A month or so ago former defensive back Andre Watters was so depressed that he committed sucide. A few weeks ago former Patriots LB Ted Johnson feared he may be heading down a similar path. Now it's recently retired NYG RB Tiki Barber who is speaking out against the phsyical demands of playing in today's NFL.
In an interview with the New York Post, Barber said that it was only 'an act of God' that he didn't get seriously hurt as a result of the physical demands placed on him and his teamates by head coach Tom Coughlin.
Are young men sacrificing a lifetime of mental and physical normality and health in order to succeed for a short period of time in the National Football League? This is a debate that I believe is only going to heat up in the forthcoming years, as more and more evidence piles up linking the game of football with long-term cognitive impairment. This isn't our father's and grandfather's NFL...today's players are so big, so fast, so strong, and (perhaps) so jacked up on HGH and steroids that the phsyical toll of the game has the potential to be far greater than it was decades ago. And it was pretty damn physical back then. It's a war-zone out there between the lines, and if you're too scared or too hurt to go back out there and absorb the physical punishment time after time in order to help you're team win, well, the coach and upper-management will find someone who is willing and able to go out there.
Many of us, myself included, love the game because of what it demands from the players. The speed of the game is breathtaking, the big hits are fun to re-watch on the DVR, and the amount of physicality needed to execute a 10-yard run up the middle is interesting to think about and break down. Football is also the consumate team sport, as the physicality of the game can deflate even the biggest of egos. These are just a few of the myriad reasons why I enjoy watching the games each Sunday. But, after hearing and reading about the suicide of Waters, and the disintegration of Ted Johnson's physical and mental well-being recently, I have begun to feel almost guilty about taking so much pleasure in following today's NFL.
It saddens me to read stories or hear about retired players , men in they're 60's and 70s, who receive less than $500 dollars per month in disability from the NFL, yet are so debilitated from prior injuries that they haven't been able to hold a job for years.
I know we live in a 'what have you done for me lately?' type of world, and I am aware that this mentality leads to great games week in and week out. But, when the long-term physical and mental health of players is being mortgaged, far more is at stake than the opportunity to play for a Lombardi Trophy.