RIP JUNIOR SEAU

Last week Junior Seau was found dead three hours after the NFL announced a brilliant initiative in player safety.  Seau, 43, was found in his home from what police are ruling a suicide.  In an effort to save its players from the punishing effects of concussions, the NFL banned 4 Saints (one now a former Saint) players for multiple games for their role in the bounty scandal, reminding everyone that player safety is their number one concern.

Ray Easterling, 62, shot himself on April 21st after suffering from post-concussion effects for years;  he was a key witness in the class action lawsuit against the NFL regarding post-concussion effects and retired player compensation.  Does the NFL now lessen the credibility of Easterling by saying he had “money problems” or other reasons to be depressed?  Is his death great for the lawsuit in that it attracts sympathy?  People dying is now PR fuel for each side.

I have no idea why Seau ended his life.  Some question whether his 2010 car accident was indeed a suicide attempt.  For all I know, the gun firing could have been an accident (it has officially been ruled a suicide).  But a relatively young, recently retired 43 year old with young kids and a Hall of Fame pedigree died, not some 85 year old man.

The Commissioner’s office really needs to start wondering what happens if / when high profile bodies start piling up.  What will the NFL’s reponse be if Brett Favre commits suicide?  Tom Brady?  Peyton Manning?  Are they famous enough for the public to turn on the league and pressure them?   It is a war of PR and public opinion and right now the NFL is winning by suspending players in the name of player safety for doing something in 2009 (!!!!) that many other teams admit to doing meanwhile they are in a lawsuit trying to avoid paying injured veterans suffering from post-concussion effects.  Do the players need someone like Peyton Manning, charismatic and funny, to be as brittle as Muhammed Ali by age 45?

I played sports.  Okay, I tried to.  And even in high school I had coaches repeatedly tell me to “kill someone” if he comes across the middle.  “Knock him the fuck out.”  It’s sports.  It’s our national “who’s got a bigger dick” competition.  If someone offered me ten grand to knock out someone I would take probably too long considering it.  Why?  BECAUSE I COULD REALLY USE TEN GRAND!  I don’t think the average NFL player, who only gets paid during the season, so he is flush with cash at the moment, thinks “hm… ten grand?  That’ll make me hit harder than my 250 body that runs 40 in 4.5 seconds already does.”

These guys are behemoths.  They always, always, always, hit hard.

Who is the most violent hitter in the NFL off the top of your head?  Me: Troy Polamalu.  That guy is a wrecking machine.

Know what?  He seems like the nicest man in the world.  I doubt the Steelers have a bounty on their sidelines, but Polamalu sure looks like he is crippling some people.  Should he be suspended? He is hurting people and getting paid for it… BY THE NFL (M. Night Shyamalan twist)!!

Gambling should be punished.  Players should be suspended for gambling in the locker room, etc.  It is a league, corporate facility and they should not be throwing cash around.  Furthermore, the extreme organization in the Saints’ bounty scandal is odd.  But we cannot assume if the Saints were not betting on the sidelines then 40 year Brett Favre would not get hurt.  Maybe he got hurt BECAUSE HE WAS 40 YEARS OLD.

It is a shame that billionaire owners making billions in the biggest money making machine in the United States (soon we’ll all have NFL faces on our money) cannot shell out more for veterans who bring people into their stadiums, pay $15 to park, eat $9 hot dogs and drink two or three $11 beers.  They don’t have to, the NFL is winning the PR war: most people I run into on the street really think the Saints players should be banned.  Is this because they thought about it?  Or because ESPN, the NFL’s PR network, says so? *

*A long, angry post about how ESPN is the sports-world’s FOX NEWS is coming one of these days. 

I’m watching Outside the Lines right now as they discuss the concussion “crisis.”  Know what?  It was ESPN that was outraged one weekend last season when numerous players were knocked out with big hits.  “Suspend guys!” ESPN writers and analysts screamed; NFL complied.  If ESPN wants to pressure the NFL to take care of these guys, they can.  But then the NFL might get mad at them and Monday Night Football would go to NFL Network.

A friend mentioned “these guys all waste their money too. They are forced to retire at 30, then piss away all their money, of course they are depressed.”  If this is true (not saying it is) shouldn’t the NFL help them?  Shouldn’t the NFL (and Player’s Union) aid players going through this, or at least make an active effort.

That is what makes this hard for me: so many people blame the players. “It’s a violent game.” “They wasted their money, know how much I make?” “Guys are thugs.”  Sure concussions and injuries are occupational hazards, but so is the generator we are using on our production set; if that explodes shattering half my face, is it a “violent job?” Did I “waste my money?” “Am I “a thug?”  No.  I was doing my job.  I got hurt.  Not my fault.

It is hard to sympathize with athletes; I rarely do.  They make lots of money doing things we loved doing as kids.  They are living the dream.  But how do you sympathize with billionaires?  I cannot stress this enough: billionaires who refuse to increase the post-career benefits to guys who struggle to remember their kids names; guys who gets migraines from sunlight; guys who constantly took one year contracts for the league minimum just to stick around; guys who said they were fine because the team needed a big stop; guys who said they were fine because if they got cut they’d lose their house.  It is almost cartoonish.

We refuse to vote for presidential nominees if they seem “too rich” but we side with NFL owners against the people who make them richer?  When a player ends his life we think “yeah it happens” rather than “was anyone helping him?”

Maybe the league thinks since retirees are no longer NFL players they are not worth their time.

Go Saints.

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