Suicides Are Not “Valiant”

In some way, we continue to look at suicide as “someone else’s” problem.

Until everyone is affected by it.  There are too many angles to deconstruct the suicide of former NFL All-Pro lineman Junior Seau for me to write about.

As someone who has battled depression and had suicidal tendencies a decade ago, I feel that I need to address several sub-topics within this story.

  • The medical research groups that were calling Seau’s family, hours after his death, requesting to examine his brain for possible concussion damage due to playing football, frankly, was unnerving to me.  His family is grieving, and yet researchers were lining up to be the first to examine his brain for any damage.

I understand the importance of science and research, but they couldn’t wait for a few days?  That was the most disturbing sidenote of this story to me.

  • For those who have already concluded that Seau’s suicide was linked to the concussions he had sustained while playing, stop it.  We don’t know if it was brain damage or not…at this point.  Not all football players commit suicide because of brain damage.  For that matter, how many Americans have suffered concussion-like symptoms and committed suicide?

Kenny McKinley didn’t take his own life because of brain damage.  He was depressed.  Gregg Doyel reaffirmed, to a point in his column Friday evening, what I wrote after McKinley’s death:  you are not less of a man if you seek help.  Did Junior Seau seek help?  If he did, was it effective?  If he didn’t, what was his reasons?  We will never know that.  Making the assumption that getting whacked in the head too many times led him to kill himself seems to be the easy thing to conclude.

And it shouldn’t. There are too many questions that has no answers to in respects to the death of Junior Seau.

  • Which leads me to something that has become very disturbing pattern:  committing suicide for the noble cause of medicine.  The thought that Seau would end his life so that his brain can be examined is borderline insane, in my opinion.  Then I thought of former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson.  What would make a person end their life in the name of medical research?  It feels, to me, like a selfish act.  It’s a harsh way of saying it, but what Duerson did, was selfish.

He’ll never know what the results are.  His family will, albeit still suffering over his decision, which made no sense in the first place.

No research group or anyone conducting a study is that desperate for someone to kill themselves, so they can donate a part of their body for research.

No other person, athlete or not, commits suicide to help medical research.  They end their lives because they have either given up on life, depressed and can’t find a way to end the mental pain, or worse, to end physical pain, a la, mercy killing, that Dr. Jack Kevorkian became a household name for.

In an Associated Press story on Friday, former New Orleans Saints Kyle Turley was quoted in the following:

“Somewhere, the wires got crossed and he unfortunately decided to end his life.  But in his last moment — and I will without a doubt believe this until the day I  die — Junior Seau ended his life in a valiant way.”

– Kyle Turley, as reported by AP writer Paul Newberry

I call bullshit on Turley.  No one dies valiantly by suicide.  That is sick, and, more importantly, the most selfish statement I have ever heard.  Turley doesn’t get it.  He will never get it.  I know he has had dealt with personal and health issues, but this is a slap in the face to the families and friends of people who have taken their own lives.

And no, Dave Duerson didn’t make it easy to understand the “torture” he was going through.  Duerson and Seau made it harder to understand…and painful for those around them.

Hey Kyle, tell the families you have insulted, to their faces, that their loved ones’ suicide was a “valiant” gesture.

Junior Seau, Duerson, and others who have ended their lives are not valiant.

It’s senseless and a waste.  If Duerson was concerned about possible brain damage he sustained during his playing days, there were other ways to help with the research.

Putting a gun to your chest shouldn’t be one of them.  Ever.

  • The ever-increasing lawsuits that former players are filing against the NFL has watered down the authenticity of the concussion issue.  Sadly, some of them are in it for a money grab, which makes it difficult for those who may have a legitimate case.  For those who do have a legitimate reason, they will have a harder time trying to prove their case.

It’s because they chose to play football.  No one forced them to.  They knew the risks of playing including sustaining injuries that would linger after their careers were over.  That is the cold-blooded truth, even if we choose to deny it.

If I chose to smoke and I read the Surgeon General’s warning on the cigarette pack, and I light up anyway, how hypocritical is it for me to sue the tobacco industry for something I was warned not to do, but I did it anyway?

So, this is as far as I’ll go on this subject for now.  I can’t say this enough to men who are contemplating suicide:  you are not less of man if you seek help.  Stop acting like you can handle this yourself.  Call someone, get help.  I did 10 years ago.

Why am I still here and not six feet under?  Because I didn’t want to miss family event or something a friend did.  I didn’t want to miss history take place.  I didn’t want to miss something that could give me hope.

That last sentence is what keeps me going each day.  Don’t be a selfish valiant hero.


We Didn’t Miss Any Football…We Missed Talking About Football

There are a few things I need to address now that the NFL Players Association has ratified and agreed to the 10-year proposal that the owners passed 29-1 this past Thursday, thus ending the lockout this afternoon. 

To those who are saying “football is back!”, I view it differently. 

Football isn’t back…yet.  The season is another month away.  Football is still in its off-season.  The last game of the season was the Super Bowl.  The 2011 regular season doesn’t start until after Labor Day.  What football had we missed? 

Answer:  none. 

The only game that will not be played between now and the regular season is an insignificant one at best:  the Hall of Fame game, which is an exhibition.  No games have been played during this lockout.  There were signs several weeks ago that if an agreement was imminent, the regular season would be played.  The exhibition games would be affected.  Those games don’t even count towards any records. 

We didn’t miss any football at all.  What we missed is the free-for-fall of free agency.  Who’s coming, who’s going, new faces popping up with different teams. 


If you missed your football fix so much, did you go see the Iowa Barnstormers this year? If you haven't you're out of luck. The season ended on Saturday.

Plainly speaking, what we missed is talking about football.  If we missed seeingfootball so much, then we would have filled that void by re-watching football highlights on You Tube, going back through our DVR’s for games we recorded, went out and played sandlot, flag, or 7-on-7 football, watched the Iowa Barnstormers, Canadian Football League, and the Indoor Football League

But, as lemmings following the pied piper, our world revolves around the NFL, first and foremost. 

The agreement didn’t signal that football is back.  It really means that the 2011 NFL regular season will not be interrupted by work stoppage or lockouts

Exhibition games don’t count, unless you’re a gambling degenerate in a Las Vegas sportsbook casino. 

I’m relieved that both sides have voted in favor of a new long-term deal to ensure that the season will not be halted or delayed.  Don’t give either side a celebratory thank you, because their job was to work towards putting together a new deal.  That’s what they were supposed to do. 

Now, if you excuse me, baseball season is still in full swing. 

Football, for me, doesn’t start until after August 5th. 

Mel (and the Hair) Is Back

Mel Kiper and his hair will be on prime time tonight as the 2011 NFL Draft beings in New York City.

Tonight, the 2011 NFL Draft begins in New York City.  For non-sports fans, this is equivalent to a Royal Wedding, but this happens every April.  It’s a sight unlike no other, but the hoopla will be tempered, as the continuous Collective Bargaining Agreement has yet to be hashed out and legal wrangling with the owners locking out the players (the lockout has since been ordered lifted). 

The usual suspects will be there:  Chris Berman and the NFL Gameday Crew from ESPN; the one and the only Mel Kiper Jr., the preeminment draft-nik, his younger competitor Todd McShay, and the two most insufferable fan bases known to sports fans all over:  (Philadelphia) Eagles fans and (New York) Jets fans. 

DJ Steve Porter, who has gain a large audience of fans for his sports visual/audio remixes, has put together a sweet remix of the NFL Draft.  Have a look at it, and then after that, some memorable visual moments of the draft down through the years. 

If It Doesn’t Love You Back…

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk made a comment that made sense to me when it comes to being calm and rational.  In writing about the NFL labor negotiations, Florio warned both the owners and the players association “there’s no point getting overly emotional about the ups and downs (during the negotiations).  They are inevitable.”

He’s right.

When my mom called me last Monday to tell me that my sister went into labor, I didn’t freak out, act out emotionally, or jump to conclusions.  I calmly put my clothes together, put them in the car, and I drove to eastern Iowa.  By the time I got to the Amana exit on I-80, my sister delivered her second child, with her husband there to see it (he was finishing up his 5-year duty in the military when their first child was born).

That didn’t deter me that I didn’t make it in time.  I kept driving until I arrived at the hospital.

I’m not an emotional person by any stretch.  I strive to get the facts and make a rational thought or decision.

And I keep my calm and see things through.

Which is something a lot of people this past week couldn’t do or chose not to do.  Wisconsin, the Pollock, this, that, and knick-nacks everywhere.

All of that doesn’t bother me too much, because those are not the most important things to me.  Other will disagree, but that’s their problem.  I don’t live for stuff that doesn’t affect me directly as much as family does.

One of my personal mantras has been this:  love your family, love your significant other, love your dog, love your friends, and love your parents.  Like everything else.  Money, materialistic things, food, cars, to name a few, you can like.  They don’t love you.

Labor strife doesn’t love me, economy doesn’t love me, and as much as I love art, the Pollock painting hanging in the Figge Art Center in Davenport doesn’t love me. Therefore, I “like” art.  I should clarify that more often.

How can I “love” something and expect to get it back in return?

That’s why you should “like”, not fall in love, sacrifice your time and your life to it.  What good does that do?

My two nieces love me.  That’s what I give a damn about.

Body Language

Just because Jay Cutler looks like this everyday doesn't necessarily mean that he doesn't care about anything.

Body language can say a lot of about someone.  Shoulders slumped and head hanging low is someone who is sad and depressed; standing alone by a wall at a dance, may indicate shyness…or wanting to be left alone. 

What if our inclination of a person’s behavior, attitude, or feelings based on their body language is wrong?   

Jay Cutler may not have helped himself  with his body language during the Chicago Bears’ 24-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.  Cutler did not return to the game after halftime, after what was described as a possible knee injury.  NFL players, analysts, and fans came to the conclusion that Cutler “quit” after not returning…

by reading his body language

His teammates came out and passionately defended him after the game, when critics started asking questions about Cutler’s effort.  If there was any questions about his effort, some of his teammates would have leaked it out by now.  Solid Chicago reporters such as David Kaplan and Zach Zaidman have said that despite being, or looking like a dour individual, Cutler has a strong work ethic. 

Jay Cutler is known to have a prickly personality in public.  But what if he isn’t always like that away from the field? 

His body language needs work, not his effort or his heart.  His heart for the game is already there.  He doesn’t know to express that physically. 

We All Need “Coaching”

Jamarcus Russell

Recently, I watched an interview of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Jamarcus Russell.  Russell was the first pick in the NFL Draft several years ago.  Since the end of last season, Russell was released by the Raiders and was arrested in July for possession of a controlled substance known as “purple drank.”  NFL critics and fans are starting to consider Russell the “biggest bust” in the history of the NFL.

That’s a lot to say when the other “busts” have been Ryan Leaf and Tony Mandarich, among a selected few.

How can a player of Russell’s caliber be such a bust?

Is it because his coach didn’t develop him to prepare him for the NFL?

It leads me to believe that his college coach, LSU’s Les Miles,  either didn’t spend more time helping Jamarcus work on his mechanics and maturity as a quarterback, or Russell thought that he didn’t need to change his “game”.  Talent is a great thing to have, but you have to hone your skills and work on your weaknesses in order to be ready for whatever happens.

Jim Tressel aka "Sweater Vest" (left) and Kirk Ferentz (right)

Which is why Kirk Ferentz is respected and admired by the NFL community.  NFL coaches and scouts know that when a former Hawkeye joins their team, that player is ready mentally, physically, and prepared for the next challenge.

Just like in sports, “coaches” are everywhere and are available to help people work on a weakness, better utilize their strengths and skills, and help build confidence to tackle on life’s challenges.

There’s a “career” coach, “life” coach, and even a “motivational” coach.  There is a coach for almost anything that we need help in.