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 Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football 
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Modmin Dude
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Post Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football
SI wrote:
Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football

Dave Pear has a message for you.

"Don't let your kids play football," he says. "Never."

It is an odd thing, hearing these sort of words from a man like David Louis Pear, University of Washington standout, Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl champion with the Oakland Raiders. His five-year NFL career was one thousands of high school and college athletes would envy -- charging out of a darkened stadium tunnel, 70,000 fans screaming for you, loving you, praising you, idolizing you.

"You wanna know the truth?" says Pear.

The question lingers -- the 56-year-old ex-athlete preparing to unload one more skull-splitting hit.

"I wish I never played football. I wish that more than anything. Every single day, I want to take back those years of my life ..."

The words are not subtle. They spit from Pear's mouth, with a blistering contempt normally reserved for drunk drivers. We are speaking via phone. I am in New York, sipping a hot chocolate, leaning back in a chair. My two young children are asleep. A Pretenders song, "2000 Miles," plays in the background. No worries, no complexities. Pear is sitting at his home in Seattle. His neck hurts. His hips hurt. His knees hurt. His feet hurt. When he wakes up in the morning, pain shoots through his body. When he goes to sleep at night, pain shoots through his body. What does Pear do to stay active?

"My life is simple," he says. "It's hard to get out of bed, but eventually I do. I try and do a little walking on the treadmill. I take naps. I go to physical therapy once per week. I read my Bible."

He is, in basic terms, a train wreck -- a football-inflicted train wreck. Pear walks with a cane and, often, simply doesn't walk at all. He suffers from vertigo and memory loss. Over the past 18 years, he has undergone eight surgeries, beginning with a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy on his neck in 1981, and including disc removal and rod fusion in his back (1987), arthroplasty in his left hip (2008) and, earlier this year, four screws removed from his lower back. Though he chalks up his physical ailments to snap after snap of punishment, he pinpoints the biggest problems back to 1979 and '80, his final two NFL seasons. While playing for Oakland, Pear suffered a herniated disc in his neck that never improved. Despite the unbearable agony, he says the Raiders urged him to keep playing.

Be a man! Be tough! "Those last two years in Oakland were very, very difficult times," he says. "I was in pain 24 hours per day, and my employers failed to acknowledge my injury. Sure, I won a Super Bowl ring. But was it worth giving up my health for a piece of jewelry? No way. Those diamonds have lost their luster."

Throughout North America, many of Pear's retired football brethren hear his words and scream, Amen! Conrad Dobler, the legendary Cardinals offensive lineman, is about to go through his 32nd knee surgery. Wally Chambers, the Chicago Bears' three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, spends much of his time in a wheelchair. Earl Campbell, the powder blue bowling ball, struggles to walk and underwent surgery to remove three large bone spurs. The list is both heartbreaking and never-ending -- one NFL player after another after another, debilitated either mentally, physically, or both. I'm currently working on a book that has led me to interview more than 150 former players. I'd say 60 percent experience blistering pain from a sport they last played two decades ago.

"And the NFL," Pear says, "doesn't care."

Hence, he is fighting back. Two years ago, Pear started a blog, davepear.com, with the intent of supporting hobbled NFL veterans and calling out the league's laughable disability policy. Pear says he first applied for disability benefits in 1983, and was denied. He applied again in 1995, under a new provision that stated players would be compensated should they properly prove their injuries were permanently debilitating. A league-appointed physician examined Pear and filed a report stating that a man who once bench pressed 500 pounds could no longer sit, stand or bend for prolonged time periods.

To Pear's shock and dismay, benefits were again denied.

Finally, in 2009, Pear's request was accepted, and he now receives a whopping $40,000 annually. "Am I financially stable?" he asks with a laugh. "Let's put it this way. By the time I was 27 I had two children and medical bills that would reach $500,000. I can't work, my wife, Heidi, has had to hold two and sometimes three different jobs at the same time. And why? Because the NFL hasn't allowed me and my family to receiver proper benefits."

Pear pauses. He worries that he sounds like a typical whiner -- some ex-jock who didn't appreciate making it big. "This isn't even about me," he says. "It really isn't. There are guys so much worse off than me, it's criminal. We dreamed our whole lives to play professional football, and our dreams came true. And then they turn into nightmares."

Pear is blunt, like a rusty dental knife. He considered Gene Upshaw, the former NFL Players Association executive director, to be a criminal. "He was Ken Lay," he says of the deceased Enron CEO. "Same thing -- took all the veterans he supposedly represented for a ride." He holds out hope that Upshaw's replacement, DeMaurice Smith, might make things right. "I'm keeping an open mind," he says. "I hope Mr. Smith looks at the retired players and sees the wreckage.

"We need help," he says.

A long, painful sigh.

"We need help."

Jeff Pearlman can be reached at anngold22@gmail.com.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/w ... z0aLuIWbCk
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December 21st, 2009, 3:16 pm
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This is why I hate it when people say that professional sports players make too much money.


December 22nd, 2009, 12:55 pm
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Blueskies wrote:
This is why I hate it when people say that professional sports players make too much money.

Well that's not quite an accurate argument. This guy played back in the 70's when salaries were much lower. In 1980, the average salary was $78,657. Today the league minimum is $295,000. Adjusting the 1980 salary it comes to right around $200,000 in 2008 dollars. So, the league average (not minimum. Average) in 1980 was slightly below the minimum today. According to the NFL Players Association, the average salary today is about $1.1 Million. That's a huge difference.

That said, I don't think players are overpaid. They are paid what the market bears for them, and as long as we all continue to watch and enjoy the game, they should make as much as they can. But to imply that today's players don't make enough money to cover ANY bill they may have in the future is kind of ridiculous.

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December 22nd, 2009, 5:49 pm
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My Uncle George played for the Denver Broncos in 1968 (I think he played for four years). When I was younger he could barely walk, but after several knee operations he gets around pretty well now. He is one of the luckier ones though. Even for guys that have made millions, its tough to argue with the fact that many will have shortened lives and be physically impaired for the rest of their "golden years." I think that it is a shame what the NFL and the NFLPA does to their older players by denying them benefits, etc.


December 22nd, 2009, 5:54 pm
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Touchdown Jesus wrote:
Blueskies wrote:
This is why I hate it when people say that professional sports players make too much money.

Well that's not quite an accurate argument. This guy played back in the 70's when salaries were much lower. In 1980, the average salary was $78,657. Today the league minimum is $295,000. Adjusting the 1980 salary it comes to right around $200,000 in 2008 dollars. So, the league average (not minimum. Average) in 1980 was slightly below the minimum today. According to the NFL Players Association, the average salary today is about $1.1 Million. That's a huge difference.

That said, I don't think players are overpaid. They are paid what the market bears for them, and as long as we all continue to watch and enjoy the game, they should make as much as they can. But to imply that today's players don't make enough money to cover ANY bill they may have in the future is kind of ridiculous.


You read my post things that weren't there.

I wasn't implying that they couldn't cover their future medical costs. Rather, they deserve to make a lot--they sacrifice their bodies for it.


December 22nd, 2009, 6:32 pm
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Blueskies wrote:
Touchdown Jesus wrote:
Blueskies wrote:
This is why I hate it when people say that professional sports players make too much money.

Well that's not quite an accurate argument. This guy played back in the 70's when salaries were much lower. In 1980, the average salary was $78,657. Today the league minimum is $295,000. Adjusting the 1980 salary it comes to right around $200,000 in 2008 dollars. So, the league average (not minimum. Average) in 1980 was slightly below the minimum today. According to the NFL Players Association, the average salary today is about $1.1 Million. That's a huge difference.

That said, I don't think players are overpaid. They are paid what the market bears for them, and as long as we all continue to watch and enjoy the game, they should make as much as they can. But to imply that today's players don't make enough money to cover ANY bill they may have in the future is kind of ridiculous.


You read my post things that weren't there.

I wasn't implying that they couldn't cover their future medical costs. Rather, they deserve to make a lot--they sacrifice their bodies for it.

You're right. My bad.

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"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson


December 22nd, 2009, 7:23 pm
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I don't want to sound heartless, but you live with the choices you make. Not everyone who can be a professional football player chooses to be. I agree that these guys put their bodies through meat grinders, but they know what happens and choose to continue. If the teams are telling these guys to continue playing although they are hurt, then quit the freakin' game and make a living another way.

Sorry, but my violin is in the shop, so I'm not gonna play it for this guy, or any other former NFL player. They made their choices, enjoyed much more than their fifteen minutes of fame, and were paid better than most folks who went to college for longer, and had to pay for it rather than getting a free ride scholarship to play a game.

To me this is no different than a celebrity who cries about the papparazzi. Stop putting yourself in the limelight and they'll leave you alone. Stop playing the game and you won't have to live with the long term effects of the injuries. It is very much that simple.


December 22nd, 2009, 10:32 pm
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Its a sad story. Pear at one time was the strongest man in football.

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December 24th, 2009, 2:25 pm
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This is always a hard thing... these guys millions to do what they do in a short time and then for a select few it puts their body into such a bad situation that they wish they never did it.

But if you told them at the time, they still would have played. It's inevitable because it's a dream that I couldn't imagine not living out. Isn't there a poll that even says if they could take a drug that would make them one of the greatest but they would lose a few years of their lives more than 50% of pro athletes would do it? It's human nature and it has terrible consequences for some.

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December 24th, 2009, 7:15 pm
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