I woke up from my slumber at noon today, and learned that former Charger great Junior Seau died at 43. What was even more stunning to me, is that the reports indicated that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Seau is one of the greatest athletes in San Diego history, and is an icon in this community.
The news was stunning-- I turned on the television and saw hundreds of people gathering in front of Seau's home, crying, and wondering what the hell went wrong. On the surface, Seau seemed to have it all: money, a God-like status in this city, and a person who had the respect and admiration of millions. Someone with Seau;s creditials would surely never feel the sadness and despair it takes for one to end their lives.
Seau's death also put a few things in perspective for me. First, from an NFL standpoint, I can see why the NFL is making such a large effort to protect players from head injuries. I saw much of Seau's career in San Diego, and I do remember concussions every being an issue for him. Of course, during his career, there was not much of an emphasis placed on the perils of concussions--unless it was a quarterback. Now I finally realize the toll that head injuries can have, and how they can impact a person's life. Too many players are killing themselves, in their post-NFL careers. It is a problem that clearly needs to be addressed, even if it impacts the quality of play on Sunday's.
Second, it seems like Seau had many of the same demons that we all face. There have been reports that he dabbled in drugs, and accusations that he assaulted his girlfriend in 2010. Eventually, the charges were dropped. Then Seau drove his car off of a cliff, and walked away unscathed. He claimed he fell asleep at the wheel, and everyone went back to their lives. Perhaps was the first sign that Seau was sick--and the disease was depression. All the interviews with all of the people who admired Seau said that no one saw it coming. Of course they didn't.
I can relate to what Seau must of felt, albeit under very different circumstances. When I was a teenager, I was extremely depressed. For a while, I just did not want to be alive. Perhaps it was just teenage angst, but I felt like the world would be better if I was not around. In order to avoid any attention, I just went about my business. I went to school, I hung out with the few friends that I had, and did everything to let those around me see that everything was fine. It wasn't. No one suspected anything, and eventually things got better. I thought about killing myself every day, but the only thing that stopped me, was knowing that it would destroy those who did actually care about me. I grew up, moved on, and have not gone back into the darkness. Clearly, Seau did not care enough about his children or family to get help.
I have often heard that you get an idea of the kind of person someone is, or was when they die. Seau did great things, helped many people, and entertained millions. By all accounts, he was a great person, and impacted countless lives. He also committed the most selfish act that a person can commit.
This post is not to disgrace the man, or the memory of Seau. I am indebted to Seau, as he is responsible for some of the best moments of my life. I will never forget his interception of John Elway, that sealed the Chargers first win in 1994. That win was the start of a magical season, that led to the Chargers only Super Bowl appearance. Seau was the main attraction for some terrible Chargers football after that year.
Ultimately, Seau's problems were too much for him to overcome. He is gone, at peace, or whatever you believe. His children will have scars that will never heal. They will never know why one of the baddest dudes to play in the NFL, could not keep fighting for them. His children will never be the same. His mother had a breakdown on television, and cannot understand why her child decided to take his own life. It is hard for me to have sympathy for someone who could do this to the people that love him.
I hope that Seau has the peace that he desires. I hope his family can heal, and eventually understand what transpired. Thank you, Junior for giving me some of the greatest moments of my life. Let your death be a lesson for those battling depression. Please, do something about it. Fight for your life, get help, talk to someone. You are important, and meaningful to someone. His death was untimely, and completely unnecessary. Please do not let yourself have the same ending.
RIP Junior, I hope your peace is worth the pain you left behind.