I got my bags and I’m headed straight into the storm. It’s a Springsteen quote. You can look it up if you didn’t catch it. I was about to write the post-draft installment of JIC when I started getting texts about Junior on Wednesday. Keep in mind that here in New York, I’m the first person that most people think to call when something involving the Chargers happens. It would probably be that way regardless. But friends that work on Wall Street seem to get the most up to date news via their ticker which I assume is why those were the people who got in touch with me first. It was the same way when Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Nonetheless, I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that Junior Seau had died. I’ve written a few times how Burt Grossman got in touch with me in 2002 and mentioned that he thought my writing was pretty funny and that Junior read JIC as well. Obviously, I didn’t believe it was really Burt Grossman at first. I didn’t even know that he was still friends with Junior after going from the Bolts to the Eagles. Anyway, I was given the chance to talk to Junior on his actual birthday, January 19. This was 2003, as the Traitors were in the process of beating Tennessee and going to the Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. I was very psyched to hear that our best player also “hated the fuckin’ Raiders,” as I did. Anyway, we all knew that Junior gave his all on the field and was extremely generous with his time and money off it. He had his demons, which was no secret. I don’t mean to bring that up to sully his memory in any way. I just wonder if the difficulty in reconciling the on field image and off field flaws ever weighed him down. The 2010 legal imbroglio and subsequent car crash gave me the impression that he was having more than just a little trouble. When he was inducted into the Chargers Ring of Honor, people wondered if Dean Spanos would have the balls to take the mic. Appropriately, it was the same day that Norv Turner proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why he’ll never coach a champion. But when Junior responded to all this by chanting “SPANOS! SPANOS!” it might have also been an idication that he was behaving more than just a little erratically. Of course, this is all in retrospect. Now that a few days have passed, I am more shocked that Junior knowingly took his own life. After his 2010 legal imbroglio and subsequent car crash the idea that he’d be gone wasn’t entirely unthinkable. But the fact that things were so tough for him that he chose to go, that’s whats unfathomable.
Our good friend Jenn sent me this e-mail today which gave me the kick in the ass to get in front of a keyboard:
Hi Ross – I’m still reeling. Thought that I would check in and see how you’re doing? Devastated doesn’t even cover it. I spent the day watching old VHS tapes that I dug out of the back of the hall closet. Most from 1994 and 1995. Game after game, interview after interview. It’s like my life is on hold at the moment and I don’t know how to move forward or breathe. And then I will have really off thoughts like – that piece of shit, waste of space Ryan Leaf who has never done anything for this world is still here and Junior is gone. Naturally, I feel like a horrible human being afterward. I just don’t know how to cope. I still have the picture he autographed for my Grandma when he found out she was struggling to complete her chemo and radiation treatments. “Keep fighting – stay strong. Love, June” She carried it back and forth from the bedroom to the living room couch. When her neuropathy got so bad in her fingers that she couldn’t hold it, my Grandpa had to carry it back and forth. God help him if he forgot it.
I think that’s what drove all of his charity work – he kept trying to make up for his behavior. That drive off the cliff should have been his rock bottom but there were way too many enablers around him that kept it from being so. I don’t think he felt that he ever measured up to the picture his mother had of him. It’s just sad. Two comments have stood out to me, but I can’t remember who said each one. I want to say it was Marcellus Wiley who said that he was talking about playing football again next season. And then I can’t remember who said that Junior told them last week “I’m nothing now.” He was struggling without the sport that brought him so much. Which is odd to me since his last seasons didn’t bring him much play time. He wasn’t even starting. Still chasing that ring? Who knows. It will be interesting to see what his brain yields, but I’m not thinking that had anything to do with his suicide. He didn’t complain of headaches. His behavior wasn’t any more bizarre off the field than it had been when he was playing. To me, I don’t think those signs were there.
I’m glad you’re doing a draft analysis as well. We did better than I expected with no moving up to grab odd players that would be there two rounds later. I feel better about this draft than I have the past few. As good as I can feel with Norv still coaching the team, anyway. Doesn’t mean I’m excited for the season, though.
Anyway, I figured I should check and see how you’re doing. I keep pulling up Justice to see if you’ve done a post yet without really expecting one because I’m sure this has really thrown you.
Of course, it’s well documented that this is the 8th player from the ’94 team to pass away. I’m not a huge fan of Deadspin, but I can’t disagree with their headline claiming that death is stalking this team. My wife added that it’s almost like a “Final Destination” situation. I assume she’s talking about the first movie with Stifler and not any of the uneccessary sequels. Seriously, odds of all these guys dying before reaching 45 years old is crazy. Doug Miller, who was kind enough to give me an autograph on the day before the Super Bowl was struck by lightning TWICE. The one thing what we should take away from this is how insignificant this game is in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s hard not to talk about a curse when the only Charger team to reach the Super Bowl now has all this tragedy attached to it. I originally thought that I’d be able to segue this into a discussion about our draft picks, but I can now see that it won’t be possible. I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to deliver some grand statement on Junior. I’ve tried to use humor in this posting not to detract from the seriousness but rather as a coping mechanism. I’ll put together a post-draft piece next week. Tomorrow’s Cinco De Mayo and Sheli Manning will be hosting Saturday Night Live. But at 5:55 PM on May 5 people have been asked to take a minute of silence in Junior’s memory. I’m sure you’ll all join me. Talk to you next week. I don’t need to tell you who this installment of JIC is dedicated to.
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.
I still believe in a promised land.