Opinion: Kramer's suicide attempt reveals inconvenient truth

Vincent Bonsignore
Los Angeles Daily News

On the same day most of the national sports media focused on a New York City courtroom and Tom Brady's role in deflating footballs, we were learning that former NFL quarterback Erik Kramer reportedly aimed a gun at himself and tried to take his life Tuesday.

Former Lions quarterback Erik Kramer sustained non-life threatening injuries in an apparent suicide attempt.

Thankfully, Kramer survived and is recuperating at a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

According to Kramer's former wife, the onetime John Burroughs High of Burbank and Los Angeles Pierce College standout has been struggling with depression the past few years. Undoubtedly some of that is related to the death of his 18-year-old son, Griffen, from a heroin overdose in 2011.

But Kramer's former wife also insists Kramer's troubles are directly related to the physical damage he endured playing football, specifically to his brain.

We should be angry, concerned and downright frightened.

Across the country, professional, college, high school and youth football teams have begun the process of training for the long, grueling, dangerous seasons ahead of them.

We should be asking more questions and demanding answers as to the exact dangers the thousands of athletes strapping on helmets are facing every single time they step on the football field.

Chose to ignore

Instead, there is indifference.

Instead, we turn the channel to watch the latest developments from Deflategate, as if the NFL vs. Brady matters in the least.

It doesn't. But we've convinced ourselves it does.

And hell, if it can take the attention away from a story we really don't care to think about, all the better for the NFL.

Anything to not shed some light on how the sport we love so much might be causing too many of its participants irreparable brain damage.

So while the Brady story continues to play out like a soap opera, the minimal amount of reaction paid to the Kramer story makes it obvious we just want his story to quietly go away.

We're selfish like that sometimes.

One story checks off all those meaningless entertainment boxes.

The other is another scary reminder that America's beloved sport might be directly linked to the sort of long-range mental issues that would lead an otherwise healthy, vibrant human being to want to take his own life.

Former USC and San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau, one of the greatest linebackers of all time, killed himself in 2012 by shooting himself in the heart.

The brain damage he suffered playing football is cited as the cause of the depression that convinced him dying was the better alternative to living.

Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson also killed himself by pointing a revolver to his heart and pulling the trigger.

The note Duerson left behind offered poignant clues as to what led him to suicide. He wrote about pain and depression and memory loss and severe headaches. Also in the room with him was his 1987 NFL Man of the Year trophy.

Longtime NFL safety Andre Waters killed himself. So did former lineman Terry Long.

And while the official cause of death of former USC and NFL linebacker Scott Ross was extreme hypertension with alcohol poisoning, his family believes the devastating effects of football played a role.

Depression link

In every case, depression linked to football careers was mentioned as links to suicides and deaths.

And then Kramer tries to commit suicide in a Calabasas motel room, and where there should be anger and exasperation we pretend not to notice.

We remind ourselves football has taken great lengths to reduce the violence and head injuries the past few years. From the professional ranks to the youth levels, practices have been shortened, rules have been tweaked and safer tackling techniques have been stressed.

And we cross our fingers and hope the changes lead to a safer sport and a healthier future for the players.

As for the ones who came before them like Kramer? Well, all we can do is hope for the best.

That is little solace to the families of Seau and Duerson and the former players who complain of insufferable pain, frustrating memory loss, excruciating headaches and dark battles with depression.

Yet all we're talking about is New England's Touchdown Tommy and the four-game suspension he is appealing.

It's about as important and meaningless as the air supposedly let out of those footballs.

Yet we eat it up. Can't get enough of it, really.

The Kramer story, well, we just want it to go away.

We say we care. We offer our support. We hope everything turns out well.

Deep down, we mean all of it.

But, well, can you do it away from all the cameras and microphones?

Anything not to further remind us the most popular sport in America is also the most violent and dangerous.

And that's just sad.