Thursday, November 21, 2013

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

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

For most professional athletes, retirement is like falling off a cliff. Webster was 40. He had played 17 years in the NFL, 245 regular-season games. It had provided him with a militaristic structure for his life: train, practice, play; his work schedule was so rigid that it was printed up in the newspaper every fall. Now all of that had been ripped away. It was a struggle all professional football players went through: After so much violence, the transition was a form of post-traumatic stress. Most had trouble coping on some level, but this was different. People who came in contact with Webster found him delusional about both his career prospects and how and where he and his family would survive.

Bob Stage, the Steelers’ pilot and his close friend, flew out to Kansas City to spend a weekend with Webster. In some ways, he was the same old Webby; Mike still called him Robert, using the faux French pronunciation, and was generous to a fault. Stage knew that some of the financial problems could be traced to people who had treated Mike like an ATM: “They took his generous heart and took advantage of him.”

“You’re the only friend who’s never asked me for money,” Mike once told Stage. But in Kansas City, Stage found Webster totally unrealistic about his future. One warm evening, Webster decided he wanted to throw a baseball around. “Mike had so much nervous energy, he about wore my arm out,” said Stage. “The sad part is, he wouldn’t listen to anybody. That night when we were playing catch he told me: ‘I’m gonna become an agent.’ I said, ‘Mike, you didn’t even get your degree at Wisconsin. How are you going to do that?’ He would come up with these ideas, but the dots didn’t connect.”

“I think I’m gonna sell RVs,” Mike said to Pam one morning. The next day he announced: “I think I’m gonna go to chiropractor school.”

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