Saturday, July 23, 2005

Thankfully, Tedy Bruschi Decides To Sit This One Out

It is a haunting, tragic list.

Chuck Hughes. JV Cain. Korey Stringer. Hank Gathers. Reggie Lewis. All promising, young, relatively healthy athletes, except for one thing: their ultimately defective hearts. Another thing they all have in common: they all died doing what they loved -- playing their respective sports. So I hope to goodness that the list will not grow by one, now that New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi has decided to sit out the 2005 season, at least.

Bruschi’s ailment isn’t heart-related, at least not directly. He suffered a mild stroke in February, but to me, "mild stroke" is an oxymoron. I don’t see how anything that is called a stroke can be mild, although I know it’s all relative. Earlier this week, Bruschi announced that he would skip this season and maybe the next, too, if medical clearance is hard to come by.

Thank you, Tedy.

Thank you for considering your wife and your three beautiful boys and how your well-being means everything -- EVERYTHING -- to them. Thank you for having the sense to place football, the sport you love almost more than life itself, behind the people that love you as you love the game. Thank you for resisting the temptation to put on the pads at training camp next week, just to see how it goes, only to perhaps become seduced by football’s aura and not realizing until it’s too late that playing so soon was not only unwise, but maybe even deadly.

Three times a football champion, Bruschi proved he is a champion at home, too

Most of all, thank you because unlike Hughes, Cain and Stringer, your body has given you a warning sign. And you listened to it. With those three men, no one could possibly have known, could possibly have detected, that their hearts were literally ticking time bombs. And that’s why all three of them dropped dead on a football field -- Hughes during a game, Cain and Stringer during camp. But you were given the gift of forewarning, Tedy, and thank God you have recognized that. So as much as football fans everywhere admire your play and your embracing of the game, I think they appreciate even more your level-headedness respective to your decision to sit this one out.

I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Whenever it comes to prognoses, even the best and brightest of medical minds can disagree. I am also sure that some of those minds had you thinking that playing in 2005 would be okay after all. I’m even more sure that you considered playing very strongly. You’re 32 years old. You’re too young to have strokes, or at least to have them where they can have lasting effects....right? So when you heard that the likelihood of you having any medical problems this season was very low, any right-minded person could hardly blame you if you all but made travel plans to report to training camp with the rest of your two-time Super Bowl champ teammates.

But you didn’t, and I for one am grateful and relieved.

We don’t need some grotesque image of you lying on the field and twitching, your life possibly seeping away before our very eyes. But forget all of us, Tedy. Your wife and boys would be destroyed by such a thing. And that would make our pain all the more great.

But it’s all for naught now, isn’t it? You’re passing on the 2005 season, waiting for the next one to come around. Maybe you’ll be healthier and better suited to play in 2006. And if you’re not, I hope you come to the same conclusion then as you have now:

It just isn’t worth it.

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