White Lines: I'm Not Worth A Damn

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How cocaine ruined Don Reese's career (John Underwood, SI, 1982):

I hate football. I hate the NFL. I know those feelings aren't completely rational, that I am responsible for my actions before anyone else. But I feel them just the same. I wish now I'd never made the decision to play the game beyond high school. I wish I'd never accepted a college scholarship. I wish I'd stuck to my word when I said I didn't want to play pro ball. I think I would be a better person, whole, today.

Football—the environment, not the game itself—as good as wrecked my life. I should have been smarter. I should have been stronger. I know that. But drugs dominate the game, and I got caught up in them, and before I knew it I was freebasing cocaine. And then I was a zombie.

The lady is a monster, a home wrecker and a life wrecker. In the body of a skilled athlete, she's a destroyer of talent. Right this minute she's spoiling the careers of great athletes you pay to watch on Sunday afternoon. Even the super ones like Chuck Muncie, who I think potentially is the greatest player in the game. Muncie has to be a superman to do what he does on the field and use coke the way he does off it. I single Chuck out because I love him like a brother, and if he ever got off this stuff he would be like two Jim Browns. Somebody has to shock hell out of the players of this game and scare the league. I hope I do that. I'm scared myself. Scared to death it won't happen. The NFL is heading for catastrophe. Drugs are causing it.

But even if you don't give a damn about the players, if you care about the game you have to be alarmed. What you see on the tube on Sunday afternoon is often a lie. When players are messed up, the game is messed up. The outcome of games is dishonest when playing ability is impaired. You can forget about point spreads or anything else in that kind of atmosphere. All else being equal, you line up 11 guys who don't use drugs against 11 who do—and the guys who don't will win every time.

If you're a team on drugs, you'll never play up to your potential, at least not for more than a quarter or so. Then it's downhill fast. I've known times on the field when the whole stadium blacked out on me. Plays I should have made easily I couldn't make at all. I was too strung out from the cocaine. It was like playing in a dream. I didn't think anybody else was out there.

Pittsburgh has always been a clean team, and look how long the Steelers stayed on top. Miami was clean until it started winning Super Bowls, then it changed. I was there when it was changing. New Orleans lost 14 games in a row in 1980, when freebasing became a popular pastime in the NFL. New Orleans was a horror show. Players snorted coke in the locker room before games and again at halftime, and stayed up all hours of the night roaming the streets to get more stuff. I know. I was one of them. San Diego is a team that should have won the Super Bowl twice by now, as talented as it is. San Diego has a big drug problem. For a short time, I was part of it. I played my last football in San Diego in 1981.