Favorite Teams: Yankees, Reds, Jets, Knicks, Blue Jackets
Favorite Bourbons: Eagle Rare and Woodford
Favorite Books: "The Power Broker" and "The Worst Team Money Could Buy"
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When I was on First State Financial Sports Talk on Sunday with Mark Buerger, we talked a little about the Junior Seau situation. Seau recently took his own life, and the media – including us – were wondering what concussions, steroids, and pretty much anything, really, played a role in him deciding he wanted to commit suicide.
Now I’ve never played a down on professional football – shocking, I know. In fact in high school I quit football because I wanted to play baseball, plus I needed to see a tutor in whatever spare time I had. If I tried to throw a ball twenty yards my arm would probably fly out of socket, and I’m not even going to pretend I know how to properly tackle a guy. However I can somewhat understand where Seau is – was – coming from.
I have a special place in Kentucky that everyone knows about but isn’t often visited. It’s a spot off Interstate 64 in Frankfort: the Vietnam Memorial. There I’ve spent many of hours, watching deer, sitting, reading, thinking and pretty much passing the time. It’s a nice tranquil spot to gather one’s thoughts, and to take in all the beauty that Kentucky has to offer.
I came across that spot completely by accident, after one of the darkest periods of my life.
Most of you know me as “Mushmouth”: the guy who easily gets tongue-tied and occasionally slurs his words, but is genuinely a nice guy and is just doing what he loves. I’ve been “that guy” for almost three years, but for the 24 years preceding my stint at WLAP I was something practically completely different.
I first moved to Kentucky in 2006 from New York; Long Island to be exact. Even though I’ve grown to love Kentucky, I came down here against my will. You see in 2006 I was engaged to be married, and my fiancé wanted to work with horses. She figured “what place is better than the horse capital?” and before I knew it, I down here. Really, I was a young fool in love. I was ready to start a new life.
My first job down here was at Rent-A-Center in town, and believe me when I say those guys don’t get paid enough for the amount of crap they have to deal with on a daily basis. I hated it. I mean the type of hatred that drove me to drink for the first time in my life. However I was down here with someone I loved, and as long as she was with me, I’d put up with my lot in life.
About seven months in, things started to change. Tell me if you’ve heard this before: young couple makes a rash decision too early in a relationship, things get shaky, and then everything goes from bad to worse. Before I knew it she had a new “friend” and I was out. I had to find a new place – and fast – plus I still didn’t really know anyone down here. I didn’t have enough money or credit to get a place on my own, had no one to turn to in town and my nearest relative or friends was a thirteen hour drive away. I was alone in a town of over 250,000 and was royally screwed.
One day me and her had a terrible fight over the phone, concerning something as inconsequential as bookcases. Looking back on it, I can’t believe it went as far as it did. However some harsh words were exchanged - including a threat or six – and it pretty much sealed the deal: we were finished forever.
I’m not an overly emotional man, mind you. I’m like my father, where I listen to everyone else’s problems but rarely (at least seriously) talk about my own. However something happened that day that just made me think it was never going to get better so…what’s the point?
I decided to try and kill myself.
Being too scared to do what Seau did (also not having immediate access to a weapon), I made sure I got myself drunk before I attempted anything. About half through a bottle of Jack I figured out what I would do: I remembered there being a bridge on 64, however I wasn’t sure of its exact location or whether there was a guardrail or not leading up to it. I decided if there was a rail that impeded my car from either hitting the side or going over, I’d just calmly park my car and jump off of the bridge, and probably never be seen again.
As an insurance – seems kind of ironic to use that phrase here – I also took a knife along with me, just in case.
Two circumstances took place at the bridge that day which allowed me to write this piece today:
- There was a guardrail there, and it looked strong enough where as my car would have just bounced off into traffic, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone else (meanwhile I had drank before I got into the car)
- There was a stalled vehicle on the shoulder – plus heavy traffic - as my car headed west, so if I had pulled over I would have either been stopped by that person or someone would have witnessed me doing it.
After I passed the bridge I got off at the next exit, trying to plan my next move.
Should I turn back around and try it driving east?
Should I wait until it’s darker and there’s less traffic?
What can I do to make sure I don’t hurt or scar anyone emotionally that may be passing by, just living their life?
While I drifted on some road I’ve never been, I pulled off onto a side road near the capital. A little longer down that road, I turned once more into the Memorial parking lot.
As I sat there I KNEW I had friends and family that loved me. I KNEW that I would not only be letting them down if I went through with this, but I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents having to go through the process of grieving for their only child. Although I knew all of this, I thought I knew that this was the end. Nothing could make life any better.
I must have sat in that car for an hour, just staring a thousand yard stare towards nothing in particular, trying to figure out what to do. At last I decided to get out and walk.
The memorial itself is an understated structure; just a piece of metal protruding out of concrete to form a sundial. Yet it’s surroundings and it’s simple design work so elegantly together, especially at the right time of day when the sun is just about to disappear for the evening. The serenity of the memorial allowed me to gather my thoughts and conclude that everything that was happening wasn’t worth losing my life over. It allowed me opportunity to clear my head, gather my thoughts and decide what was best for me and for me only. Shortly after, I found a new place, made a lot of new friends, and eventually got a job doing what I love. I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve never had 50,000+ fans cheering my name. I’ve never played in a Super Bowl, let alone two of them. I’ve never known what it’s like to not be able to go into town, for fear of being mobbed by an adoring public.
And that’s the point.
Depression hits everyone. Even star athletes.
There’s no common element to depression. Depression doesn’t recognize social status, race, gender or age. It can fester for years inside a person; meanwhile the individual may not show any outward signs of there being anything wrong. Seau was loved by millions and had everything he could have asked for, however when it’s the end of the day and all you’re left with is your thoughts; those millions don’t know where Seau’s mind goes. All we can ask is why? Why would a still-young man with seemingly everything end it all so suddenly? We often forget celebrities are people too, and regardless whatever talent and abilities they possess, they too have thoughts, fears, dreams, and fits of rage or moments of joy. Just because we see someone on screen or in a 30 second interview doesn’t mean we see the TRUE them.
Two years ago one of my best friends Chris took his own life. He was only 24. Of course, no one saw it coming, but that didn’t stop us from asking why. We questioned if there was anything we could have done to stop it, or if there was something we did. I experienced then what I had hoped to avoid for my friends and family: pure grief and despair. If you saw Seau’s mom tearful plea for her son back, you know what a family goes through when a tragic event such as this takes place.
I took this time to not only write about my experience with depression, but to present a more articulate point on what I was attempting to say Sunday, without all my usual blathering but still littered with poor grammar. It used to make me sick when right after something happens that is this tragic, people will rush to judgment and for answers. I used to believe that it was the world we now live in, where everything answer has to be both instant and gratifying. However I know now that it’s just human nature, trying to explain things that either we can’t understand or won’t understand. We want an answer; we want to know why this happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Perhaps it was related to concussions.