Last Friday, NFL insider and MMA enthusiast Jay Glazer went on Bill Simmons’s podcast to talk about football, MMA, and his ongoing feud with ESPN’s NFL reporters. At one point, the conversation turned to football’s relationship with CTE, and things got very weird.
Glazer rambles a lot during the CTE discussion (it starts at about the 16:00 mark), but he seems to have two main points. The first is that unless there is a way to prevent or cure CTE, football players are better off just not knowing about it. The second is that a lot of the symptoms we associate with CTE are actually symptoms of pre-existing emotional issues. That’s when he starts talking about soldiers and PTSD:
A lot of times, if you’re a soldier, you have depression, you have some issues, that’s what’s leading you to war ... It’s not sane for me to go sit in a cage and get kicked in the face by people, right? It’s not sane. First of all, it’s not sane. And second of all, I’m Jewish so I’ve really got everything against me. There’s something off about me going in.
Any football player, it’s the same thing. It helps lead you away from certain problems, and now that we’re going, “Oh man this guy’s suffering from depression, this guy’s suffering from this and this.” No, we had it going in. For the most part. Not every single person, but a lot of us had it going in. Now we’re just lumping it all together. You know, our soldiers come back and they tell you, “Man you’ve got depression, man. You’ve got this 10-percent PTSD.” And they’re like, “Pffff. This is nothing. You oughta seen how I was before this.”
Again, I know I have issues. Getting knocked out did not lead me to my issues. My issues led me to go do that sport, and there’s a lot of people in that same position.
The world isn’t lacking for bad opinions about CTE, but brushing aside the severity of the disease based on a half-cocked theory about how most football players start playing the game because they were already messed up in the head is one I haven’t seen before. As dehumanizing a way as that is to think about athletes, though, it beats arguing that suffering traumatic brain injury and emotional trauma in combat isn’t a big deal at all.