I post this video because this is how I want to remember Jim McMahon. He was the leader of the 1985 Bears, who took football to heights that it would never reach again for me. A team that, for three or four months in late 1985 and early 1986, had the world by the tail. And Chicago still hasn’t gotten over them, all these years later. They were something that we’ll never see the likes of again.
So it was with great sadness that I read about the mental decline of Jim McMahon in Sports Illustrated today. The head injuries have taken their toll, to the point where he seems to be like a child, needing to have supervision so that he doesn’t leave his house unattended. He was once the equivalent of Superman, and now he lives with episodes where he sits alone in terrible pain. It’s heartbreaking, really.
Dave Duerson and Junior Seau are high-profile players who recently killed themselves, rather than live with this type of pain. Head injuries robbed them of lives after football. It was an occupational hazard for them, and for everyone who plays a game with such risks. They chose to play the game, and they accepted the glory that came their way as a result. But the price now seems to be awfully high.
There is research being done about the dangers of head injuries in football. But the game itself seems like it’s never been more popular than it is now. You can design better helmets and changes the rules of the game, but the human body isn’t designed to withstand that type of abuse. It’s a terrible lesson to learn, but it’s an even worse lesson to ignore.
There’s no magic cure for what is ailing Jim McMahon and the other ex-football players who share his pain. Mike Ditka, McMahon’s old coach, is raising awareness of the plight of ex-players, but the players themselves will have to live with these after-effects for the rest of their days. It’s a real tragedy.