Photo by Sam Hodgson
I had an idea for a pithy article discussing the latest ebb for our local football teams.
“Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?” was to be the title. The story would lament slow starts for the 1-2 Chargers and the winless Aztecs, and their presumed negative impact on the sputtering effort to replace Qualcomm Stadium.
Sarcasm no longer does the subject justice after Wednesday’s news.
Former Charger Paul Oliver is dead at 29. Committed suicide … A good dude. Always enjoyed talking to him. Dang, this is sad.
— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) September 25, 2013
Officials in Cobb County, Ga., confirmed that Oliver died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The tragic news hits San Diego as it continues to recover from the suicide of local legend Junior Seau, who died in May 2012. Seau’s death has been widely attributed to the effects of concussions he suffered during his 20-year NFL career. He shot himself in the chest, presumably to leave his brain intact for posthumous research. The Seau family later sued the NFL for hiding the dangers he was exposed to as a player. A former Chargers teammate felt that Seau’s death led directly to the league’s $765 million settlement with players last month.
It’s far too early to make similar post-concussion assumptions about Oliver’s death. An internet search did not immediately turn up a history of concussions for the Georgia native. Without drawing a direct parallel, however, it is safe to presume that anyone who played football from their youth, into college and through a five-year NFL career had their share of concussive impacts. New research indicates that young football players sustain hits to the head comparable to those absorbed by high school and adult players, and that most of the hits are sustained in practices.
The latest death of a former Charger is a sad epilogue to what some have called the “Chargers Curse” of the 1994 team that made the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance. Eight players from that team, including Seau, died before their 45th birthdays.
It’s all a heavy hangover for a local sports community that hasn’t seen much euphoria in recent years. Life is short — sometimes a lot shorter than we would ever imagine.
The Dallas Cowboys are coming to town this Sunday to play the Chargers in our 46-year-old stadium. Maybe we’ll never build another one, especially when empirical evidence shows what bad investments NFL stadiums are for public subsidy. Maybe the team will leave for Los Angeles or elsewhere. Maybe football is so dangerous that it will be forced to devolve into two-hand touch and fade as the biggest entertainment draw in the country.
But for now, this weekend, maybe we can suspend thinking about these things and just enjoy a football game.
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