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Madness and Sadness in the NFL

Posted By Alex Belth On May 9, 2011 @ 3:34 pm In 1: Featured,Bronx Banter,Links: Sportswriting,Sportswriting | Comments Disabled

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From the latest issue of Men’s Journal, here is “The Ferocious Life and Tragic Death of a Super Bowl Star,” by Paul Solotaroff and Rick Telander [2]:

Dave Duerson set the scene with a hangman’s care before climbing into bed with the revolver.

The former Pro Bowl safety for the Super Bowl–champion 1985 Chicago Bears drew the curtains of his beachfront Florida condo, laid a shrine of framed medals and an American flag to his father, a World War II vet, and pulled the top sheet up over his naked body, a kindness to whoever found him later. On the dining room table were notes and a typed letter that were alternately intimate and official, telling his former wife where his assets were and whom to get in touch with to settle affairs. He detailed his motives for ending his life, citing the rupture of his family and the collapse of his finances, a five-year cliff dive from multimillionaire to a man who couldn’t pay his condo fees. Mostly, though, he talked about a raft of ailments that pained and depressed him past all tolerance: starburst headaches and blurred vision, maddening craters in his short-term memory, and his helplessness getting around the towns he knew. Once a man so acute he aced his finals at Notre Dame with little study time, he found himself now having to dash down memos about what he was doing and when. Names, simple words, what he’d eaten for dinner — it was all washing out in one long wave.

No one had to tell him what those symptoms implied or what lay in store if he stuck around. Once a savage hitter on the best defense the game has ever seen, Duerson filled the punch list for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the neuron-killing condition so rampant these days among middle-aged veterans of the National Football League. Andre Waters and Terry Long, both dead by their own hands; John Mackey and Ralph Wenzel, hopelessly brain-broke in their 50s. It was a bad way to die and a worse way to live, warehoused for decades in a fog, unable, finally, to know your own kids when they came to see you at the home.

[Photo Credit: L.A. Times]


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[2] “The Ferocious Life and Tragic Death of a Super Bowl Star,” by Paul Solotaroff and Rick Telander: http://www.mensjournal.com/dave-duerson

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