keshaperry

Remembering “Buddy”

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

I got a call from a dear friend yesterday afternoon. To understand our relationship, just think brother and sister; and for us to break bad news to the other, we simply blurt it out. That’s how we deal; that’s how we cope. A call from him during the afternoons is not surprising, he normally calls on his lunch break. So I was expecting the rundown of the day, a dialogue about the NBA playoffs and maybe discussion about the football players the NFL considered to be the primary leaders of the New Orleans Saints “bountygate.” Instead, he said, “So, Junior is dead.” Less of a question and more of a disheartened statement. And we both held the telephone momentarily until I could locate my remote to find a news outlet. And we both were hurt, disappointed, and at a loss of words. Both our hearts go out to his family, friends, and all who enjoyed watching him grace the field with dedication, passion, and will. He was 43.

Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau, Jr. was one of my absolute favorite football players. Watching him play I saw his commitment, his love and care for his teammates, he was a student of the game. He was the textbook example of a professional football player. While the events surrounding Junior’s death are still developing, it appears he may have taken his own life. And for a man, a strong man as Junior, he too had hurt and pain. Immediately, I inquired of my friend, “do you think he was suffering from a potential brain injury from his days as a player?” He responded, “very well possible.” We both immediately thought of Dave Duerson, the former Chicago Bear, who took his own life in February of last year–he wanted scientists to study his brain to illustrate the damage caused by numerous hits to the head over his career. Largely because of former footballers, the NFL instituted several precautionary measures to better protect athletes against concussions.

Whether Junior was suffering from a brain trauma associated with his football career or a mental illness or depression, even a strong man as Junior needed another outlet to discuss what it was that was troubling him. Even the strongest of our men need to know that being a man does not mean that you shut your emotions off and that to show them is weakness. Quite the contrary. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2009, 79 percent of men committed suicide, compared to 21 percent of women. That same year, 29 percent of minorities (Black or African American, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native) committed suicide compared to roughly 13.5 percent of whites.

Junior Seau left an indelible mark both on and off the field, including his charity work and being named the NFL’s Man of Year during the 1990s. By yesterday’s end, as I concluded my television rounds of watching former players reminisce, I learned that Seau called everyone “Buddy.” In turn, others began calling him Buddy. I can only pray that Buddy’s family finds the peace and strength to cherish the spirit that made up Junior.

And if you know someone who may have suicidal thoughts or someone suffering from depression, please reach out, assist, and encourage him or her to get help.

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