Dwight Clark Announces He Has ALS

Dwight Clark

The MMQB“Those words are still very hard for me to say,” Clark said in a statement released Sunday night. …

Said Clark: “I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.”

And he said: “I’ve been asked if playing football caused this. I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.” …

Clark becomes at least the sixth former player in the past 10 years to be diagnosed with this incurable disease that gradually shuts down every muscle in the body.

There’s nothing anyone can say about Dwight Clark the man getting one of the worst diagnoses a human being can receive that isn’t going to come off as obvious and trite. That we all feel bad for the guy is stating the obvious, true though it is. And as far as Dwight Clark the football player, it’s been said a million times in a thousand classic NFL highlight shows that he is the author of one of the most iconic plays in football sports history and one of the building blocks of the 49ers dynasty. There’s nothing to add there. Clark’s accomplishments are stamped with permanent ink.

So I guess instead I’ll address what his diagnosis means for the game. I think it’s a safe bet that 95% of the people who come to Barstool love pro football. Not like, love. Regardless of whatever your team affiliation or if you just like it to bet on or whatever. The NFL isn’t just America’s most popular sport; it’s our most popular thing. The center of our culture that more people follow than any other. And in a world increasingly fractured and specialized by new entertainment options, it’s the only show on TV where the viewership has gone up over the last 20 or so years. And the one thing that could bring it all crashing down is this link to ALS.

I for one don’t think it will happen. I’ve had this argument with people who love football as much as I do and they think it’ll be out of business in a couple of decades, but I’m not buying it. Since the dawn of civilization people have sat in circles and watched men fight. Whether it was with swords or jousting poles, boxing gloves or shoulder pads and helmets, it’s how humans are hardwired. And besides, there was a movement in 1905 to ban football altogether because 18 college kids died playing it. And if you consider how few guys were playing football then, that’s an epidemic. But my favorite historic figure Teddy Roosevelt, God bless him, considered football too important to American manhood so he had a meeting at the White House where they came up with rules to save it, like the forward pass and the neutral zone. It was done then, it can be done now.

That is, as long as have a grown up discussion about what the game does to men like Dwight Clark, Kevin Turner and Junior Seau. Which is something I haven’t been doing, I won’t lie to you. You hear stories like these and if you’re anything like me, you move on because you don’t want to think these guys are rapidly killing themselves just for your drunken enjoyment. I tried watching the Will Smith Concussion movie but it was too depressing so I flipped back to NFL Films shows instead. Probably one about Dwight Clark making The Catch, for all I know. All I do know is his Clark is right. The league and the players have got to get this problem solved.

Beyond that? “Thoughts and prayers” sounds weak but it’s all I’ve got.


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