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.