We may never know exactly why
On the other hand, a career like Mr. Seau's — a linebacker with a reputation as a hard hitter and a "warrior" on virtually every defensive play, using his body as a weapon, and "playing hurt" — almost certainly included dozens of
But as Junior Seau's family and friends — and the broader San Diego community, for he was well known as a philanthropist in his hometown — grieve for him, no one can ignore the toll of casualties from recent retirees:
These men remind us of the price that is paid by athletes who are highly compensated and love the game — but can generally expect orthopedic injuries and even brain damage that is the routine result of playing the sport, and not just the exceptional result of a particularly hard hit to the head, whether penalized or not.
In a way, the recent controversy over bounties paid to members of the
No one associated with pro football can be happy about having the spotlight of public attention swing back to this fact of life. Pro football can be called "America's game" only because it enjoys support that cuts across boundaries of age, race, income and sex. Baltimore grandmothers and their grandchildren can both be spotted wearing
Whether intended or not, the NFL's actions on bounties, rule changes and head-to-head hits have soothed public discomfort, at least for a time, about the game as a whole. Pro football is unlikely to go the way of boxing — once America's most popular spectator pastime, now seen by many as a "blood sport" — any time soon. But Junior Seau's death and the deaths of his fellow retirees are reminders of the reality of football that will not stop and cannot be ignored.