If the NFL wants a case study on how not to handle tragic situations involving past and current players, it should look no further than professional wrestling.
Here’s a small sample of well-known professional wrestlers who have died before the age of 50 since 1997: Bam Bam Biggelow, Eddie Guerrero, The Big Bossman, Hercules, Crash Holly, Road Warrior Hawk, Ms. Elizabeth, Mr. Perfect, Davey Boy Smith, Chris Benoit, Yokozuna, Chris Kanyon, Ravashing Rick Rude, Louie Spicolli and Brian Pillman.
All of those wrestlers died from suicide, drug overdoses, or health complications that many speculate were caused by years of abusing drugs, painkillers, steroids and/or alcohol.
If you used to watch wrestling, or just tolerated it while your kids or spouse watched it, chances are you recognize many of those names.
Now think back to your favorite Packers players from the 80s and 90s. What if 15 of them were dead, all before the age of 50, many from suicide, drug overdoses or health complications (likely) caused by abusing drugs and alcohol?
We’d be shocked, right? We’d probably ask questions about the Packers’ culture. We’d want to know if there were warning signs, or if management could have done something to help these guys before they went over the edge. The media would do all sorts of exposes and law enforcement might event get involved. We would demand answers. Then we’d demand changes.
At least I hope we would. I’d like to think that we wouldn’t be so blinded by wins and loses that we’d forget these guys are human beings. But because I’m an avid pro wrestling fan, sometimes I wonder.
I know comparing wrestling to football is apples and oranges. — one is choreographed violence and the other is a legitimate (and aggressive) sport — but wrestling fans have done little over the years to question the wrestling powers-that-be about why so many of their wrestlers die so young.
Chris Benoit murdering his family and then killing himself finally brought some attention to the subject, but for the most part, wrestling fans pay little attention to what happens outside of the ring as long as the Rock is delivering People’s Elbows or Stone Cold Steve Austin is chugging beers inside of it.