Every year, football becomes harder and harder to watch. When the quarterback is blitzed and has his clock cleaned, or a receiver on a crossing pattern gets his bell rung, I no longer think, brilliant play. Instead, I think, pain and concussion.
Not a game goes by but that a lineman leaves the field of sport on a gurney, to admiring huzzahs and applause from the comfortable spectators.
Have I become more timorous -- or more compassionate? I still admire the skill level of the players but I'm distressed because these gladiators have become permanently injured for my amusement.
There's a Washington Post article about a lineman named Tre Johnson, who left the game in 2003 after nine seasons in the NFL. Johnson, who earned two degrees before he was drafted, is now a highly-regarded middle-school social studies teacher at the private Landon School outside Washington. His is a post-career success story.
The Post article offers some information about Johnson's present state of health. He's forty-something years old and for three years has been walking three miles, twice daily, in order to shed some weight. More power to him, he's now under 400 pounds and hoping to get back to his playing weight of 275. He suffers from diabetes, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. He's already endured nineteen surgeries (seven on his shoulders, seven on his knees, an elbow, hands and Achilles’ tendon). "He can't sleep more than three hours at a stretch. There’s not a morning he doesn’t wake up in pain, and it takes a full hour to get moving in tolerable discomfort." Although when he played, no one kept track of concussions, Johnson has some sort of brain injury, because he can't tolerate bright or fluorescent lights. To what degree his banged-around brain has been seriously disabled will not become clear for a few more years.
Tre Johnson is doing well, but what about other ex-players who are not quite so healthy?