Looking at the bigger picture

Published 10:33 am Friday, March 20, 2015

I love to write. I always have. It’s something that has just come natural from childhood, and where I’ve excelled from the first time I picked up a pencil.

Now, hypothetically, let’s just say that there’s a chance that I could develop a disease in my hands from excessive typing that would cause them to fall off. Again, completely hypothetical. It’s not certain that I’ll come down with this “disease,” but the more I continue to type, the more likely it becomes.

Would I stop writing because of these possible long-term effects? Not a chance.

It’s what I’m good at, something I enjoy and my ticket to providing for myself and my family. If I no longer had the opportunity to write for a living, I’m not sure what I would do or what the future would hold.

However, that’s what San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland chose to do. At only 24-years-old, Borland announced that he’s retiring from the NFL because of concerns about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.

One of the league’s top rookies this past season, Borland said he made this decision after consulting with family members, current and former teammates and doctors that study the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.

Like Borland, I am only 24-years-old. I can’t say that I’d consider the long-term effects on my health — be it writing or playing football — over the immediate rewards of a journalism or professional athletic career.

Like my hypothetical self, most athletes ignore the possible effects of what they’re doing and are willing to sacrifice being hindered in their old age for even an opportunity to do what they love for a living. So much that another player will step into Borland’s vacant spot on the depth chart without hesitation because the chance to play football or make $500,000 per year — as Borland was scheduled to make this upcoming season — far outweighs the possibility of dementia or depression.

He’s choosing to break from the norm, to consider the chance that he may wake up one day and not know who his wife or children are, and I applaud his courage. I don’t believe that Borland’s retirement will force waves of current athletes to reconsider the risk of their playing careers and ride off into the sunset. Nor will it change the NFL’s immediate future, but it will make me consider whether or not I let my future children play such a violent sport.

If I were in his shoes and even slightly considering the long-term impact, I’d at least collect a few more paychecks before hanging up my cleats for good. Borland and I obviously do not share the same perspective on the issue at hand, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when he’s living a perfectly cognitive life because he chose to walk away and I’m walking around “without limbs,” I’d probably wish that I could shake his hand for having the foresight and audacity to do what I could not.

ANDREW LIND is a staff writer for The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or andrew.lind@tidewaternews.com