Today at Salon: ‘Football hero: How George Visger survived the NFL and traumatic brain injury — barely’

The Nexus of Sickle Cell Trait and Football Death Is Not Fit to Print in the New York Times
January 11, 2022
‘Football hero: How George Visger survived the NFL and traumatic brain injury — barely’ (full text from Salon)
February 7, 2022

Along with 100 million fellow citizen-spectators, give or take, a 63-year-old former NFL defensive lineman named George Visger will be watching the Super Bowl in two weeks. The San Francisco 49ers, his old team, could be playing in it. (That issue will be decided this weekend in their game against the Los Angeles Rams.)

Visger will be at his new home on the pocket bend of the Sacramento River, five miles south of California’s Capitol building. Or maybe he’ll take in the big game from the home of his girlfriend Jennifer, a musician and private music teacher in Oakland. Either way, it will be a glorious day.

During his own playing days, Visger was a journeyman, but today he is basking in victory in litigation — which, as we all know, is America’s second most popular sport. His view of the Super Bowl, with feet comfortably on the divan, will mark a milestone in an improbable movie-script life, albeit for the most painful reasons.

A glorious day — if you ignore the fact that Visger will have to refer to the noodlings in his Rite-in-the-Rain notebook at the start of the third quarter to remind himself which team was leading at halftime (or about pretty much else that happened earlier that day). His stash of waterproof notepads is a remnant of his stop-and-start career as a wildlife biologist, which often entailed consulting on the construction and management of wetlands and mitigation banks as part of building projects. In the best times over the course of his struggle to make himself whole again post-football, he had his own company in this field.

Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento is a thriller about a man who suffers a traumatic brain injury. Piecing together information about the incident in which his wife was murdered and he was injured, he has to process things backward, sideways, diagonally or in a loop — any way but in linear fashion, since his short-term memory is shot.

Meet George Visger, your real-life Memento guy. Don’t try taking away his notepad and expecting him to know where he just parked his truck.



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