On the day that legendary linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his home of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, the NFL has also announced that four players from the Saints “Bountygate” team will face bans, the lengthiest of which goes to linebacker Jonathan Vilma. These two significant news items, one tragic, the other both satisfying and sickening, will be inextricably linked.
Should there be an autopsy on Seau, there is little doubt in my mind it will reveal signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the name they’ve assigned the degenerative brain disease believed to result from repeated concussions. I’m so certain of this, I’d wager just about anything on it.
Back to Bountygate, someone ought to ask Gregg Williams now, right after the tragic apparent suicide of a league legend, what exactly he meant by telling his players that they had to “kill Frank Gore’s head.” Did he mean that they should try to concuss him so badly that he would cognitively degenerate while still a young man, until he finally reached the point of such despair that no other option but suicide remained in his mind?
The other players on the Saints who were suspended besides Vilma are Anthony Hargrove (now on the Packers), Scott Fujita (now with Cleveland) and Will Smith. All three were reportedly heavily involved. But they weren’t the architects. Sure, participation is bad enough. But they had issues like peer pressure and the like to deal with. Nobody was pressuring Williams.
It may seem silly to outline peer pressure as an issue faced by grown men, professional athletes at that. But how silly is it really? In many cases, these are people who their entire lives have had people cater to their whims. They have people who attend classes for them, do their homework, coach them on what to say in every conceivable conversation, etc., so 100% of their focus can be on football, whatever level they happen to be at. Special athletes are noticed early in most cases. There aren’t many late bloomers.
These are prime candidates to suffer from seriously impaired social development. Look at Tiger Woods. when you’re in an evironment as a child, adolescent, teen, and young adult where you’re shielded through so much, you never learn the true meaning of consequence. All actions have consequences. You don’t learn real social skills. You don’t know how to talk your way out of a bad situation. You don’t say no. You don’t know how.
Gregg Williams, he doesn’t have that excuse. He’s a coach, not some younger, impressionable super athlete who is being groomed for stardom. He knew what he was doing. Do I think he wanted Frank Gore dead? Of course not. But death from injury in football, even if it occurs ten or fifteen years down the road, is still a very real possibility. 250lb men are running 4.5 second 40 yard dashes. At each other.
To our regular readers, I apologize for belaboring the Williams situation. But I’m not going to stop until Roger Goodell does the right thing, and offially makes Williams’ indefinite suspension an unequivocal lifetime ban. If Bart Giamatti can ban Pete Rose for life from baseball for betting ON HIS OWN TEAM TO WIN, then Goodell can ban Williams for bribing his players to intentionally endanger the life of another man.
You know I’m right. And it sucks that people have to die to drive home the point. Seau had a family. Frank Gore still has a family. They’re the ones who will suffer. To paraphrase a Diamond Rio song, God only cries for the living, not the passed. It’s the living that are left to carry on.
Seau’s death isn’t the first of its kind, and sadly it very likely will not be the last. But it’s the most high profile to this point, and if anything good can possibly come of it, this is it.