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The N.F.L. and Not Junior Seau Have Taken the Easy Way Out



I've heard it stated frequently in the aftermath of Junior Seau's suicide on May 2nd, 2012, that he took the so-called "easy way out".  I'm not so much interested in adding to the redundant rhetoric regarding the sad particulars of Seau's case, but rather wish to examine this "easy way out" mentality that inevitably crops up whenever anybody, famous sports star or not, takes their own life.

When people have terminal cancer, we don't accuse them, as they near death, of taking the easy way out, because that would be absurd, not to mention ignorant and just plain cruel to say about someone suffering tortuous and terminal pain.  But those who've suffered long with what amounts to a cancer or a disease of the mind, generally aren't given the same grace or compassion as those whose deadly afflictions are physical and observable.  Those who commit suicide chose to die, right?  And nobody chooses to die of cancer.  Not even three-pack-a day smokers are choosing to die one day of lung cancer.  This apparent choosing to die, choosing to reject life and the love of others can create a curious resentment and abiding anger even among those not personally involved in any given case, even Junior Seau's.  Within hours of the news of Junior Seau's suicide, people not connected to him in any way other than having watched him play collegiate and professional football for twenty years from their televisions, were flooding sports talk radio programs with their subdued tirades.  Their guilty verdicts were in (even before any evidence, pro or con, could have possibly been collected):  "Junior Seau took the easy way out."  As if suicide were as easy as ready, aim, fire.

The first time I contemplated suicide, I was seventeen.  Over the next six years, as my life and relationships eroded, leaving me isolated and alienated (even as I was surrounded by so many damn people) on the ruinous soil of dread and despair, I discovered how hard it was to die, that suicide was not easy.

I found myself alone one night at the age of twenty with my father's .20 gauge shotgun.  My intent that night wasn't necessarily suicide, but to test myself and to see if I could really do it, if and when the time came that I knew I needed to; if and when, that is, I got so desperate I saw no other means of escape.  The three preceding years had been anything but easy.  Easier, even less, was holding that cocked and loaded shotgun in my hands, or sticking the double-barrels inside my mouth and tasting that awful metallic taste as my front teeth inadvertently scraped the steel of the cold barrels -- a sound I'll never forget as it seemed to literally scrape across the inside my head.  I remember my right hand trembling as my thumb fumbled for then finally found the trigger.  I was not thinking about the opening line of Hamlet.  All I was thinking was all I had to do now was squeeze. To squeeze or not to squeeze? I knew then that I probably could squeeze the trigger, but that squeezing it would not be easy.  Over the ensuing three years I would attempt suicide twice, and both times it was exhausting.  Not to mention how hard going was the almost constant internal turmoil of those horrific years of despondency in between.  After my second hospitalization, and another three years following my first "test," that deeply wounded young man I once was finally got some help that lasted. More than twenty years have come and gone since those hellacious days and months and years. I've discovered since then that choosing to live, choosing to endure, to persevere and all that, is not an easy way out either.  But I'm convinced that as hard as living is sometimes, it's a hell of a lot easier than suicide.

I suspect the decision Junior Seau made on May 2nd, 2012, wasn't easy, either.  Needless to say, what his family has had to endure the three years since his death has no doubt been emotionally excruciating. And now comes the disturbing news that, against Junior Seau's wishes, the N.F.L. won't let his bereaved daughter introduce him at his Hall of Fame induction.

If anyone can be accused of taking the easy way out in Junior Seau's case, it's the N.F.Ls. cruel and despicable decision makers.

The N.F.L. is obviously more concerned with protecting its precious premium brand and lucrative image above all else than properly honoring or respecting the wishes of one of its greatest players who gave them literally everything, including his life.  No wonder so many intelligent (and now former) N.F.L. fans such as yours truly have increasingly come to abhor the league's ludicrous decisions, absurd disciplinary policies, and frankly creepy culture of crime and violence its long enabled and now ultimately represents. 

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