TD, CTE and Me

For a football running back, one of the greatest and most electrifying to watch, what could be better than having the initials “TD”? When I first started paying attention to

Just a kid in college, with a nation (or two) watching him run.

Tony Dorsett, he was a skinny freshman tailback for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Skinny, yes, but also shocking in the ease of his changes of pace and direction, all that effortless speed and the instinct to elude. He made defenders disappear.

Yes, but only sometimes. You don’t win Heisman Trophies as the best in American college football, and you don’t churn through a Hall of Fame career in the brutal territory of the National Football League, without massive numbers of massive collisions with massive, furiously destructive opponents. Now, Touchdown Tony is a 59-year-old husband and father whose family sometimes hasn’t known what to make of him. He has been moody, sometimes upbeat but too often morose or scarily angry, and he tells of one day being unable to remember the way to take his young daughters to a practice he’d chauffeured for many a time. He tells of dark thoughts, but doesn’t want anyone to think he’ll hurt himself any more than his chosen profession already has.

He went looking for answers. The doctors at UCLA figured it out, but what does he do with this knowledge? Although a conclusive diagnosis, as I understand it, can’t be made until the brain is sectioned and stained and microscopically examined – that is, post-mortem – Dorsett now believes that he has Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,

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June Callwood, Too

I don’t have nearly so much to say about June Callwood as I did about Kurt Vonnegut, but thanks to the Globe and Mail‘s Sandra Martin, I don’t have to. You can find a splendid memorial to the remarkable Ms. Callwood here. This fiery, compassionate woman probably wrote more books than Vonnegut, but she was a different sort of writer altogether. She’ll be remembered more for the causes she espoused and the amazing number of organizations she founded for the public good. (A propos of her crusading innovation, Martin makes a comment that reminds me of the old joke about Liberal MP Ken Dryden when he was a hockey player: that he’d written more books than his teammates had read.) She was a brilliant and angry woman who put both those powers to superb use.

I long thought that Trent Frayne was a fine writer on hockey and other sports, and he was. But I have come to admire him hugely in recent years as June Callwood’s husband. I learned what a fine and loving man, father and husband he was. It’s not easy to be married to smart, strong women, especially back in the 1950s when he and Callwood began. By all accounts, especially hers, he was a prince. And what a loss now for him, I don’t forget, as Canada mourns one of its outstanding women, his June.