Sunday, November 17, 2013

the last book I ever read (League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth, excerpt one)

from League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru:

Webster was born in 1952 in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, in the heart of the Northwoods, a tourist destination on the Wisconsin River where people hunt quail and deer and fish for musky, walleye, and largemouth bass. He was the second of five children: three boys and two girls. His parents met at a local bar called Tower Hill and soon afterward eloped to Michigan. “We had five kids before we even knew what was causing them,” said Bill.

For a child, it could have been idyllic. Webster was raised on a farm situated in an enchanted forest of sweet-smelling timber and folklore. The name of his high school football team was the Hodags, a mythical horned creature said to roam the Northwoods. But the reality of Webster’s early life was chaos, poverty, and shame. Bill Webster was a potato farer and a local hell-raiser, a harsh disciplinarian who was quick to anger, quick to grab a belt to punish his kids. Mike Webster later told his son Colin that his father had beaten him “with sticks, switches, belts until he was black and blue.” Bill Webster’s own family history was riddled with turmoil and mental illness, including a brother who committed suicide. Webster’s mother had mental illness on her side of the family and eventually would have a nervous breakdown. A doctor later reported that among Webster’s four siblings, “all have had manic depressive illnesses, one requiring shock therapy and one who has had several suicide attempts.” His youngest brother, Joey, would spend much of his life in prison for a variety of crimes; in 1978, Webster’s fourth year in the NFL, Joey was convicted in Michigan on charges of bank robbery and illegal possession of firearms and sent to federal prison for 15 years.

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