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The Tragic Death of Dave Duerson

This article is more than 8 years old.
Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson (22) committed suicide Feb. 17 and donated his brain to the study of of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (AP)
Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson (22) committed suicide Feb. 17 and donated his brain to the study of of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (AP)

A lot of people lose their homes to foreclosure.

Dave Duerson lost his.

A lot of formerly prosperous businessmen declare bankruptcy.

Dave Duerson did that.

According to the most recent count, about 35,000 people in the United States commit suicide each year.

A week ago, Dave Duerson did that.

About half of the men who kill themselves do it with a gun, and Dave Duerson did that, too, but most suicides shoot themselves in the head, and Dave Duerson did not do that.

He shot himself in the chest.

He explained that decision to family members by means of a text message in which Mr. Duerson stipulated that his brain should be examined for evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is the condition which has been identified in the brains of Tom McHale, Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters and various other men who played professional football. CTE can not be positively identified except by post-mortem examination, but some of the symptoms of the condition include depression, memory loss and the inclination to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs.

If it turns out that Dave Duerson, who helped the Chicago Bears win a Super Bowl in 1985 and then helped the New York Giants win one five years later, was suffering from CTE, he will not be the first ex-NFL player with that condition to have killed himself. But he will be the first of them for whom it can be confidently supposed that when he decided how he would kill himself, he was thinking about other men who'd played football. His decision to leave his brain intact and instruct his survivors to ship it to the scientists studying CTE strongly suggests that even while he was suffering despair most of us will never know, he was able to consider his potential to contribute to the welfare of others, which is extraordinary.

The National Football League and the NFL Players Association are presently engaged in negotiations to determine how the multi-billion dollar pie their sport bakes each season should be divided. When they eventually come to an agreement, if they fail to make generous provision for the many players already damaged by playing pro football, may the ghost of the once-powerful, thriving and successful Dave Duerson rise from his grave to kick both sides in the ass.

This program aired on February 24, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.


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