I had missed this article but thanks to an email I think everyone should take a look at this op-ed piece from the New York Times by Joe Nocera titled “The Cost of Football Glory“. He begins with discussing his initial thoughts after reading a 36 year-old article by Clark Booth. If you would like to read it as well here is Clark Booth at the Super Bowl: Death & Football.
But no one had ever written an article like that before Clark Booth went to Miami. I remember being thunderstruck reading it. D.D. Lewis of the Dallas Cowboys talked about having nightmares and his fear of breaking his neck. Lee Roy Jordan, a veteran Cowboys linebacker, was asked by Booth why he kept playing with a sciatic nerve condition.
“By the time I’m 55, I feel they’ll have learned enough to medically treat me,” he said. “If they can’t, I can accept that.”
Booth asked sportswriters and ex-players about the worst injury they had ever seen. The stories he heard were almost too gruesome to read. He wrote about Alex Webster, a former great for the New York Giants who had “developed a radical mastoid problem from repeated thumps to the head.” Eventually, Webster required surgery that “involved cutting off his ears and then sewing them back on.” He then developed middle ear problems.
“Why maim yourself?” said Irv Cross, the former player-turned-sportscaster. “I don’t know. You just do it.” Jean Fugett, a tight end for the Cowboys who made $21,000 that year, said, “Injuries are just like death to a lot of players … death of a career … death of all that a lot of them want in life. So you say, ‘I’m not gonna worry about dying. I’m gonna go ahead and live!’ ”
Nocera tracked down Booth;
After talking to Booth, I tracked down one other person from Super Bowl X: Jean Fugett, now a lawyer in Baltimore. “Would I play football again if I could do it all over again? Probably,” he said. “But I cried when my youngest son took a football scholarship.”
Fugget has sobering words for anyone concerned with the sport of football;
“I don’t think anyone should play tackle football before high school,” Fugett told me before getting off the phone. “Kids’ bodies are not ready.”
“Flag football,” he said, “is a wonderful game.”