As you have heard by now – terribly sad news on the passing of Junior Seau. He’s right up there with your Marcus Allen’s and your Joe Montana’s and John Elway’s in the sort of “Mount Rushmore” of great West Coast football players. He played the better part of 20 season, passed away yesterday – police are saying it was a suicide, he was a San Diego Charger, 13 years with 12 of those being a Pro Bowler, one of the all-time great college football players at USC, he was really on the “Mount Rushmore” of West Coast football players – up there with Elway and Montana.
Lots of things in life are interconnected – whether we want to admit it or not. It probably shocks all of us when were able to see the ‘big picture’ in life of stuff. That’s why we have all these agencies in the country to find out what’s connected – like what foods are linked with heart problems, hence why it takes so long for medicine to get approved in both Canada and the U.S. The reason why the NFL, to me, is coming down so harshly on the New Orleans Saints’ players – this Bountygate story, is because of Junior Seaus’ suicide and the mounting number of players like Dave Duerson, committing suicide. When you’ve got a number of aging NFL players who are committing suicide or suffering from Dementia or chronic pain – my friends, the number is mounting. That’s what brings down the sport that we love and consider king on this continent – lawsuits! Connecting death to your product.
I remember reading a story where Tylenol yanked every single one of their own bottles – it was quoted to be around 20 million bottles, every bottle was taken off the shelf simply because one bottle was tainted. Why? Protect the brand! So when I heard about Junior Seau and his death yesterday – it really hurt, it’s so sad, he was a quality dude. But you’ve also got a problem in the NFL that is getting worse by the minute and when it’s Junior Seau – handsome, big family, unbelievable player, massively high profile, loved by everybody. It is very easy for people – the media and lawyers, to connect ‘A’ and ‘B’ and reach a conclusion, whether it’s true or not. I don’t know if Junior Seau takes his life because of head trauma, I don’t have any idea! I’m not a doctor. But right now, lots of people are saying “NFL violence = Dementia and Suicide” whether it’s true or not, lawyers – otherwise known as ‘sharks’ are circling NFL island and every tragic ending becomes another dollar sign to take from the NFL.
So with the Junior Seau story, you’ve got the one story that is a personal tragedy – from a beloved figure and it’s unspeakably sad but it also becomes a part of another mounting story – a growing story, and the NFL is the primary target. I’ve said from Day 1, when the lack of a better phrase “Bountygate” story first broke out, the reason why we knew Goodell was going to be harsh on Sean Payton, the reason we knew players were going to get strong sentences – you knew it and I knew it, because of what’s happening to the 38, 48 and 58 year old men who’ve spent a life sending their bodies head first to bring people down. Never forget that Dave Duerson, who recently committed suicide – the great Chicago Bear, his suicide note where he shot himself in the chest, he asked that the NFL take his brain and examine it. Spygate didn’t cost the NFL a penny; Bountygate could cost the NFL billions! It is why the punishment is so hard in New Orleans – whether it’s right or not, that’s why…that’s your answer.
So as sad as the Junior Seau story was, my second thought was “New Orleans!” because when you start looking at it – do you realize that Junior Seau became the 8th member of the 94’ San Diego Chargers, that played in that Superbowl whose died? A lot of them are linebackers – Junior Seau, David Griggs, Doug Miller and defensive players – Chris Mims, defensive tackle Sean Lee. All these guys have either suffered heart attacks; have enlarged hearts, drug overdose, suicide – that’s what the NFL sees. I don’t know though, I can’t take ‘A’ and ‘B’ and reach that conclusion, but a lot of people can.
So this to me is really two stories where Junior Seaus’ death is so sad but it also connects to another story and that’s why the punishments are so harsh. So the only way to bring down these Nike’s, Tylenol’s and IBM’s is via lawsuits! The NFL is in that group of brands that are just widely and massively popular. There was a story done on Grantland.com – which Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief off, he’s done a great job with that and I try to go to it as often as I can and read their stories. One of their contributors – they had a really interesting story in the last few months where Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier are economists and they wrote a column, a very plausible one, on the chain of events leading to the demise of the NFL and they claim that it starts in college football (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7559458/cte-concussion-crisis-economic-look-end-football) . In college football they claim, you starting getting liability lawsuits on head injuries. Insurance companies then bail on insuring college football programs and in turn, they have to massively reduce scholarships and their exposure which ultimately hurts the feeder system into the NFL. More direct research indicating that concussions are leading to dementia and suicide now has advertisers of the NFL running for the hills and suddenly networks don’t want to be a part of it.
Now, I’m not saying that the NFL would become boxing or rugby, but I’m simply saying that this is what the NFL has to protect itself from happening. Now in football, the one thing that protects it is that players are warned and those who are insured properly are compensated, so I think the NFL can withstand this but Grantland.com had a very compelling piece on it on this very plausible chain of events. Remember, baseball use to run the U.S. but unfortunately their arrogance, lack of technology and not paying attention to customers nor being progressive – a few mis-steps, then all of a sudden your staring up at the NFL and they’ve swallowed you whole and taken away April and August from you – they’ve stolen 2 months of real estate. Never take success for granted because it’s hard to attain and harder to maintain.