The National Football League inducted Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, and Ron Wolf into the Hall of Fame yesterday. All inductees except Mr Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 and was later found to have suffered from a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated hits to the head, had appeared on previous ballots.
Mr Seau’s daughter, Sydney, would have liked to deliver a speech in place of her father, but NFL officials wouldn’t let her do it at the ceremony, instead showing a video that quoted her as saying, “He is the epitome of a perfect match to football because they are both stubborn, they are both relentless, competitive, and hard-hitting.”
The New York Times was able to obtain and publish the speech Ms Seau said she would have given had NFL officials given her the opportunity. “I think what we tend to forget about our favorite invincible, unstoppable, indestructible superhumans is the minor detail that they are also human,” she spoke. “That is something that we all must endure today without his physical presence. We cannot celebrate his life and achievement without feeling the constant piece that’s missing. …
“I hope that this induction can exemplify the fact that you were more than just Junior Seau—you were a light, and you’re still mine. This is your speech, your moment and your honor, and to say that I’m the most proud daughter on Earth would be an understatement. Congratulations, Dad; you made it.”
The speech would have been a moving tribute to a champion of a game many Americans love. Instead, the NFL chose to fall back on a policy decision, made years ago, not to allow non-inductees to deliver full speeches on behalf of inductees who were deceased.
In an interview with PBS, Ms Seau talked about her father’s brain trauma. “He used to be so punctual and so on top of everything that it slowly got really bad, really—I wouldn’t even say slowly. Like, quickly it got bad. And it just stayed bad, where his memory was just not there.”
But the speech she had planned to give at the induction ceremony, as reported in the Times, made no direct reference to brain trauma. Plus, we still don’t understand the full effects football has on brain trauma, although it is clear that something must be done at all levels of the game to prevent concussions during practice and play, or the game will die.