With only a couple of exceptions in the more than six decades since the only great quarterback in team history retired, you have always been able to count on two things with the Chicago Bears:
- There will be a quarterback controversy
- They will stink
It’s the same in 2017. But one thing will make this Bears season different from any in my lifetime.
I won’t care. Not because of the stench that will emanate from Soldier Field during home games. Like all Bears fans, I’m used to that.
It’s because football is dead to me. This day has been a long time coming.
In 1965, when I was 12, the Bears drafted Gale Sayers, cementing what I always thought would be a lifelong love affair with the Bears.
Gale Sayers, aka, the “Kansas Comet,” was the most exciting running back I have ever seen. Sayers’ ability to change direction without losing speed was breath-taking. He was the first “human highlight reel.”
Sayers’ career was cut short by a knee injury, but his greatness over five seasons of play made him the youngest player enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After Sayers retired, I remained a Bears fan through the bad days, of which there were plenty.
When the Bears got good, in the mid-1980s, I was there. The 1985 Bears were/are, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest team in NFL history.
So, why is football in my rear view mirror?
Gale Sayers has dementia and it breaks my heart.
I can’t pretend any longer. Watching huge men run into each other is, for me, no longer fun because I know how that turns out.
An updated study published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association on football players and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy reveals a striking result among NFL players.
The study examined the brains of deceased former football players (CTE can only be diagnosed after death) and found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had CTE.
CTE has been linked to repeated blows to the head — the 2015 movie Concussion chronicled the discovery of CTE’s connection to football.
What occurs on the football field can only be considered recurring, violent assault, given the speed of the game and the size of the players,
The (2016) Falcons have the lightest offensive line at a svelte 1,522 pounds for a 304.4 average. In total, Memo-Nomics found that the combined weight of the league’s 160 starting offensive linemen is 50,472 pounds.
That last stat averages out to 315 pounds per lineman. With players that size, the chances someone, in each game, will suffer a severe injury are damn close to 100 percent.
Regarding the ongoing concussion controversy in the NFL, you might ask, “What if there were better helmets?”
It’s Illogical to think a helmet will protect a brain moving at high speed.
“Helmets do two things very well: protect the skull, and absorb direct linear force impact. But protecting the brain from injury? There’s no real way to do that,” Beckmann writes. “Think of a carton of eggs. We’ve figured out how to protect the shells and keep them from cracking, but if you shake an egg, the yolk can still get scrambled. So, it’s unwise to expect a helmet to do something it’s not designed to do.”
I’ll spend my TV sports time and dollars on other action like baseball, soccer and, yes, hockey.
While hockey has plenty of head trauma potential, I’m encouraged by steps taken to reduce injury, including instituting severe penalties for head contact and a great reduction in fighting. I want to see continuing improvement in those areas.
The thing is, you can greatly reduce head injuries in hockey without ruining the game. On the other hand, if you’ve ever watched the NFL Pro Bowl, you know that football without violence isn’t anything you want to see.
So, in 2017 and beyond, the Bears will have to stink without my support. I wish them well.
If you’re looking for me on Sundays this fall, I’ll be at the movies.
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