Assoc. Sports Editor
Sometimes quality is better than quantity.
Polarizing, record-breaking, future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre recently had an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC’s TODAY, which aired on Monday, describing his life after football—but there was one thing wrong.
He couldn’t remember.
“I think to me the wake-up call was [my wife] Deanna and I were talking recently, and she was talking about Breleigh, our youngest, playing soccer,” he told the scruffy morning show host, who was flaunting his “No-Shave November” beard. “I’ve pretty much made every game that she’s ever played [in] basketball, volleyball. She played softball one year; she played basketball a couple years. As I found out, she played soccer. I don’t remember her playing soccer. She played right over here, and that was probably where my first inclination that something ain’t right.”
The National Football League (NFL) has been in the eye of the concussion storm of late, with the turmoil that was dug up by former football star Junior Seau’s suicide, the result of years of post-retirement suffering from a debilitating brain disease. Since then, more and more hurly-burly has been scooped out of the stark ditch that Seau left behind.
And it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
In August, the NFL settled a $765 million lawsuit among 18,000 retired players who were suing the most popular league in America for concussion and other brain-related injuries.
Many stories revolving around this one started to emerge, explaining that these players would go through a lackadaisical test like “Say these three words…” after suffering from a concussion. Most players would memorize them and spurt them out just to earn their paycheck and get back on the field.
After all, it was all about hitting hard, entertaining fans and earning that massive payment every week. But the problem persists even when money isn’t involved, when it’s still about the love and passion for the game.
The most recent instance was a teenage player from Arizona, Charles Youvella, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while playing a game for Hopi High School. On Monday, Nov. 11, because of his injury, he passed away in the hospital.
This news comes after an NFL-driven investigation on concussions in the high school level compared to the collegiate level. Staggeringly, the numbers showed that the senior high players are two times more likely to suffer brain injuries than their older counterparts.
To combat this backlash against the—newsflash—violent nature of football, Roger Goodell, the NFL’s commissioner, has greased the league’s wheels with WD-40 and slid it towards making a change for the better.
Rule changes have been enforced and have caused yellow flags to litter grass and turf during the season; some examples are as follows: barring certain hits below the knees and above the shoulders, forbidding any blindside blocks or tackles, moving kickoffs forward to avoid Civil War-like collision between galloping opposing teams at midfield, and further protecting the quarterback by becoming stingier with roughing-the-quarterback penalties.
Some say these rule changes are diminishing the quality of the game, but the fact is, Goodell and company are doing the necessary things to avoid tragedies like Seau’s suicide and Youvella’s passing.
Not to mention, on a lighter note, the many players who have been blessed enough to retire from the game unscathed physically have had long-term mental hindrances—ask Favre.
“I try to…offset the aging process, as we all are, by diet or running or biking, whatever,” Favre told Lauer in the same interview. “But as we get older, I mean, it happens to all of us. You know, ‘Where’s my glasses?’”
It turns out that, even with former NFL players who are alive today, the effects of the game they played for thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars lingered throughout their lives. Thankfully, Goodell and players like Favre are beginning to realize that the quantity of their earnings may not make up for their reduced quality of life post-football.
In the end, the only way to avoid repeating the past is to learn about it during the present in order to make a change for the future.
“I would be real leery of him playing football,” Favre said when asked if he would ever have a son who would face the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps or not. “In some respects, I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face … but more the physical toll that [football] could take.”