I remember the anguish that punctured my thoughts when Junior Seau, a star in his own right on the gridiron, placed a handgun to his chest and took his own life eight months ago at his California home. Sitting in my room, I sunk into my chair and spoke no words for more than an hour while giving all I could to refrain from shedding any tears. His death struck me in an unforgettable way that positioned myself, once again, at a crossroads with football and its place in our culture infatuated with the image of the modern-day gladiator.
On May 3, 2012, the day after Seau’s suicide, I scrambled for answers with the shadows of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) looking over my back. I ran a number of searches in Google’s archives for newspaper articles from the 1990s to find some sort of explanation for his actions, but rarely was Seau’s name mentioned directly in relation to a head injury. Although my efforts were rather premature and assuming, there had to be some sort of correlation between Seau’s noted altercations behind closed doors with the thousands of hits his brain endured over the course of a 19-year professional career.
There are, of course, many different storylines that people turn to to explain something so tragic immediately after its occurrence, but confirmation of my original hypothesis (shared by many, I’m sure) by the National Institute of Health several days ago left me in an inexplicable state of unsettled anxiety. Though I inferred Seau would be diagnosed postmortem with CTE, my response to the official announcement was still along the lines of, “Unbelievable.” Continue reading