A Chosen Bullet: Workbook Edition
  • The Suicide of A Former NFL Star

    My Thoughts on the Tragic Finality of Dave Duerson’s Life

    Like everyone else, I was shocked and saddened when the news broke last week that former Chicago Bear great Dave Duerson took his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  After the initial shock wore off, my thoughts drifted to wondering how this could happen while ultimately feeling sorrow for what many of our sporting heroes go through once the cheering stops. 

    I can’t imagine the psychological adjustment of a player who has been treated special, often coddled, by everyone off the field from the time their 7 or 8 years old until their in their 20s or early 30s when they’re basically told “sorry, you’re not special anymore”.  Can you imagine in any walk of life or profession peaking at 25, as Duerson was when he won his first Super Bowl, and within a few short years being told: “you’re no longer good enough to do this”.  

    I attended the University of Illinois when Deon Thomas was ‘the guy’ on campus simply because he was the best basketball player at a basketball school.  He couldn’t go anywhere without being noticed.  I wrote a feature article on Thomas for the Daily Illini and he was a very personable, humble guy.  I’ll never forget the celebration for him at a campus sports bar when he was selected in the 1st round of the 1995 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.  I’ll also never forget him visiting campus, and seeing him at the same sports bar, the next year after he didn’t make the Mavericks roster and nobody knew, or cared, who he was – just one year later!  Thomas never played a game in the NBA and that was the first time I realized that nobody cares about most of these guys once they’re no longer capable of thrilling us.  

    As for Duerson, he was a smart man – a Notre Dame graduate with an MBA from Harvard.  He seemingly made the adjustment that many other athletes don’t make.  He was successful after his football career as a businessman.  But at some point, it all started to unravel – a domestic abuse charge, a messy divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy and sadly suicide.  Many in the media will jump on the story line that head trauma throughout his career was a contributing factor and, to be sure, the story line is warranted.  Duerson sent text messages to loved ones just prior to taking his life asking that his brain be studied for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  But thousands of former NFL players, and you can lump in hockey players and boxers (see Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali) have routinely suffered blows to the head and their lives don’t end at 50 with their finger on a shot gun.

    Questions arise with such a tragedy as this and hopefully answers, and ultimate good, will be formulated:  Who is coming along side these young guys to mentor them during their careers to instill a purpose to life that is larger than chasing championships?  Don’t forget, these guys are mere kids in their 20s.  Sure, there are financial and business advisors – but do they have their best interests at heart?  Who is there for these guys once their business and their financial world collapses?  Who is there when their marriage simultaneously or subsequently collapses?  Or do we really just care about these guys until they no longer provide story lines and no longer give us reason to cheer while providing us with an adrenaline rush? Do owners, coaches and agents really truly care once players are no longer an asset to line their pockets?

    On a personal note, while I did not know Duerson, we interacted because of my book. What I can say is that he was approachable, responsive, respectful and ultimately appreciative of my efforts. I think that says a lot about Duerson because, at the end of the day, I’m just a fan who wrote a book and he gave me credibility for no benefit to him.  For that, I’m sad he’s no longer here; because with or without lingering effects of head trauma or his mounting personal problems, I feel he had so much more to give.  As for us (i.e. the fans, media, coaches, entourages, etc.), we need to understand the innate desire in all of us for a purpose larger than ourselves.  We all have divine purpose of having an impact by leaving a legacy long after we’re gone and that impact / legacy needs to be far more than making money or winning championships to achieve true fulfillment and peace.  The sooner we all realize that, the more emphasis we’ll have on bringing out true greatness inside of ourselves and, more importantly, those around us.

    February 25th Posted in: The Windy City Sports Blog with 1 Comment

  • It’s Not About You

    As discussed in my previous blog, communication is one of two pillars of a healthy marriage.  My wife Amy and I share everything with one another.  We learned in taking an engaged couples class at our church that no one should ever laugh with your spouse more than you and no one should ever weep with your spouse more than you.   When our communication with our spouse is strong, we’ll know how to build them up, as opposed to tear them down, in their moment of need.  Because someone will be there to pick them up, be it a friend or a member of the opposite sex.  The question is – will you be the one that’s there for your spouse?  

    Part 2: Selflessness – The second and maybe the most difficult pillar to build and maintain is selflessness.  We all come into marriage “set in our ways” to a certain extent.  We like things a certain way – be it a small issue like not having dirty dishes in the sink or a large issue like how we budget, or don’t budget, our money.  Additionally, we have preconceived notions about marriage that are usually romanticized and thus unrealistic.  Truth be told, most of us enter marriage in seeking to fulfill our own needs and not those of our spouse.   For that reason alone, I think “selfishness” by either or both spouses is the number one reason why marriages break down and 50% ultimately fail.

    Jesus says in Mark 10:8 – “And the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”  Like fusing a bone or a disc in your back, the two becoming one can be a painful process.  At the very least, there are growing pains involved; not the least of which is realizing that marriage is not about you or your needs.  The quicker each spouse realizes this, the quicker the marriage can move through the growing pains stage to one of fulfillment and wholeness.   The pillar of communication is essential in this phase.  Husbands and wives must freely be able to communicate their wants and needs with one another.  At that point, a healthy marriage is one where EACH spouse focuses not on having their own needs met, but on meeting the needs and wants of the other – UNCONDITIONALLY (Philippians 2:3).  Ultimately, if you have two spouses putting their selfish desires aside in seeking to fulfill and serve their spouse, then you have a marriage where both spouses receive all the wonderful riches and blessings that the Lord has for us in marriage.

    A book I recommend for any married couple interested in a rewarding, fruitful marriage is Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy.  The premise is that when we seek to be holy in serving God and serving our spouse the joy, peace and fulfillment will follow as a byproduct.  In the third and final installment of this series, I’ll talk about the Christ-centered foundation that these two pillars must be built on in order to have a vibrant marriage despite our human fallibilities.

    February 23rd Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments

  • Baby-Faced Assassin & Sox Thaw the South Side

    The Baby-Faced Assassin

    Within two hours of the end of the Bears incredible, if not frustrating at times, 2010 season, I posted on my Facebook Page that life was good because the Bulls were in first place.  Yes, I obviously was trying to talk myself and my fellow Bear fans-friends in off the collective edge.  But the beauty of being a Chicago fan is that the next day, there’s always another team to dominate your sporting interest.  I then began to think about who is the current face of Chicago Sports.  Growing up, I was pretty spoiled going from Walter Payton straight to Michael Jordan which spanned the time I became a 6-year-old sports fan in 1977 until the Final Shot when I was 27 in 1998.

    For a little more than the decade, though, Chicago has lacked that face.   A face that could be put on a billboard outside of O’Hare; one that screams “I am Chicago”.  Sure, we’ve had guys like Sosa, Frank Thomas, Urlacher and now Kane that have rented that space on a month-to-month or maybe a seasonal basis.  Guys that in other cities like Cleveland or Seattle or Atlanta would’ve been “The Face”.  But not in Chicago – not in the city of revolutionary players like Halas, Grange, Butkus, Sayers, Banks, Payton and Jordan. 

    Make no mistake, we have that face now.  One that barring injury or personal demons (that don’t seem to exist) will be on that billboard for the next decade and beyond.  The new face of Chicago sports, maybe the greatest sports city in the world, was born when I was a senior in high school 22 years ago.   That face, part childlike innocence and part assassin, belongs of course to Derrick Rose.  We’ve marveled at the baby-faced assassin over his first two years.   But as I’ve written previously, Derrick Rose has taken his game to another level in his third season.  As I previously blogged, I originally thought he was another Isiah Thomas, I’ve realized now he’s much more explosive than Isiah – dare I say he’s a hybrid of Isiah and Michael Jordan? 

    When asked in the offseason about being the MVP – he responded “Why Not”.  And really, at this point of the season, is there anybody in the NBA not named Lebron that you’d take to begin a franchise other than D Rose?  Not Kobe, not at this stage in his career.  Rose has the Bulls currently with the fourth best record in the NBA and their Big Three – Rose, Noah and Boozer – has only played together for nine games so far this season!  I said four years, with only five TOTAL playoff victories, into MJ’s career, that he was too good not to win an NBA Championship.  I’m saying the same thing about Rose.  All he needs is a decent-to-good shooting guard averaging around 10-12 PPG and they’ll be raising more banners into the UC sky.  Just 22 years old – wow – kind of makes the Beasley or Rose debate seem a little silly just a few years later.

    Hot Stove Sox Thaw the South Side

    As Chicago digs itself out of snow drifts the envy of Breckenridge, the fact that we’re about two weeks away from hearing the words “pitchers and catchers report” should warm everyone’s hearts, if not their toes, like a good cup of cocoa in front of the fire.  For Sox fans, in particular, the excitement should steadily build throughout the Spring after a pretty decent Hot Stove campaign.  While the Red Sox and Phillies dominated market share in the headlines with the signings of Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, the White Sox gave us reason for optimism heading into the Spring.

    GM Kenny Williams once again proved that there’s no more important World Series than the one right in front of him.  After another disappointing finish behind those pesky Twins (yes, they’re still the piranhas), the Sox resisted the temptation to rebuild.  A collective sigh of relief permeated the Southside when the face of the franchise, Paul Konerko, was resigned for three more years.  They solidified the DH hole that was big enough to drive a Mack Truck through, with Adam Dunn who coincidentally happens to be about as big as a Mack.  In the process, they admitted that Ozzie’s vision of a hybrid, flexible line-up with a rotating DH was not all that practical.  I guess that’s why we’ve never really seen it tried, least not with any success, in the almost 40 year history of the Designated Hitter. 

    The front office moved quickly to eliminate the nagging questions that surely would’ve come with Ozzie heading into the final year of his contract by extending him another year.  In the process, they go into Spring with a unified front for the Jerry-Kenny-Ozzie triumvirate, or at least the appearance of, which was painfully lacking last season.  And we just found out this week that Alexi Ramirez isn’t going anywhere anytime soon after inking a four-year extension which, along with Gordan Beckham, will give the Sox one of the best, and young, double play combinations in the Majors for the foreseeable future.

    Most of all, the Sox have given fans hope because Chairman Reinsdorf has proven that whether he succeeds or not, he’s going to try to contend for as many World Series as possible with the remainder of whatever time he has left in his aging body.  For the better part of the last 30 years, free agents didn’t consider this club, trades were made to reduce, not expand payroll and veterans like Fisk, McDowell, Fernandez, Alvarez, Guillen and Ventura left bewildered, confused, disgruntled or all the above. 

    But no longer, as the Sox should head into the Spring as the paper champion of the AL Central.  I know that paper can come laced with lighter fluid and those piranhas will always be there with a Bic lighter.  At least for now, though, Sox fans unlike their North Side brethren have reason for optimism as they await the thaw of Spring.

    February 5th Posted in: The Windy City Sports Blog with No Comments