Goodbye JuneBug

So I wrote this blog for my U.S Sport & Culture class, which is by far my favorite class I have taken at CSULB. The blinders have been removed and I truly can look at sports through different lenses.  If you want to read a few books that will give you a taste of the social issues surrounding sport, read these two:

  • D. Stanley Eitzen and George H. Sage, Sociology of North American Sport, 8th edition, Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2009
  • D. Stanley Eitzen, Ed., Sport in Contemporary Society: An Anthology, 9th edition, New York: Paradigm , 2011

I love the Anthology. Great essays by Dave Zirin, who now I follow daily on Twitter ( @edgeofsports) and Michael Messner. Topics include History of sport, growth in North America, social problems and deviance in sport, social and political issues, women in sport, LGBT issues, sports and the economy, interscholastic sport, collegiate sports issues… its been a great ride. An added bonus, my sports obsessed hubby is excited that I can “talk the talk” a little bit.

Anyway, I digress. Here is a copy of the blog I wrote about the recent suicide of San Diego’s beloved Junior Seau:

         Turning on the television, radio, or surfing the web in the past few days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a sport media outlet that is not dominated by both, the tragic death of former Chargers linebacker and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, and the fall out from the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program.  Looking into these two unrelated stories, it becomes apparent that these stories carry a deeper connection than one would think.
            According to an ESPN article, Boston University has requested to examine Seau’s brain in a continued study of head trauma experienced by NFL players.  Last year, BU performed a similar study on former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Dave Duerson, who also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  They concluded that Duerson suffered from degenerative disease of the brain, which was caused from repeated head trauma and resulted in chronic depression.  Regardless of the results of the current investigation, the NFL cannot hide from this issue.
            NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, has put his money where his mouth is on the subject of NFL player safety.  The culture of football has a hard hitting nature, in which Goodell has made an effort to temper.  In the wake of Junior Seau’s death, the NFL is also currently handing down suspensions to four Saints defensive players for their participation in a “pay-to-injure” program, after already suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, as well as defensive coordinator Greg Williams who is suspended indefinitely.
            Former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White was quoted in an ESPN article stating, “The players sanctioned all activity and enthusiastically embraced this program.  They always had the option to say no.  They didn’t say no.”  These players have each pledged to appeal their suspensions and their appeals will no doubt be backed by the NFL Players Association.
    After listening to excerpts from Greg Williams’ speech in the locker room before the Saints’ playoff game against the 49ers (especially what he said regarding wide receiver Kyle Williams who was coming back from a recent concussion, urging players to target his head), I am disgusted with the mentality surrounding the NFL.  As if the black eye to the Saints organization isn’t enough, not even the cautionary tale of Junior Seau will prevent these players or the NFLPA from fighting back against these punishments.  It is amazing that players cannot see the adverse effect their actions are causing to each other and what hoops these players will go through to defend these egregious acts.  I’ve heard many former and current player’s quotes stating that these punishments are too harsh, and that loosing an entire season robs a player of a substantial portion of their career.  But what about the players they attempted to injure and what effect that would have on their career.  Much worse, what effect this unnecessary violence will have on the victims lives and the people around them.  In our class reading by James Bryant, his idea of sport as a social product is none the more obvious here.  NFL officials cannot make light of this issue as violence will inevitably bring the demise of its players and deter fans from this popular commodity. It is time for a change in the NFL.  The matter of player safety is no joke and needs to be taken seriously by the NFL, the NFLPA, and even needs support from the fans.
                 Also written was a similar article about Junior Seau by a classmate Bryan C:
          For those who love football, the news of Junior Seau’s death came as a huge shock to the NFL, and to San Diego, for which Seau has had a profound impact on the community. For San Diegans, Seau IS San Diego. There is Seau’s the Restaurant, his Seau Foundation, his work with local schools. The list goes on and on, not to mention he is one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise.According to reports, Boston University is requesting Seau’s brain to study the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), in which links were investigated between long term head trauma and it’s effect on players post retirement. Dave Duerson and Andre Waters also committed suicide, and studies revealed Duerson also suffered from CTE. It will be interesting to see whether Seau suffered from CTE as well.

       In light of these studies, and in the shadow of  “BountyGate”, perhaps these tragedies may provide greater fuel  for team owners to offer safer plays, stricter penalties for intentional hits that cause unnecessary injury,and supplement education  for fans to help remind them that ultimately, this is JUST a sport, and if players are suffering from injuries so severe that they resort to suicide, perhaps fans need to re-examine how their zealous consumption of football is possibly contributing to this problem.

Sadly, we will never fully know the reasons leading to Juniors death, whether it was CTE, depression or other demons. What San Diego knows is that the community lost a great player, a great community leader, a great father and #55 will forever be a reminder of “Junebug”. But as Dave Zirin wrote in the Nation, the status quo is simply unacceptable.

Here is a video of how the Kook remembers Junebug.



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