The NFL’s grand scheme to milk as much money out of the companies that support them, the cities that harbor them and the public that watches them is all about to come crashing down. Or is it? The NFL’s saving grace in a Mount Everest size uphill battle in courts against former players suing them for concussions has been the New Orleans Saints. In 2009 during the Saints run to the Super Bowl they managed to annihilate Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Yes, roll your eyes and say you know the story. The Saints had a pay for performance “scandal” going on. If you believe Roger Goodell and the mountain of evidence he has “gathered” from fired coaches and former players. Then yeah, it’s an air-locked sealed shut open and close case. If you look closer you will see something far greater than a couple of players and coaches having a go at an inside trader type game going on.
The NFL in all it’s greatness is many things except infallible. Behind the cool demeanor of the owners and Goodell is a consortium of men who are panicking. The NFL will soon find their own heads on the chopping block to the tune of millions of dollars for a disturbing amount of concussions and the implications that they knew exactly what they were doing to players. It will be a lot harder for the NFL to come up with proof that they had safeguards in place on and off the field to make sure players didn’t suffer any more than they had too. My educated opinion is that they didn’t for some time and even when they did the players still played. It’s obvious that this is the case. Alex Karras’s medical crisis is considered by many to be a direct result of the NFL’s negligence.
In his day, Karras was one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. The Detroit Lions drafted Karras 10th overall in 1958 out of Iowa and he was a four-time All-Pro over 12 seasons with the franchise. Karras is one of the many former players suing the NFL for damages incurred during his (their) career(s). A startling 1 in 3 former NFL players suffer from some sort of cognitive impairment due to playing in the NFL. Karras’s lawyer Craig Mitnick had this to say about Karras’s failing health in a release to the Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon “He may be dying of kidney failure because now his body is catching up to the deterioration of his mind.” While that might be up to speculation what isn’t is the dementia Karras has suffered through for sometime now. The NFL has offered many a football player a chance at fame, money, and wealth. Who could resist when they come calling? Many haven’t and have thrown their hat into the ring that mixes pain, violence, grace, triumph and loss into a wonderfully choreographed ballet. The result is a show for fans that raked in over 9 billion dollars in revenue last year. The NFL is projecting to go past 9 billion for this year and looking for more.The American public is hungry for NFL football and that train doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. The NFL is eyeing Europe now more than ever with games in London and why not? Major League Baseball use to be America’s sweetheart in the sportsman’s eyes, but that has changed drastically with the onset of steroid scandals and potential Hall of Fame players being busted on the regular. The market was wide open for the NFL and they took every advantage to make that part of the American sports market theirs. In every organization or company that expands exponentially and quickly there are bound to be those who suffer the growing pains the most. In the NFL’s case those who have been subject to the most growing pains are the same ones who have been the driving force behind their success. In the meantime some players who have been at the shallow end of the well in these instances have committed suicide and by doing so have shone the spotlight on this very serious problem.
Many fans are misled in believing that true sufferers of the concussions players have incurred are well to do wealthy millionaires. Some of that couldn’t be farther from the truth. A good part of the players being represented these lawyers have had to hack out a living after their NFL days were over. It hasn’t been the American dream for the players who have suffered the most. Karras’s life and his family life have suffered from his dementia. If you have had a family member or know someone who has suffered from anything from Alzheimer’s to dementia then you know well enough the loss of quality of life caused by these diseases. It’s no picnic and all those involved take a very personal deep hit from them.
I can’t help but think about the legend of Faust. Faust was a scholar man who was bored with life and made a deal with the Devil. Faust gained all the worldly pleasures, knowledge and a chance at true love. It was all he ever wanted and more. In exchange for this brief glimpse of worldly riches and pleasures Faust sells his soul. In the end Faust is taken away with all the worldly pleasures and riches along with his soul. The NFL it appears may have made this deal with all parties involved. In exchange for revenue profits that are off the charts they have sold out on the lives of the very men who have made them the beast which they are. But, nothing is without exception and the Devil (or at least the players) may finally be coming to collect. Only this time it isn’t souls they are looking for, but compensation for years taken off their lives. In a last-ditch effort that is tantamount to a waving a paper sword the NFL dangles the New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal as bait. Time it seems has run out on the NFL and the inequities of a greedy league
Deep in the cooling October night somewhere in California there’s a family huddled around the bed of a dying former NFL player. A kind man who many have known as an actor, a movie star, an American and wonderful man doing his best to cherish every lasting moment of life together with his family. They are spending precious fleeting moments with their father, grandfather, and husband. I pray for Alex Karras’s family that the next couple of hours, days, and minutes are filled with grace. I also hope the NFL soon wakes from its slumber and realizes what they have truly lost is something all men clamor for. That isn’t several players lives here and there but, a true chance at immortality.