This is by no means a follow up or related post to my collection of NFL Music Videos. It’s but an excerpt from the recent coverage in GQ of research of brain injuries. The article is “Game Brain” and it will rattle the (American) football industry:
What the NFL couldn’t have known then, of course, is that by the time Omalu’s article was published, he had already gotten a second brain, that of former Steelers guard Terry Long, who died at 45 after drinking antifreeze. Same morgue. Same slab. Same story. Terry Long had a clinical history similar to Webster’s. Depression. Memory loss. Crazy behavior. In and out of psych wards. He was bankrupt, living destitute and alone. He tried rat poison. He tried other cocktails. Nothing worked until finally he got it right.
Omalu took Terry Long’s brain home, sliced it, sent it in for stains, ran the same tests, found the same splotches, the same tau proteins. “This stuff should not be in the brain of a 45-year-old man,” he said. “This looks more like a 90-year-old brain with advanced Alzheimer’s.”
So Omalu wrote another paper. He called it “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player: Part II” and put it in an envelope and sent it to Neurosurgery, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal that did not, in the end, accept the NFL’s request to retract the first one and went ahead and published the second.
The news of CTE, of retired athletes possibly suffering debilitating brain damage, was now hitting the mainstream press. The NFL responded with denial and attack against the young pathologist in Pittsburgh, who surely had no idea what he was talking about.
“Preposterous,” they said to reporters.
“It’s not appropriate science.”
It was enough to tempt a man to become wicked, to lead him to thoughts of lawsuits and vengeance.
But Omalu did not become wicked. He reminded himself of who he was. “I perform autopsies on dead people every day, so every day I’m reminded of my mortality. It has made me become very religious. I know I’m going to die someday, I know I’m going to be judged by God, and I have work to do while I am here on the earth.”