Saturday, May 05, 2012

From luxury to heartache

Whenever I heard the name Junior Seau, I always thought of this picture:

That's from the Information Please 1991 Sports Almanac, which chronicled the 1989 NFL season (I guess it's a lead-time thing) and the 1990 draft. Here's how the accompanying article conveys Seau's excitement:

Moments before, Seau had been selected with the Chargers' first pick in the April 22nd draft. Now he was waving the jersey and pumping his fist. Seau, who calls himself a "mama's boy," was overcome with emotion after having been drafted by the Chargers. His family lives about 40 miles from San Diego. 

And that will come in handy. Seau may be a linebacker, but after all, he's really just a kid, and he can probably still use some parental guidance and mama's cooking.

I first read this article when I was 11 years old, and it stuck with me. This was about the same time I aspired to play a pro sport, and I thought, how cool would it be for your hometown team to draft you? Talk about stepping up your game! It certainly worked for Seau, who played all the way through 2009 and left a considerable pile of highlights in his wake. But no matter whose uniform he wore or how old he got, my mind would always click back to the picture above and his mama's home cooking.

It makes his suicide all the more shocking and heartbreaking. While I'm less than thrilled with the league's current (and arguably insincere) handling of the situation, the increasing number of post-career tragedies is a definite problem. I wish we could really understand what goes through the troubled minds of the Junior Seaus in their final moments. But we may never know.

I wish we didn't have to wonder.

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