[college athletes] who don’t come from dire poverty will in greater and greater numbers choose to do something else with their minds and bodies. Many NFL players began their lives in destitute situations defined by hardship, but many others come to the league from stable, middle-class backgrounds as well. That middle-class player, especially those like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick who played multiple sports, will become scarce. Meanwhile, as ticket prices rise, we are facing a sport ready to go “full gladiator” as poor people, disproportionately black, damage one another’s brains for wealthy, disproportionately white crowds.Yep, when I blog like this, you can see that the old commie, leftist, me is very much alive and well. Tell you what, I am always glad that part of me is alive and well. If I didn't think about the race and class and gender implications, then I will worry about me. It is just that I don't like the idea of always, always, viewing the world through a race or class or gender issue.
Anyway, that excerpt is from that old commie rag, for which I always have a soft spot--The Nation. It is in the context of San Francisco 49er linebacker Chris Borland walking away from gazillions of dollars.
Untold legions suffer from CTE, a brain ailment that affects motor skills, memory and impulse control. Early onset dementia and ALS can result from the kinds of repeated blows to the head that happen on every play of every game. The ignominious history of head injury casualties includes high-profile suicides of Hall of Famers Mike Webster and Junior Seau. It includes Dave Duerson who like Seau put a bullet in his chest instead of his head so his CTE-wracked brain could be studied. It also includes icons of the 1980s like Jim McMahon and Tony Dorsett struggling with basic life-functions. History shows that playing NFL-level-football is like playing Russian Roulette with your future, and Chris Borland decided to do what so few have done and put the gun down. “I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”When the NFL fights a very good fight downplaying the long-term health issues of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE,) Borland makes this compelling point even when talking about "his passion for the “visceral” violence of the sport":
That doesn’t mean football players are pieces of meat. I think the most important people to convey that message to is the football player himself. You’re not a commodity, you’re a person.I hope that this madness that is called a "sport" is sent to a dark corner as was that other brain-damaging sport of the past--boxing. The sooner the better.