December has been a tough month in the National Football League and not just because of the hard-fought games that were played by teams racing to the playoff finish line. The NFL was rocked by a gun crime, and now some around the league are advocating tougher gun laws.
According to Kansas City police, on Dec. 1, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and the mother of his 3-month old daughter, after waiting outside the house that he and Perkins shared. He then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he encountered Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
“I’m sorry, Scott,” he said. “I’ve done a bad thing to my girlfriend already. I want to talk with (linebackers coach Gary) Gibbs and (head coach) Romeo (Crennel).”
Belcher thanked them for all they had done for him. He then fatally shot himself in the head.
Belcher was a fourth-year player from West Babylon, N.Y., who played college ball at the University of Maine. In March, he signed a $1.9 million contract with the Chiefs worth.
The day after the Belcher murder-suicide was NFL Sunday. During halftime of the “Sunday Night Football” game, renowned sports commentator Bob Costas gave an on-air statement: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Commentators at FOX News agreed that the halftime preaching 24 hours after the murder-suicide was the wrong time and place to speak out against guns.
An opinion piece on FOX News took Costas to task:
Even if no weapon existed, the strength differential is so large that Belcher could have easily killed Perkins in any number of ways. The same is true, sadly, about suicide. There are so many ways that Belcher could have killed himself, including crashing his car at a high rate of speed into a wall or even another car as he drove to Arrowhead Stadium.
That set off liberals who want to use this tragedy as a good reason to weaken the 2nd Amendment.
Two days after the murder, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart opened “The Daily Show” with the controversy surrounding the Belcher murder-suicide by attacking supporters of the 2nd Amendment who, Stewart insisted, are the real ones who always discuss gun control at inappropriate times. (Keep in mind it was Costas’ anti-gun comments that got the whole thing going.) Stewart even mocked FOX News host Laura Ingraham.
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Remember the ad with the egg in the frying pan? “This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs.”
They could do another. “This is your brain. This is football. This is your brain on football.”
With regard to collision sports, I have numerous years of experience as a player and a coach. I was a mediocre football player in high school. In my early 30s, I took up boxing and was abysmal. Today, I have aches and pains and, sometimes, I still get jaw pain and headaches which I believe come from the few concussions I received.
Fortunately, I wasn’t good enough to hang around long enough to have serious head trauma issues. But I got to witness plenty of people who had boxed or played football long after they should have retired.
My two sons also got off lucky. My eldest was a runner-up in the U.S. Junior Nationals in boxing and later had a five-year college scholarship in football. While he is a fierce defender of those sports, he admits he got lucky because he was only “dinged” here and there during his playing days. (Being dinged means taking a mild hit to the head — mild being blurred vision, nausea, headaches.)
As a teenager, my younger son trained at a professional wrestling gym, B.J.’s, in Calgary, Canada. That gym was a starting point for many famous professional wrestlers, including Bret “Hit Man” Hart and his brothers — all of whom had illustrious and lucrative careers in WWE.
When it comes to professional wrestling, don’t let the acting and showmanship fool you; wrestlers take terrible punishment, equal to what boxers or football players endure.
These sports gave my sons confidence and lifelong friendships. But if I had known what I know now about collision sports, I wouldn’t have let my sons step on a football field, climb through boxing ring ropes or walk onto a wrestling mat. I have seen too many of these athletes kill themselves and others — often without using a gun. And the notion that these athletes’ brains have not been traumatized and that they are killing simply because they have easy access to guns is ludicrous.
Such is the case with Chris Benoit, a former WWE champion who in 2007 at the age of 40 committed one of the most heinous crimes ever. He did it without using a gun.
Over the course of three days at their large home, Benoit first strangled his wife, Nancy, after binding her. He then strangled to death his 7-year-old son, Daniel, before killing himself beneath a weight lifting machine.
The Fifth Estate, a TV news program in Canada, did an investigation into the Benoit crime and the link between brain damage and violence. The program reported:
The hunt for clues linking damage Benoit had done to his brain in the ring, and his last, ghastly acts, began with a phone call from the former wrestler and Harvard graduate, Chris Nowinski, to Mike Benoit for the brain of his dead son. Nowinski had a theory about the cumulative effects of years of concussions on the brains of athletes like Chris Benoit.
Nowinski had himself taken enough hits in the ring and on the football field to appreciate the long-term damage of concussions.
The Benoit murder-suicide struck Nowinski as being uncannily similar to the former football players who committed suicide after displaying increasingly erratic behaviour.
- Former Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Long died at the age of 45 in June, 2005 after drinking antifreeze.
- Ex-Pittsburgh lineman Justin Strzelczyk drove his car into oncoming traffic on September 30, 2004, crashing into a tanker truck, losing his life in the explosion. He was 36 years old.
- Former Philadelphia Eagle and father of three, Andre Waters, died of self-inflicted wounds when he took a shotgun to his head in November, 2006. He was 44.
Analysis of their brain tissue revealed the presence of a protein usually seen in the brains of elderly people with dementia, but almost never in normal middle-aged men.
Doctor Julian Bailes at the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, at the University of North Carolina, studied the after-effects of concussions among 3,000 former NFL players in their retirement years.
“What really surprised us was the amount of mental and cognitive problems that they were having, and also depression,” says Dr. Bailes.
An updated list should include Junior Seau, an NFL linebacker named to 12 Pro Bowls. It has been suggested that his decision to die from a gunshot wound to the chest rather than the head was so scientists could study his brain. That would be consistent with the 2011 suicide of former NFL player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest and left a suicide note requesting that his brain be studied for trauma.
It seems simple. Guns don’t kill. People whose brains are damaged playing extremely violent sports over many years sometimes kill. Boxing, professional wrestling and especially the NFL should make it their focus to protect their athletes rather than spout off about guns.
Yours in good times and bad,
Editor, Myers’ Energy & Gold Report