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Bears Tue Oct 08 2013

Rereading Duerson eBook On Eve Of PBS Documentary

Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL The National Football League has become such a massive, multi-billion dollar marketing freight train over the last decade that none of the other stateside major sports come close. According to CNNMoney, the league is tops in revenue, tipping the scale at a modest $9.5 billion last year, all while showcasing household names like Cutler, Suh and Brady.

It's the sport mom never wanted you to play, worried that her little man would get dinged in the ear hole on a sweep to the right, all while trying to make the cut by making a name for himself. If you took a hard hit and lumbered toward the sideline, you were asked to "shake off the cobwebs" and to get back in the game.

As time went by and science began to catch up with the sport, many surrounding the game discovered that merely shaking off the cobwebs wasn't a cure that could be defined by the New England Journal of Medicine, and instead meant something was very, very wrong with the athlete who suddenly didn't know where he was. Tragically, some of those athletes never recovered after multiple blows to the head and ended up hurting themselves and the ones they loved. Dave Duerson was one of those former athletes.

As last reviewed by Gapers Block in February of this year, the eBook Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL tells the story of how a beloved former Chicago Bear reached the peak only to fall by taking his own life after suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

After rereading the eBook, published by Agate Publishing, it brought back memories of the happy times in Duerson's life as a player, husband and successful business owner. It was shocking and sad to be reminded how quickly it all vanished for number 22, and there's no telling the thoughts that raced through his mind as he pointed a shotgun towards his chest.

The game of football has changed considerably in the interim, both in the size and the speed of players, as well as the rules that have grown around them. Quarterbacks are better protected, along with other offensive positions, as a way to limit the amount and severity of hits that come their way. Even fines have grown in size as a way to hit the players in their pocket book from making illegal hits on the field.

Everything seemed in its place until recently when thousands of former players decided to hit back and sue the league for millions of dollars over concussion-related brain injuries. According to the NFL, more than 4,500 former athletes claimed to have suffered from Alzheimer's and depression due to repeated hits to the head, and accused the league for hiding the dangers of said hits while it glorified the sport along the way.

Then, on Thursday, August 29, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league decided to settle the case with $765 million going to compensate the former players by paying for their medical exams and underwrite research for future incidents, amongst other areas within the fine print of the case. It was one big hand washing that cost the league a mere 8 percent of what it had earned the previous season in revenue. Meanwhile, the league continues to dominate the ratings each week over television sitcoms and dramas with ease.

There's no denying football's popularity around the world, and to change the game even further for the benefit of safety would give it a much different look than it already has received. The players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, and it's the hitting that keeps everyone coming back to Soldier Field (maybe not so much this season) to cheer on the Bears, just like they did when Duerson was punishing his opponents.

There's also no denying Duerson punished his brain along the way, which made for the sad ending he faced. Unfortunately, it's the denial from the league of acknowledging these injuries that prompted a documentary from the producers of PBS's "Frontline" that airs tonight (check local listings) called "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis".

ESPN, which pays the NFL $1.1 billion a year for the rights to broadcast "Monday Night Football," pulled out of branding the project with "Frontline" last August, citing there were no "producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries." With that said, the piece will feature, among many things, how an autopsy by Dr. Bennet Omalu found CTE in the brain of Steelers legend Mike Webster that started the momentum for the investigation against the league.

The eBook is worth another go-around, especially with the PBS special in the limelight. It's a reminder that while we all love football and those who played it, it's a sport that comes with consequences in a league that keeps printing money.

Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL is available from Agate Publishing and is available for Kindle via Amazon.

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