Wednesday, February 23, 2011

100 Yards of Risk

When I first heard about former NFL star Dave Duerson's passing my thoughts ranged from shock to sadness.  Now firmly in my 40s, I get a knot when I read about a father dying young, in this case at age 50, leaving four children.

Then came the details.  A suicide, and what looks to be martyrdom.  Duerson shot himself in the chest so that doctors could examine his brain for degenerative brain disease.

Dave Duerson was a big hitter.  He came of age with the 1985 Chicago Bears, a member of one of the most dominant defenses ever.  A safety from Notre Dame, Duerson became a starter in 1985 after Todd Bell and Al Harris sat out the entire season in a contract dispute.  Duerson and his teammates became legends, while Todd Bell and Al Harris entered the Shelley Long wing of the Museum of Bad Career Moves.  Coincidentally, Bell also died young, suffering a heart attack at age 46.

After football, Duerson went on to business success and was active in the NFL players union, eventually serving on a panel that considered player disability claims. 

In what may become the ultimate irony, Duerson likely was dealing with his own encephalopathy ("punch drunk") after spending many years openly skeptical of similar player claims. 

And his death may prove to be a turning point. 

I love football, having played from 4th grade through high school.

My high school coach liked to say, "Basketball is a contact sport.  Football is a collision sport." 

Amen.  I had plenty of them.  Had my "bell rung" a number of times, shook it off and got back in the huddle. 
I only suffered one concussion.  One that I was aware of. 

As much as I love football, I think we will see a dwindling of youth programs in the next decade.  There is simply too much evidence coming out about the dangers of head trauma.  And too much at stake for park districts and schools to risk liability. 

My son, now 12, has wanted to play football for some time, but I have resisted, probably until high school. 

He's gravitated towards other sports.  Baseball, wrestling, basketball.  Sports that require a specific skill. 

Football is about physics more than skill, and you can't teach height, weight or brute force.  

I heard a commentator theorize that football may go the way of boxing, where participation is limited mainly to the poor as an avenue to financial success.  In other words, Middle and upper-class parents don't take the risk. 

In the New York Times article (see above link), Duerson's son Tregg is quoted as saying, "I wish he had played baseball." 

Lots of sons, and their parents, may soon feel that way.

Do your children play football?  Please feel free to post a comment.  I would enjoy hearing from you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paper Lion

Chicago had some snow a couple of weeks ago.  Lots of it.  I'm sure you heard.  Snow, wind, yada, yada, yada.

It was bad.  People who ventured out must have felt like they were sucking nuclear fallout.   Me and the fam hunkered down for the night.  Movies, cards and a good book.

We woke up under two feet of snow.  I wandered downstairs to put the coffee on.

And naturally my first thought, as I opened the front door and peeked over a four foot drift, was "WHERE ARE MY NEWSPAPERS??????????!!!!!!!!!

I'm a news junkie.  Paper please - two dailies and the Wall Street Journal. 

I hate to leave the house uninformed.  For me, a day without papers is like showing up at NASA with a 3rd grade education. 

Need my papers, especially when we're trapped like olives in an air tight bottle. 

I grew up surrounded by news.  Among my earliest memories are waking up to the sound of radio, transistor style, emanating from the bathroom.  I knew the time and temperature before my dream was done. 

Then it was off to the kitchen table, where another radio sat on the end as my parents dove into their coffee and papers.  Mike Royko, Wally Phillips, Bill Gleason, Roy Leonard.  Voices of Chicago.  My voices. 

I'm a dying breed. For proof, step on to a train or bus these days. Everyone is glued to their pods, berries and pads. The "commuter fold" is going the way of drive-ins and mimeographs.

I go online, but its not the same.  Online news is like indoor baseball or TV hockey.  Nice, but I want a real experience.  You can't shake a website or doze off covered by the sports page, though my son would probably say, "Isn't there an app for that?"

Which brings me back to our snow day.  The benevolent folks at my dailies gave me access, for a day, to the electronic version of their rags.  Not the website, mind you, but the actual paper online, pages and all.  This.  Was.  Cool. 

Memo to your marketing folks:  Figure out a way to bundle your home delivery and electronic versions.  Having both at a competitive price would be delightful.

In the meantime,  see you at the webstand.