Chris Wallace, a writer and editor in New York, is a former football quarterback. In the Paris Review he recently wrote a first hand story about concussions and its lasting effects. It deserves the read but here are some snipets;
Late in the third quarter of a blowout loss at North Torrance High School my junior year I woke up in a blurry huddle. Grids of stadium lighting were smeared on the South Bay night sky as if they’d been moved before they dried. My teammates stood around me in their away whites, the sateen jerseys looking smudged and shabby in the dark. I shouldn’t have been surprised if a star suddenly dilated just to wink at me, such was my loopy state of mind—and my self-regard as a high school quarterback.
A timeout had been called, apparently. There was no apparent rush to get back to the line of scrimmage, run another play. And our coach was in the huddle with us. Oh, thank god, I thought, Coach is playing. I’d never seen him in uniform before, but didn’t think to question it—we needed all the help we could get. Though, standing next to the star receiver with whom he’d traded outfits, he did look a lot taller than normal.
My second serious concussion came in my junior year at Weber State University, during a home game against Humboldt State. We were up big in the fourth quarter, but, instead of “protecting myself” as I’d been coached, I went full-Elway in a scramble toward the end zone, diving over a defender just as I was hit from the side and helicoptering down to the one-inch line. I handed the ball off to our fullback the next play, and, after he scored, walked to the sideline where the trainers flocked to check me out. Of course I was all right, I said, “Thith game ith outh to looth.”
I didn’t notice the slur or the daze, but I did see the look of recognition in the eyes of the head trainer.
But a year later, having pulled a Kerouac and quit the team to become an artist, I was in Austin, Texas, and romancing the idea of suicide.
I’d gone to UT to study with the preeminent professor of Continental Philosophy, the late Bob Solomon, and when I wasn’t reading Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche for our little tête-à-têtes, I was watching 2001, baked out of my brain and considering infinity. To live, I worked at a shitty Tex-Mex restaurant, and on weekends tinkered with a screenplay about an orphan who founds a popular religion as a hoax, to mock the faithful.
Suicide, though, was my main project, and I spent the entire fall plotting to overcome the fear of mortal pain. In the end, I never did formalize a plan. Instead I came home to Los Angeles and took out fifty thousand dollars in student loans to study writing at USC—the Original Sin in a life of brazen profligacy. During grad school, I went to a psychiatrist and, it occurs to me now, bragged about my dark days. As an aspiring writer I was terribly flattered when the diagnosis returned “bipolar,” and I took my Lithium as a kind of spiritual manna that put me in touch with the debauched and deranged scribblers I intended to claim as my ancestry.
It did not occur to me that there might be a link between my depression and my football career.
Go give Chris a read, well done and thanks for following…