What I Am Thankful For

Thanksgiving, as the name would suggest, is a time to give thanks for the things we are grateful for in this world. It is a time to sit at an overcrowded table with family members that you rarely see surrounding you. A time to eat pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, turkey and stuffing. Thanksgiving has also become synonymous with football.

In that vein, let me put in words the many things that I am thankful for. I am thankful for my mind, strong and free-flowing. I am thankful for my knees and the fact that they don’t give me any trouble when I wake up in the morning. I am thankful for my fingers and their lack of constant arthritic pain. I am thankful that I only have to go to the doctor once a year and only go to the hospital for emergencies. I am thankful for my memory, for I have no lapses and never forget where I put my keys. I am thankful for my temperament, for it has never been adversely affected by continuous hits to my head.

I guess, in short, I am thankful for not playing football for more years than I already have. As more and more brains are donated to science by former football players, the damning evidence continues to grow. Over 96% of the former NFL players that have donated their brains have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This isn’t just a trend or a battle, this is war that NFL players are losing, and losing badly.

I understand why that may not shake you as it has shaken me. Few football players actually play in the NFL, where the action is faster and the hits are harder. Surely, the numbers aren’t nearly as damning for players that never reach the pinnacle of the sport? You’re right. 165 different deceased players from football backgrounds ranging from high school football to professional football had their brain tissue tested for CTE post-mortem. 131 of those individuals were struggling with CTE. That is nearly 80%. Do I have your attention now?

With advancements in technology and a greater understanding of the human brain, we now know what these modern-day gladiators are doing to themselves in order to play a game for us every week. We now know what sacrifices they have to make. We now know what their job entails. Is it acceptable that we continue to vociferously cheer on our team and its players when we know that once they step out of the spotlight they will never be the same? What is the cost of keeping the American people entertained?

I am grateful for many things in my life, but I am the most grateful that my football career was cut short. I am the most grateful for the fact that I will be able to enjoy my own family for many decades. You inevitably will see an NFL player laying on the ground, clutching his head on Thursday, just like Case Keenum was on Sunday. When you see that, remind yourself of the many things that you are grateful for, and maybe reach for that remote control. Then again, maybe you won’t. Maybe you will cheer and rejoice in the fact that a key player for the opposing team will not be able to finish the game.

I know what I will be doing this Thursday, do you?