What would it be like to play God? The NFL might know.
If I were God, I would do three things: end world hunger, cure all forms of cancer and give Brent Boyd $960,000 dollars.
Boyd is a former offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings. He only played seven seasons, but he should have played more.
To say Boyd was smart is to say that Helen of Troy was average-looking. A football standout, Boyd graduated with honors from UCLA in 1980. He was selected by Minnesota in the third round of the NFL draft. In his first summer camp, Boyd even impressed coach Bud Grant by mastering every offensive line position. But, in a preseason game, Boyd took a hit that left him unconscious for minutes. After taking a few plays off, he was told to get back into the game. Boyd did like he was told.
Soon after that hit, he experienced several spells of dizziness and headaches. Memory loss became part of his daily life. By his second year, the well-read rookie barely remembered how to play.
"You want this job?" A teammate told Boyd that year, as quoted by ESPN, "They better carry you off in a coffin."
Eventually the effects of the hit took their toll on Boyd. In October 1986, he was released from the Vikings. Never again would the honors graduate hold another job, in the NFL or otherwise.
Boyd's story resurfaces through former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, who recently acknowledged that his concussions have left him depressed and addicted to amphetamines. He didn't say anything until he heard the story of Andre Waters.
Waters played defensive back for twelve seasons in the NFL. He led a top-notch Philadelphia Eagles defense in tackles for five seasons in the late 1980s and early 90s. Shortly before his career ended in 1995, The Philadelphia Inquirer asked Waters to count his career concussions.
He replied, "I think I lost count at 15." Later in the interview, he admitted he would keep quiet for fear of getting fired. Waters told the reporter, "I'd sniff some smelling salts, then go back in there."
Like Boyd, Waters had done as he was told.
After his playing career, Waters enjoyed early success as a college coach but failed at obtaining an NFL coaching gig. On Nov. 20, 2006, Waters shot himself in the head at his home in Tampa, Fla. On Jan. 4, test results from neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh revealed the 44-year-old -- once a tall-glass of talent for ten years in the NFL -- had brain tissue similar to that of an 85-year-old man in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
But the NFL still won't recognize that concussions sustained during football games have broken down these players into puzzles. What's worse, the NFL won't pay disabilities beyond $1,550 -- a monthly stipend allotted to all disabled retirees.
And while the health of its former players have declined, the NFL has skyrocketed in dollars and demand. It has the highest revenues of the four major sports, earning nearly $6 billion a year. The NFL's latest contract, which will run until the end of 2011, will bring in $3.7 billion a year for television rights alone.
But they won't pay Boyd a dime more than $1,550 per month. He deserves the minimum $4,000 that retired players receive if they can prove that their disabilities stem from football-related injuries. If I were God, Boyd would receive $960,000 -- for the 20 years the NFL has ignored his paralyzed pleas.
The NFL turned its back on Waters, too. The repercussions of concussions were too much for him. He finally gave in, as Boyd's teammate had once put it, the only way an NFL player can.
Waters was carried off in a coffin, having done as he was told.
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