We will be hearing more and more tragic stories like this as that generation of NFL players ages and the damage done by playing football emerges.
I have a friend - quite a brilliant guy actually - heavily degreed, 4.0 avg, etc., - and couldn't get laid in a whore house with a fist full of 100.00 bills, but I digress. He waxes philosophical while we pound beers on weekends and this is his take on football (a game that he will not watch).
He believes that the testosterone that seeps out of the pores of healthy males cause them to have an innate nature to "need war", "to prove themselves at the top of the heap of manhood". He believes that very nature of man was the historical basis of knighthood and the bloody games during the Roman times in which men battled to the death in the Colosseum for the entertainment of huge crowds. He believes that is the fundamental itch within people to follow this kind of activity where big men win and big men get hurt... and hence, love the game of football. He believes a football game is a microcosm of a real battle during war, only with rules and referees and confined to a convenient and controlled battlefield.
I questioned this logic, but recall when I was working as an engineer at a large company the sudden change in the attitudes of the company peaceniks who stated they "hate war". Yet even though they stated their hatred of war, they were giddy and almost excited to the point of climaxing in their pants when the U.S. went into the first Iraq War and the initial strike against Iraq was televised live on national TV as the tanks rolled in and the bombs dropped from the air. Millions were glued to the TV across the nation - even those who abhorred war. And there was an excitement I had never seen before over our men going into battle and feeling like we were part of it. It was strange behavior, but unmasked the dark side of us humans.
So anyway, maybe he has a point. And in that case, there are heroes, goats, and gladiators who can pummel other gladiators - and it thrills the crowds and brings them back for that adrenaline rush they got the last time they watched a man crush the skull of another man...or a matador besting the bull. Unfortunately, just like in real war, some soldiers fall and real tears are shed. And in this controlled mini-war we call "Football", there are casualties. At least for football players, they get to become millionaires and know the feeling of being swamped by beautiful young groupies that want to pleasure you and have the chance to live a life most people can only dream of. I don't think most soldiers ever got the kind of superstar status and lifestyle obtained for their service to their country as a high profile football player. It's a shame that some players get seriously hurt and even end up having a shorter lifespan due to latent physical damage that shows up years later. But it ain't ever going away and millions of kids across the nation will lineup for the chance to be one of those superstars with the money, the extravagance, the girls, the mansions and yachts...or whatever they want.
There is a trade off for everything in life. Playing football (or boxing, or MMA fighting, etc.) can enrich one to unbelievable heights. Yet there will be a trade off and a cost for that period of time a person is lifted high upon a pedestal and cheered by crowds of thousands.