USA Today directs our attention to agent Leigh Steinberg's kick-off column for the Los Angeles Times's small-paper spin-off The Daily Pilot, which ran last week. In it Steinberg tackles the subject of concussions, which, he writes, have become an "undiagnosed health epidemic ... sweeping athletic fields across the country ... posing a threat to athletes in every age group." Which is just what I tell the 7-year-old who lives in my house who wants to play tackle football.
Steinberg, of course, was Troy Aikman's agent during his days as Cowboys QB, when Aikman suffered no fewer than 10 significant concussions. And though Aikman got some grief from some media members earlier this year for refusing to comment on the subject during post-season broadcasts, just last October he said no way, no how would he let his kid suit up: "If I had a 10-year-old boy, I don't think I'd be encouraging him to go out and play football. And so I wonder where football is going to be 20 years from now, in light of some of our youth that may not get involved with the sport because of head injury."
Which brings us back to Steinberg's piece. In it, the agent tells a story about going to see Aikman at Baylor Hospital following the NFC Championship win over San Francisco. (He writes it was in '95, but surely he means that brutal hit that knocked Troy out of the '94 title game.)
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The city was awash with celebration, horns honking, fireworks in the sky. Troy greeted me with a confused look on his face.
"Where am I?" he asked. "Did I play today? How well did I play? Did we win? Are we going to the Super Bowl?"
I answered the questions and his face brightened. Five minutes later, he looked at me in confusion and asked the same questions again and I answered before he smiled.
But five minutes later he asked the same questions once again as if we had never talked. I became terrified at the toll a concussion took on the tender thread separating sentient consciousness from dementia.