gets a chance to spend some of it. I'll be watching. From the relative safety of the sidelines.

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