First of all, from the TMI section, I am not a pro union person. I deal with an absolute corrupt Mexican union everyday at work, and I also worry that union benefit liabilities are creating the next "financial bubble to burst" in the state governments. But the Dave Duerson suicide is on my mind today. Duerson shot himself in the chest so that his "brain" could be studied for the impact of football injuries on the human thought process.
As a short tribute to Duerson, he was a starting safety on one of the best defenses in the history of football, the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffle of Da Bers. He graduated from Notre Dame. He was a "green sticker" guy that was a leader on the field, in the lockerroom, and in the community. He was competitive, classy, and now dead way too early at the age of 50.
I am sure Roger Goddell is a brilliant man that knows he has the best poker hand. He can win this thing with a power play. The NFL is the only major sport that can win a labor beef with an absolute power play, and he is holding at least A-K suited for the following reasons:
- They have consistently marketed the teams and rivalries and not fallen into the trap of marketing the players a la the NBA.
- The NFL uniform is protective gear that constantly gives more exposure to the team than the individual.
- The NFL is the ultimate team sport. There are literally a handful of players that significantly impact the competitive balance. Those few, the Bradys, Mannings, Rodgers, Ray Lewises, are unbelievably well compensated in relation to the majority, that their sacrifice for a lost year is 10-20 times that of the standard NFL player.
- The fan base tends to think of the players as selfish, overpaid, pampered, spoiled individuals. Some of the reputation well earned, and some of it could not be further from the truth.
There are some facts about these gladiators that get missed. Their average career is right around 4 years. So basically, if you are not a first round pick - you do not make enough for a lifetime in the NFL. More than 25% of the NFL players go bankrupt. They get a short term high standard of living, usually do not have the maturity to think in the longer term, and then have difficulty sustaining their families.
But this is not about the dollar and sense of the business. This is about a man that left behind his loved ones because he felt that head injuries ruined his rational thought process. This about Mike Webster, who after being one of the best centers of all time, died in his 50s in the state of dementia, homeless, living in his car. Steve Courson, whose body just complete gave up on him. Literally ripping apart, and some have felt from the impact of early steroids.
So here is a vote, that at the end of the day, that Roger Goddell uses the billions of dollars in NFL war chest to do the right thing. After settling the labor issues with the current players, take care of their warriors. Give access to the players for lifelong mental and physical care. Create mechanisms that support the transition from the NFL to regular life. Invest in these guys in the long term, make it a goal, no more Dave Duersons.