I fell in love on a Monday night.
Now, many might say that a teenage girl can’t know about such things. But that night, as I watched the Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett roll downfield 99 yards for a touchdown, I fell head-over-heels in love with the NFL.
It was January 3, 1983. Dallas vs. Minnesota. Tony Dorsett was so free, so graceful, and so powerful to me. And watching him break free of his competitors, those who wanted to bring him down and stop him from reaching his goal, I was in awe. And I knew then that his run capsulized all that I wanted to accomplish in my life.
That football game is one of my most cherished childhood memories. I have been a passionate NFL fan since that moment — though I switch my loyalties to the Philadelphia Eagles, my hometown team. I ended up spending much of my career in sports journalism, a dream job if ever there was one.
But after 30 years, my love and respect for the game is fading. And I’m seriously considering giving up football completely.
I’ve come to this pass because of the NFL’s concussion crisis.
The NFL has consistently has denied any connection. But many of the men who play the game feel differently.
When I watch the games today, the awe is gone. And I thank God that my son never wanted to play football, that it was basketball that stole his heart.
Today, instead of telling kids how football inspired me to go after what I want in life, I advise them and their parents to avoid the game at all costs. It’s not safe at any level.
I’ve worked with former NFLers who suffer blackouts in midsentence, after being diagnosed with numerous concussions over their careers. And many of us knew Junior Seau and other football players who have taken their own lives. And too many of us in the sports industry stood by and watched yesterday’s heroes implode, or fall into depression in retirement.
If my beloved NFL continues to lie and deny while men and boys are suffering and dying, well, then it’s time for this fan to say good-bye.
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