The Dansville Online
  • Brian Trahan: It took Junior Seau's suicide for me to see Goodell's point

  • I was saddened to hear about the suicide of former NFL great Junior Seau. My initial reaction — as is human nature — was shock. To say it was a surreal moment is an understatement.

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  • For the better part of 20 years as a columnist, I've used this forum to make light of life and offer my wacky view on issues that surround us. Now and then, something sparks the serious side to emerge from my keyboard. That time is now.
    I was saddened to hear about the suicide of former NFL great Junior Seau. My initial reaction — as is human nature — was shock. To say it was a surreal moment is an understatement.
    However, my next thought was to wonder if he had killed himself. I wondered the same thing a few years back when Seau apparently drove his vehicle off a cliff in California. At the time, he offered the excuse that he fell asleep at the wheel and it was an accident. In light of Seau meeting his end by self-inflicted gunshot wound, one has to wonder if he wasn't trying to end it previously.
    It was released Friday that Seau's family gave permission to have the future Hall of Famer's brain donated for research and examination. It's eerily similar to the plight of former NFL great Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. The same modus operandi as Seau.
    Duerson left a note, though. In the note, he urged his family to donate his brain for research into head trauma caused by years of violent collisions playing football at various levels. His brain was sent to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — basically, dementia caused by concussion-related injuries. Turns out, Duerson was right about the symptoms that were driving him into a state of depression.
    We'll never know whether or not Seau was bogged down in a quagmire of depression and onset dementia — he didn't share his problems with family nor did he openly campaign for help.
    Those two guys are well-known. Their cases will be food for argument for years to come. But there are others, and the cases are piling up. You may not know who Ray Easterling is –– a former safety for the Atlanta Falcons. He committed suicide last month.
    A few months ago, I jokingly attacked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for dropping the guillotine on the New Orleans Saints in the moments after he levied heavy sentences on coaches and front office personnel for fostering an atmosphere of "pay for hits" during recent seasons.
    I stand by my assertion that Goodell was heavy-handed in his decision to suspend Sean Payton for a year. I also think he went overboard in suspending linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season.
    However, I do understand the end game. I know what Goodell's vision is for the game, and that's to avoid having to comment on the lives of Seau and Duersonin the wake of suicide. I know there is more to his reign as commissioner, and I assume he wants NFL players to have a healthy life after the bright lights are off and the stadiums no longer clamor for their collisions.
    Page 2 of 2 - It's abhorrent to see players who ran like gazelles, who were maestros of their profession, struggle to walk and perform menial tasks in day-to-day existence. I'd rather read biographies than obituaries any day.
    At the same time ... the other part of me — the realist — knows that football is and was their livelihood. They signed on for this. They knew the risks. It's not easy turning a gladiator into Mr. Rogers.
    If you are police officer, you know entering the work force that there is a chance you could lose your life in the line of duty. You know the risks, yet you dedicate yourself to the profession. It's the same with pilots, military personnel or oilfield workers. There is an inherent danger attached to your profession.
    Football players know there is a chance they will suffer when their playing days are over. It's why they are paid millions of dollars rather than thousands.
    The changes being made to the game are definitely altering how it's played and how it's viewed by the fans. The days of Ronnie Lott, Dick Butkus and Lester Hayes flying all over the field to inflict as much damage as possible are over. Goodell has sent that message loud clear.
    At first, I was against the rule changes. I was selfish as a fan and wanted the game to remain the same. "It's losing its integrity," I proclaimed after each flag was thrown. Sadly, it takes losing one of the greatest to play the game to toss me off the precipice of ignorance.
    I realize now ... there is no integrity when Junior Seau commits suicide.

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