Enough is enough

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Opioids are taking a terrible toll on this country, and yet they’re perfectly legal. The Pharma companies that manufacture them are profiting from addiction and death. I’m grateful I don’t know anyone who has had an addiction to these things, but not everyone has been so fortunate.

Can we now have an honest discussion of legalizing marijuana everywhere for medical use, at the very least? I’d rather have Prince–or anybody else–walking around with a bong in his hand, treating his pain in a way that wouldn’t get him addicted to anything.

I’m in favor of legalizing it for recreational use, too, because people are going to smoke whether it’s legal or not. Alcohol takes an enormous social toll, but experience has shown that regulating people’s vices is a fool’s errand.

Sacrificing our brothers, sisters, friends, family members and music idols to the opioid makers doesn’t make sense anymore, if it ever did in the first place.

Note: This is cross-posted from something I wrote on Facebook this morning, commenting on a Washington Post story about Prince’s scheduled meeting with an opioid specialist the day after he was found dead. 

UPDATE: Apparently this approach worked for Jim McMahon. Why not allow others to self-medicate like this? I can’t think of a good reason not to.

Blowin’ your mind like we knew we would

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Super Bowl Sunday, 1986 was certainly the high point of my senior year in high school. I knew that graduation was four months away, and going off to college would happen a few months after that, and then life would all be different. And that’s exactly what I wanted, to be honest about it. But the Bears made sure that the Springfield chapter of my life finished on a high note.

My family always went somewhere to watch the Super Bowl, and in 1986 we went, for the only time I can remember, to my Aunt Francie’s house. The Bears were the team that I had followed since Walter Payton first came to the NFL in the mid-1970s. He was known as “Sweetness” but he never had a team around him in those days. But in the early 1980s, the team started to rise under Mike Ditka. I was too young to know him as a player, but he looked the part of a football coach to me.

The 1985 Bears will always be the standard by which football teams will be measured. They made football fun, in a way that it had not been before and has not been since. Alongside Walter Payton, there was Jim McMahon, Willie Gault, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, Gary Fencik and, the biggest attraction of all, the Fridge, William Perry. Someone had put a refrigerator outside of their house in my Aunt’s neighborhood, and painted the number 72–the Fridge’s number–on the front. All these years later, and I can still remember it like it happened earlier today.

The Super Bowl Shuffle video made them all household names. They lost one game down in Miami on Monday night, but then they never lost again. And maybe the best part of the game was that the Bears overcame an early 3-0 deficit with a stellar performance the rest of the way. Sometimes things go badly at first, and it puts you in a hole that you can’t get out of. But this team shook off the slow start and proceeded to put on a football clinic. It proved that how you start off is much less important than how you finish up.

The Bears probably should have won more than just that one Super Bowl, but it didn’t work out that way. It’s now more than a quarter of a century later, and the Bears are still looking for a companion piece to that year’s title. Who knows when we’ll see another one, but for now we can look back at what a special time–and team–that actually was.

I now live in Chicago, and I’d love to see what it would be like in this city if the Bears ever rise to that level again. Life has changed since then, as I knew it would, but that special few months in late 1985 and early 1986 are something that will always remain in my memory.

Outrageousness?

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.