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I am not sure where and when it was that I read about the aches and pains of legendary Oakland Raiders Center Jim Otto. But it was a long, long time ago, perhaps decades.
I remember being a bit surprised at what a toll the game of football had taken on the guy—how he had trouble getting around, getting in and out of bed, doing things most adults have little trouble doing. Over the years, I read more stuff about NFL vets and their lingering misery, with the drumbeat escalating in recent years. Last year, for instance, the Washington Post published a piece about Mercury Morris, the former Dolphin great, and his fight for disability pay. Then there were congressional hearings on the NFL’s stingy ways with benefits, and yet more stories on ailing gridironers.
I thought I’d had my fill, until this past weekend, when I opened the yellow sleeve that carries my Saturday edition of the Post. There was another installment in the same tired series. The Pain Game, written by Michael Leahy for the paper’s weekly magazine.
Hmmm, I thought: This must be a new take on an old story. Leahy, one of the best feature writers out there, is just too good to write the same old, same old about the same old.
But he did. This iteration has the same element as all the others: Guy who shuffles around and has serious health and financial problems, plus a recalcitrant NFL.
My wife, who normally doesn’t scan the Sports page, asked me last night, “Isn’t that a really old story?”