On McMahon’s brain.

I dreamt that there was a typo in the ZIP code on my new driver’s license, and as a result I was forced to move back to on-campus housing at Clemson. The apartment building was on east campus, wedged in between the President’s mansion and Calhoun Courts. In real life there isn’t enough room for such a building. Now I can’t get back to sleep.

Bad news: Jim McMahon, one of my two most favorite football players ever, quarterback of the Super Bowl XX Champion Chicago Bears, and renowned rap artist, seems to be suffering from brain damage. Now, it is possible that the brain damage is karmic punishment for having played for the Packers in ’95 and ’96, but on the off-chance that it’s due to the physical abuse suffered over the course of a 15-year career in the NFL, McMahon has agreed to support the Sports Legacy Institute’s studies of the long-term effects of concussions on athletes. From the article:

“My memory’s pretty much gone,” McMahon recently told the Chicago Tribune. “There are a lot of times when I walk into a room and forget why I walked in there. I’m going through some studies right now, and I am going to do a brain scan. It’s unfortunate what the game does to you.”

A long career in the NFL can have a deleterious effect on one’s body and mind, but when I read this sentence…

In a recent interview with ESPNChicago.com, McMahon talked about the aftereffects of his 15-year football career and said he was in pain every day, hasn’t worked out in 15 years and can’t run.

…I wondered, how is that any different from his playing days? Back then, he was in pain every day, he didn’t work out, and he couldn’t run. He head-butted his offensive linemen to celebrate touchdowns, dove head-first on scrambles more often than he slid, and he drank too much, going so far as to show up for his first interview after getting drafted with a beer in hand. He was a drunken, reckless maniac. That, of course, is why he was awesome.

But he, more so than most pros, kept getting blasted over and over and over again. In 1984 he got hit hard enough that he suffered a lacerated kidney and missed the last eight games. In 1985 he missed five starts due to injury. In 1986 he was the victim of the Dirtiest Play Ever when Charles Martin bodyslammed him. Bastard ruined my birthday that year; McMahon didn’t come back until the next October.

Anyhow, that kind of punishment–even if it doesn’t involve getting hit directly in the head–makes your brain rattle around your skull, especially if you’re being driven into the artificial turf Soldier Field had back then.

The article says that McMahon is having great difficulty remembering particular games, including a spectacular performance against the Vikings in 1985 (he got subbed in late and threw three touchdowns in seven plays to bring the Bears from behind). That may be due to the passage of time and the fact that in that particular game he was so doped up on painkillers that he nearly fell over after taking his first snap, but it sounds likely that a brain scan will suggest otherwise.

I hope McMahon’s work with the Sports Legacy Institute is productive, that they can find ways to reduce brain trauma in athletes, and that they can find a way to help him make his life a little better. The Bears may need him again before too long.

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