Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Tribute to Dave Duerson

My blog has been a real downer lately. I don't post as often as I should and most of my posts lately have been about recent deaths.

I believe that the greatest stories are the ones around us. The stories that we live everyday. What triumph lives in the mind of man that cannot be found in real life, perhaps even in the lives of our friends or neighbors in real life? What horrific dreams of evil born in literature could not already be found the darkest souls of the depraved?

My tribute today will not be complete, it will be a fractured tale that comes from childhood memories that long ago obscured, like looking at the past through a frosted window.

Dave Duerson was a professional football player, but when I first met him that was only slightly important to me. Sure, I was excited to get to meet a professional football player, but I was young and I had yet to fall in love with football. My grandparents took me to a party that some wealthy friends had every year. At these parties I met many professional athletes, but since I was so young and the party rather formal, I was bored. I know at some point I ended up at an arcade playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was not very good, but as I played I received some help.

That help came from professional football player Dave Duerson. He came over with a bucket of quarters and played the game with me until we beat one of the bosses. We eventually ran out of quarters and he went back to the party, but for a little while he took time to bring joy to a bored little boy. I don't remember if I ever met him again. I know that the next year when the time for the party came around I had to stay home sick with the flu and Mr. Duerson asked about me and sent me a get well card along with an autographed photo.

Mr. Duerson had a fan for life and I began to pay more attention to pro football. I remember being sad that he retired, and he settled into obscurity off my radar.

He had not really settled into obscurity, he started a successful business and in his free time was busy working with former NFL players who were having trouble with brain injuries sustained while playing football.

That was until he began to show the same symptoms that the other former NFL player struggled with. He began to have trouble speaking and writing. His business floundered and his marriage fell apart. He was arrested for domestic abuse, but his exwife maintains that the incident was due to her husbands brain injury and that he was not responsible for what happened.

Two weeks ago Dave Duerson took his own life. He was 50 years old. A suicide ending the life of a former NFL player is not unusual, but the method that Mr. Duerson chose to end his was. Despite his problems with brain injury, Mr. Duerson shot himself in the chest. This way of committing suicide is particularly unusual because of the chance of suffering before death is so much greater and where the psychology of suicide by firearm normally leads. The following quote probably says it best: “Think of the old cliché about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. They shoot the terrible master.”

So why did Dave Duerson take the harder death and spare the terrible master? Because he wanted to donate his brain to science so that they can continue to work towards finding out more about the injuries that made him take his life. His suicide note and his last text messages to his family both said to make sure that his brain was donated.

This is a tragic story of a desperate broken man. This man showed me a kindness as a child and I have never forgotten it. I grieve for his family and friends. I remember a life well lived until brain injury began to remove what made him who he was. I hope that his donation will save the lives of others.

Back when I made my post about Brian Jacques I realized that he was the second person that I had recently posted about and since superstition says that deaths come in threes I was wondering who I would next be writing about. I am hoping that this means that other people that I was worried about dying will be able to hold on. (I am looking at you George R. R. Martin). I am sorry things have been so somber. Look for my review of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings soon, and I will be back to writing about writing soon.

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