The No. 1 question I’m being asked is whether Jovan Belcher had a known concussion history. The short answer: no. The long answer: it doesn’t matter. The “known” part would be ambiguous, anyway. The “concussion” part wouldn’t reveal the damage caused by the thousands of subconcussive blows endured throughout his football career (and in his high school wrestling career, it must be added).
Only postmortem examination of Belcher’s brain tissue could reveal whether chronic traumatic encephelopathy (CTE) played a part in the murder of Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their infant daughter, followed by his own suicide.
But unlike, for example, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, Belcher pointed the gun at his head rather than his chest before pulling the trigger. (Chris Benoit, the WWE star who was the subject of my 2009 book, hanged himself on his exercise machine pulley.)
So I don’t know how much useful brain tissue the technicians at the crime scene and the coroner in Kansas City were able to preserve. I’m guessing that the leading light of the CTE field, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is also the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California, might have a chance, if he has access, to make at least tentative findings in this area, but they would be controversial. Yesterday I emailed Omalu but didn’t hear back.
And now on to what I consider the nitty-gritty, which is not TV show forensic heroics. It’s what I call “the cocktail of death” and what Matt Chaney calls “the spiral of denial.” Football’s profiteers and their fanboys are playing the old tobacco-style shell game here. As the dramatic anecdotes, buttressing epidemiological data, emerge and accumulate, does it matter whether an individual died of lung cancer, emphysema, or heart disease? By the same token, the Belcher baby and the society that picks up the pieces — literally — of her father’s brain and consequences don’t much care if her father died of CTE, drug abuse, inchoate mental imbalance, or toxic levels of DirecTV. She’s just as orphaned regardless. How about “all of the above”?
The thing about football is that it disables and kills in so many ways that you can’t possibly codify all of them, much less produce a consensus pie chart. You just have to exercise some common sense and downsize the industry … excuse me, the sport … starting with kids. Let the last holdout child-abusing parents send their little boys out to slaughter in the name of glory, spectacle, and character-building. But not on the public dime.
Yesterday this site began displaying a live Twitter feed on the home page. Unfortunately, my final bon mot last night was riddled with typos. Let’s try again:
(1/2) Here’s predictable show-must-go-on drivel, masquerading as “perspective,” from Tim Dahlberg of AP: http://apne.ws/SCUYoK . (cont.)
(2/2) Football must go on, because it’s important. Unless it’s more convenient to argue that football must go on because it’s unimportant.