Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If you were a Bear fan in 1991, then you no doubt still have fond memories of Bears' receiver, Tom Waddle, and his series of unbelievable catches in a playoff game against the Cowboys, catching a series of passes thrown across the middle and getting absolutely creamed over-and-over.   I just watched his highlights again, and the poor guy was slow to get up after some of those hits, looked really woozy and disoriented, and was given smelling salts and sent back out on the field.  He caught what was then a Bear record for receptions with a late fourth quarter touchdown, but he just didn't look excited about it.  In fact, something looked very wrong with him.  As it turns out, he doesn't remember getting that touchdown or anything else that happened in the fourth quarter.

Waddle is a sports radio host here in Chicago, and when the often talked about NFL head injury issue came up, Tom's co host, Mark Silvernman, asked him about the concussions he had during that famous game.  Tom said that he not only forgot that quarter, he scared the hell out of his wife when they were driving to the hospital for tests together and he had no idea who she was.  Despite the fact that Waddle and "Silvy" have worked together for a number of years, seem to be friends, and have no doubt talked about this very game on and off the air numerous times, Silvy admitted on the air today that it's the first time he ever heard that story about him not knowing who his wife was.

Waddle was then asked if knowing what he knows now about traumatic brain injuries and their lifelong effects, if he would take that game back.  He seemed unsure, admitting that it didn't matter that much because they lost the game anyway.  But he did say that at 46-years-old, he can now put his ego aside and admit that the right call is for a doctor to make the call that a player can't return to the field in times like those because now what is important to him is spending time with his wife and kids and being able to have the brain capacity to have the memories of his family's life events.

Today was one of those days where I parked my car but stayed inside to listen to the end of this piece because I was so moved.  Waddle was a hero of mine as a kid.  He was a slow, blond, white guy around 6'1" and 185 pounds.  About the same description as me when I watched him play that game as a kid on my television in Chicago's suburbs, only now I'm an inch taller and afraid to say that I'm a little on the wrong side of 200.  I still idolize his gutsy performance from that playoff game, but like Waddle, now that I'm a little older and wiser, I now see the importance of protecting the players.  The game wasn't that long ago, and just give it a look.  Is there any way in hell in today's game that he would have been allowed to keep getting back onto the field taking those licks and looking the way he did?  I sure hope not.  Yes, I consider him a hero, but I'm also very thankful his brain weren't more damaged, and he still has that wit to make me laugh on my ride home from work in the afternoon.

8 comments:

David Oliver said...

There are many problems with being human. One of them is we crave excitement. Seeing someone get back into a game when you know in he shouldn't is exciting. It's inspiring. It gets the heart pumping faster. Our brain tells us one thing, our emotions tell us another. This conflict of what in the name of fun we can accept and what we can accept morally is something to always consider.

Kenneth you did a really good job of making me think about it today. Thanks.

David Oliver said...

Kenneth, just dropped back by and re-read my comment. It looks like I was drunk or high. Here's the edit: get rid of the "in" in second sentence. In the last sentence the last "can" should be "cannot."

I was neither drunk nor high. My proof is I got past your word verification thingy. As soon as I think of an excuse, I'll post it.

Kenneth Noisewater said...

David: You had a long night of chasing guinea pigs so it could have happened to anyone. For the record, I knew what you meant and barely noticed any errors. I go back to check my own comments sometimes too . . .

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

There is often a high cost for greatness in football. Look at Junior Seau. Would not be surprised if his suicide had more to do with organic damage than anything else.

Vapid Vixen said...

I've never been much of a football fan. It's always seemed rather silly to me. Bunch of men in spandex bashing into one another incurring injuries that will last a lifetime. All for what?

Kenneth Noisewater said...

Elliot: It for sure messes up the heads of players later in life, changes their whole personality and emotional state. Jim McMahon, also a Bear, said that he finally found a doctor that, while nothing can be done about his dementia, he no longer has constant headaches and suicidal thoughts. That's a win for the poor guy, but he still needs his wife to remind him why they went somewhere. Very sad.

Vapid: For our entertainment!! I know what you're saying. Seems so important to win those games, but years later with all the health problems, I'm sure some are wishing they never played.

Mr. Shife said...

Wow. Watching that video takes me back. Madden calling the game, Jim Harbaugh the Bears QB, and of course Tom Waddle. Thanks for sharing Dr. Ken. I enjoyed most of this except Harbaugh. He makes me want to medieval on his ass. Have a good one, buddy.

Kenneth Noisewater said...

Shife: I remember my dad blaming Harbaugh for getting him killed with those late throws over the middle, up high where he was getting creamed.