It took me three days to write this column. I didn't and don't want my thoughts on the death of another contemporary to be emotionally charged (even though that seems to be the only thing I continue to channel). I don't like thinking about these sentences and their direction, tone or meaning. The words that make up these sentences and the paragraphs thereof are personal.
The death of Junior Seau kicked me in the face. I met Junior a couple of times and had the opportunity to play against him. The results were not so opportune.
Junior's death made me think of a friend, a guy I got to know while playing football in Hawaii: Dave Duerson.
Dave Duerson was a friend, a peer and contemporary, but he was also one of the most squared-away individuals I have ever met. Duerson was big, strong, fast, athletic, the ladies loved him; but this is not what I remember most about Double-D. What I remember most about him was he was one of the smartest, level- headed, calculating, confident, in control people we as a species can or ever will generate.
Despite suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that often develops into dementia, Duerson killed himself by shooting a bullet into his chest and left a note telling his family to have his brain examined.
Even with the horror of the circumstances, after months of sadness for Double-D and his family, this last act of defiance by my one- time friend made me smile.
Whatever the disease does to people, whatever the manifestations, whatever control it had over Dave Duerson, in the end the Warrior- Politician used his brain to retake control of his life. Although the doctors at Boston University and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy confirmed Duerson had CTE, Double-D was still calculating to the very end. He wanted the very thing that was betraying his person, his brain, intact.
Now hear me well: I do not write these words to glorify or condone what my one-time friend did; I do not understand how he could do such a thing…not Double-D.
But you should know I do not judge him; nor will I judge Junior Seau.
Junior Seau's family is currently considering whether or not they should have Junior's brain examined. They do not wish to make a rash decision while flooded in grief. Of course there's no right or wrong answer to their dilemma.
And it is a dilemma.
Many people don't understand why the Seaus would balk at allowing medical examiners to get to the truth; what's the problem?
Junior's the problem.
The dilemma for the Seaus might include the juxtaposition of Junior's life with his death. Within the context of the Bloodsport, Junior Seau was a warrior. According to medical reports, Junior Seau never suffered a concussion. In twenty years of playing one of the most brutal, physically demanding, high-impact positions on the field he never suffered a concussion…
Or maybe he just played through it. Junior's ex-wife, Gina, implied that he just played through it. She called him a "warrior" and that was part of the problem, one half of the dilemma.
If Junior never told trainers and doctors that he thought he was concussed and elected to just play through it, there must have been a reason why he didn't, right? Why didn't Junior Seau tell the medical staff that he was feeling weird or had symptoms consistent with a concussion? Why?
Enter the warrior…
Junior Seau didn't choose to inform the medical staff of his condition because something told him inside it was part of the game and overcoming such adversaries made him who he was; it was a badge of pride and honor. Today we can say with certitude it was an imprudent badge but back when Junior came into the league it was a badge most players coveted, valued and worked to wear.
After Junior's death the Seau family deliberated and mourned their loss, saying they were going to take some time to determine if they were going to allow Junior's brain to be tested; word came our they were going to allow the Brain Injury Research Institute to examine Junior's brain; then they changed their mind and said they didn't want to rush into any decision and wanted to rethink their position.
Why the change of heart? Why the hesitation? What could it possibly hurt?
I wonder if Junior's beautiful family knows what his feelings were - right or wrong - in regard to how the game was to be played and do not wish to smear what Junior valued so much by allowing his brain to be examined? Maybe they know Junior wouldn't have had it any other way? Maybe they know Junior wouldn't have changed a thing about how he played even if he were starting his career today? Maybe his family believes they would be indirectly attacking Junior, what he believed and the game he loved? Maybe the Seau family know who and what Junior was and are thankful the game of football afforded their son, brother, father, uncle, nephew a canvas in which to paint his masterpiece?
These suppositions may seem foreign and ridiculous to many. And that's okay; it's your prerogative to feel any way you want about this story. But I will promise you there are many other families and clans that have, can and will empathize with my musing.
Even if Junior's family comes out and allows his brain to be examined, even if they find nothing close to CTE, in the world of professional mercenaries the above questions remain and are real for families that can and do empathize with works of art from members of their clan.
I know mine does.