Friday, March 11, 2011

All fun and games (until someone shoots themselves - maybe)

I wonder if Dave Duerson will be heard. That is, if his shot will be heard.

Dave Duerson is a former NFL star who shot himself not long ago. His suicide - or, more accurately, his shooting himself or, even more accurately, the way he shot himself - was clearly meant to send a message.

We’ll see if anyone gets it.

Duerson shot himself in the heart and not in the head. He did this very carefully, with much thought, for a very specific reason: so that his brain can be examined. He was obviously sick of hearing about retired football players having brain damage - dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc. - stemming from having their heads banged repeatedly during games.

He was no doubt sick about football players, including in high school, being allowed or even pressured to play after their "bell has been rung." (This practice has been more or less stopped.) He was no doubt sick of hearing about high school football players collapsing on the field and dying soon afterwards.

I always thought that boxing is bad enough. I have never understood people being encouraged to punch the living daylights out of each other, sometimes quite literally, and why this is a sport, much less a massively popular one. Look at Mohammad Ali, who is celebrated as all but a god even as he is a stumbling mess.

Now it turns out that football is just as bad. Bad enough for a man to kill himself to make the point.

But will the NFL get the message? We’ll see. As with boxing, football is big business, with billions of dollars at stake and fans not likely to settle for less excitement and, sure, danger. Even now, the NFL is floating the idea of adding two more games in its regular season. Two more chances for head banging and concussions.

Interestingly, Duerson’s suicide occurred at about the same time as the ten-year anniversary of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt being killed in a fiery crash during a race. Yes, NASCAR has made significant and commendable safety improvements, including a more secure, protective seats, in the accident’s afternoon. But it was also noted during the anniversary that Earnhardt surely would have laughed them off and refused to utilize them.

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