Not Feeling Super

Auburn University football coach, Shug Jordan, asked his former star linebacker, Mike Kollin, who was then playing for the Miami Dolphins, if he would help him do some recruiting.  The conversation went like this:

“Sure coach, what kind of player are you looking for?” … “Well Mike, you know there’s that fellow you knock him down and he just stays down?”  “We don’t want him, do we, coach?”  “No, that’s right … Then there’s that fellow you knock him down and he gets up, you knock him down again and he stays down.”  “We don’t want him either, do we, coach?”  “No.” … “But Mike, there’s that fellow you knock him down and he gets up, knock him down and he gets up, knock him down and he gets up.”  “That’s the guy we want isn’t it, coach?”   “No, Mike, we don’t want him either.  I want you to find the guy who’s knocking all these other fellas down.  That’s the player we want!”

Last Sunday was Super Bowl 50.  The honour of the coin toss went to Joe Montana, a four-time Super Bowl  champion with the San Francisco Forty-Niners (and considered by many sports writers to be the greatest quarterback of all time).  Sadly, the coin toss is one of the few things Montana can now do without pain.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated magazine, the record three-time Super Bowl MVP (most valuable player) detailed the extensive physical problems he suffers from, more than two decades after he ended his NFL (National Football League) career in 1994.

“The mental part was hard initially when I first retired,” said the fifty-nine year-old, “because it’s cold turkey, the game’s gone. Then the physical stuff from the years of pounding you take on the field start to catch up.”  To hear it from Montana, it sounds like he has spent more time in an orthopedist’s office than he did at the football stadium.  Start with the arthritis – which is in one of his elbows, both knees, and each hand.  “My finger joints have been,  oh my, in the middle of the night, they hurt like crazy,” Montana said.  Then there’s the balky knee he can’t straighten despite a half-dozen surgeries.  “They keep telling me I’ll need a knee replacement when I can’t walk,” he said.  “but I can’t really do much with it now as it is.”  Recently, Montana said, he had elbow surgery and now he’s got problems in his neck.  To date, he’s had three neck fusions.  “I think I’m headed down the fusion trail again,” Montana said, “they think the path of a nerve is being affected.”  And there’s more nerve damage, in one of his eyes.  “It acts like a lazy eye to some degree because every time I’m tired, it kind of goes a little bit wherever it feels like,” Montana said, “not dramatic, but just enough where you can’t read or you have to refocus.”  The optometrist told him it’s from all the head trauma suffered during his football career.  Add to all this, back surgery due to a damaged sciatic nerve and a resulting numb left foot.  When he retired, Montana thought he’d done so early enough to live an active physical life with his wife and their three children, but now all he can do is sit and watch them.  Next to come?  CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disease which was formerly believed to affect only boxers, but is now increasingly being found in retired athletes from hard-contact sports (football, hockey, etc.).  The most common symptoms are: memory loss, erratic behaviour, suicidal thoughts, and ultimately, dementia.

So maybe it’s best your child’s not the next big sport’s star, for what a way to go through the rest of your life.