First off, let me apologize to Fooch and the others who run this well-done blog. This is probably not the type of football analysis they want. I hate being preachy and stand-on-a-soapbox-y, but this Seau suicide really has gotten to me and I feel like I need a place to be heard and this best place that I could come up with.
I love football. I used to play it everyday during lunch and as many times after school as possible (though admittedly mostly touch football). The sport is a lot of fun to play. I also love watching football. The NFL product is amazing, and has actually gotten better as I have gotten older, with the players becoming bigger, stronger, and faster. I love that there are only 16 games, making each game important and nerve-racking. I love the salary cap which gives each team a decent chance of becoming good.
I am a huge Niner fan. I could never be called a casual fan. I grew up in the Montana/Young dominant era. I am from Berkeley, and due to the Raiders being in Socal, I am a rabid A's/Niners fan, which is not uncommon for those in my generation. One of my first memories is Montana-Taylor to win the Super Bowl. I remember the headlines the next day reading "Taylor-made" and my teacher explaining the pun. One of the most amazing things to happen to me was when I was about 10, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Harris Barton and just one other family. It was incredible. I was a starry-eyed kid who got to interact with with a true Niner! And he was awesome, with his stories of teaching Montana and the rest of the line Hebrew so they could do the snap-count in another language to confuse the opposing team. Or how he was asked to say a Jewish prayer by Bubba Parris before a game, so he said the prayer over the wine and then later told Bubba it was a prayer about circumcision. But I will also never forget that he also said "Never get into football" and he showed me his hands, in which none of his fingers pointed the right direction (heh, not like this is an issue there is no chance in hell I could have made it as a football player).
I have remained a huge fan. I was there for the good times, the funny times (I still love that then-mayor Willie Brown called Elvis GrBac a "disgrace to humanity"), and the bad times. I never could afford to go to a game at Candlestick, but I was living in San Diego for Rice's last year on the Niners and got to see him score two touchdowns in person and there were enough Niner fans at the Murph to chant "Jerrry! Jerry!" The still-semi-young star linebacker Junior Seau of the Chargers was pissed that in his own house fans were cheering against his team. But at that time, their starting QB was the now-fugitive Ryan Leaf, who managed to throw 5 picks that game and they won one entire game that year.
I have moved around quite a bit, but haven't lived in the Bay Area again until this year after about a 13 year absence. I lived in Texas for almost 7 years, the football mecca. I'm pretty sure that I have spent over a thousand bucks in sports bars to watch Niner games because they were never nationally televised because they sucked for most of that time. I literally moved back here this January, just in time to watch the Saints game with good friends and actual Niner fans. I couldn't stop running around the room in joy as Whitner put a hard, clean, perfectly-legal hit on Pierre Thomas, knocking him out and the ball free for a very important fumble.
But I am now going to stop supporting the NFL, and I am not going to watch any Niner games. The timing couldn't be worse for me, with finally being able to easily watch games and the Niners being so exciting for the first time in years. But I feel like I am watching modern-day gladiators. The numbers supporting hugely increased depression and suicide in former athletes is too hard to ignore. From what I understand, every brain examined post-mortem of an ex-NFL player has shown at least some signs of brain abnormality associated with physical trauma. Maybe it is unfair that it took a high profile case like Seau for me to be thrown over the edge, but it is what it is. I liked Seau, the proud amazing football player on an otherwise terrible team when I was in San Diego. Now he is the latest on the list of former players who committed suicide. The Whitner hit on Pierre Thomas was an amazing football play, and clearly legal and game-changing and what every player should strive for. I loved it. But it also leaves a man with a concussion, and who knows if he suffered permanent brain damage on that play. I cannot continue in good conscious root for that to happen.
So until the NFL does something real about this issue, I will withdraw my support. And I mean something real, not fining .0002% of a player's salary for an illegal hit. Many of the players with mental issues are defensive players doling out the hits... it is the repetitive head contact that causes mental issues. But something much more drastic, like something scientifically proven to reduce impact of the head. If they never do then... well.. that sucks for me and the NFL will have lost a fan.
Once again, apologies to the Niners Nation people. I don't mean to be preachy, and this is a reflection of MY thoughts and not what I think other people should think. I also recently finished my PhD in neuroscience, so this may have more of an effect on me than on others. I feel guilty taking taxpayer money to conduct research to prevent brain diseases while watching a sport that directly causes them.