Jeff Pearlman

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welk

Dear Wes Welker …

welkI am writing you this letter. I know you’re not reading it, so perhaps the whole exercise is pointless. Still, I’ll give it a go.

Earlier today, in a win against the Tennessee Titans, you suffered a concussion—your second of the season, your—what?—eighth … ninth … 10th of your career. You keep coming back, and coming back, and coming back, and the analysts and color commentators routinely praise your courage and toughness.

Well, I don’t think you’re courageous. Or tough. I think you’re fucking stupid.

Wes, have you not been paying attention to the news on CTE and concussions and the hundreds upon hundreds of former NFL players who can’t remember their names; who wind up in assisted living communities, drinking strained peas through a straw? I’m being 100-percent serious here. These men, like you, believed in the bullshit machismo code of the NFL, which dictates one plays hard and plays all the time—physical and mental damage be damned. These man, like you, had their bells rung repeatedly, yet tried their best to hide said information from team doctors (if the team doctors even really cared—which, oftentimes, they didn’t).

Wes, you’re a young guy, and you need to retire right now. You need to stop showing up for practices and stop showing up for games. You can slink away, you can hold a press conference—it matters not. But you absolutely, positively need to end this nonsense ASAP.

You don’t know me. I’m a nobody in your life—and, perhaps, that’s the point. Do you think the Denver Broncos want you to retire? Do you think John Elway and Peyton Manning want you to retire? Do you think your coaches want you to retire? How about your friends from back home … the ones who brag every time you appear on TV? Answer: No. They all cling to your career. They all want/need it to continue—for themselves, for their egos, for their wallets. I’m just a writer. One who has grown tired of telling the same ol’ story about the same ol’ NFL retirees lost in the depths of hell.

Wes, next week’s big game isn’t that big. The Super Bowl isn’t that important—they played one last year, they’ll play one next year. What’s important is your health, and your family, and your kids having a father of full mind and mental capacity.

Stop this. Really—just stop.

Word.

JP

 

  • Iain

    As soon as I saw the words, “letter,” I cringed. Generally, I don’t like journalists writing open letters on any occasion. But there’s something, well, wrong with writing an open letter to a football player. First off, an open letter isn’t truly an open letter—it’s a device … a way to convey a message to readers, via the somewhat insincere idea that it’s an open letter to the player. If someone truly wanted to write a letter to Wes Welker about concussions, well, he/she would almost certainly make it a closed letter—considering the seriousness of the subject matter.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Ha! You know I was being ironic, correct?

    • http://www.theknockoutproject.org Jay Fraga

      Ian, a closed letter? So that it could get chucked off to the side of some desk never to be read? At least, with the viral spread of this open one, Wes actually has a chance to see it.

  • LHB

    Dear Wes,

    I can’t imagine what these concussions are doing to your brain, but I know what they did to mine, and I’m not even a football player. I was a software engineer when I had my first concussion, suffered during a hard fall while snowboarding. For me, the effects of that first concussion were subtle; mental fog, confusion and fatigue. I tried to adjust, but my job performance was measurably diminished. Still, I managed.

    After my second concussion, when I was struck by a bicycle, I was no longer able to function as a software engineer. Those subtle side effects I’d experienced after my first concussion were amplified to the point where I could no longer contribute during meetings where I was supposed to be the subject matter expert. It felt like my peers were talking over my head. My memory became unreliable. Though I had once been a professional writer, I could barely manage to put an email together, much less write code. Everything bothered me, and I became an irritable asshole. Due to loss of memory function, I became totally unreliable. I lost my job, my family, my friends, my house, and my reputation. The depression and anxiety that accompanied these symptoms was unrelenting. I became suicidal and essentially homeless.

    I went from a $100K job to having to rely on food stamps to eat and feed my children. I have been unemployed and unemployable for the past three years.

    This is after only two minor injuries to my brain, yet if I had a choice, I would rather have lost my legs than my mental ability. I cannot fathom what is in store for you.

    Get out while you can, Wes. You can’t undo this damage, but you can still live a long life.

  • don dudley

    Dear mr pearlman

    Congratulations! I have made my way here to your website via a link from the denver post. And i am responding to your ridiculous and self-serving letter. I can only surmise that your letter was intended to draw attention to you rather than focus on a very serious problem plaguing athletics today. A sincere and genuine letter certainly would not include “i think you’re fucking stupid.” No matter your style nor the true intent of the letter can justify such a rude and public act of indecency and insensitivity. The beauty of this country my very limited friend is that we the people have the freedom of choice. I suppose that is something that is truly beyond your comprehension. I respect that individuals have the right to make their own choices whether i agree or disagree with the coices that they are making. You, mr. Pearlman, certainly have the right to express your opinion and to relay your concern and i respect that right. And i sir have the right to let you know that i strongly object to you calling wes welker “fucking stupid.” I have nothing but praise and admiration for mr welker’s work ethic, athleticism, tenacity, INTELLIGENCE, and toughness. I with great affection say i love watching him play the game of football. So let me conclude by pointing out the difference between you and i mr pearlman. I have the ability to purposefully and adequately express myself without calling you “fucking stupid” DDIi

    • Ben

      That’s idiotic Don. It’s your logic that keep players playing. I live in Denver and have been going to and watching the Broncos since I was three. I would love to see Welker keep playing, however it’s pretty fucking stupid if he does. I’d have to agree with Mr. Perlman, retire. Now.

      • Don Thompson

        I believe Mr.Welker should stop now. I am 57, and after several concussions from playing hockey (yea, I’m Canadian) and my love of football, you need to understand something now.
        Because of the concussions, and my traffic accident when I was 33, I have some problems that cannot be repaired. I am a college grad, I needed the calculator to answer the spam question 5×7? I have no sense of smell or taste, I have headaches everyday, I cannot remember about 3 years of my life. My wife and I separated, and my kids no longer talk to their father, because I am not the same dad. Wes, it’s time to stop being fucking stupid.

    • http://hoffmanity.com Mike H

      Dear mr dudley

      Please kindly remove stick from your anus and get off the internet.

      • Kit Mann

        Dudley – Grow up. How do you think people talk to each other in an NFL locker room? OH MY GOD, he said the “F” word!

        Get off your fucking high horse, you ridiculous, self-absorbed fucking fuck.

        The letter is right. I am the biggest Bronco fan around, but Wes should step away. His long term health is MUCH more important than the idea that he should remain TOUGH.

        Go fuck yourself Dudley. Right in your preachy, self righteous ass.

        Your Pal,

        Kit

  • Rocky Balboa

    Yet more proof of the continued pussification of America, I wish the media in this country(ok media period)would take a flying leap off of a short peer(last I checked Pearlman is a physician of any kind, just overrated sports writer that feel entitled).

    Football is and always has been a MANS’ game, if your not MAN enough to play or understand the game then go join the women and their sowing circle, enough is enough already..

    • Jeff Pearlman

      I’d argue, “Rocky,” that for real men, spelling skills trump football skills. Which means you’re an amoeba.

      • Cameron

        If you’re going to criticize someone for their spelling, it would be nice if you checked your own grammar, Mr. Pearlman.
        Hint: Your second sentence isn’t really a sentence.
        Does that make you an amoeba as well?

        • Jeff Pearlman

          Cameron, it’s a device—done intentionally, done 100,000 times a day by different people. Correctly. Like this. And perhaps I am an amoeba. I’m OK. With that.

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  • Bobby Fetter

    I have been laying off you for a while Pearlman, but your “open letter” is only self serving. I’m sure you have the contacts and resources to be able to reach out to Welker personally but I know you haven’t. Are you a doctor? No. A certified trainer? No. You are a writer with an OPINION and an audience.
    Let HIS doctors inform him of their opinions and let HIM decide his future. How dare you tell someone in their early thirties to retire? What if people told YOU to retire after one of your books tanked or got poor reviews? You can always go back to your writing in later years. Athletes can’t. A more reasonable article would have been arguing for sitting Welker this Thursday and only playing him if they need to clinch home field in their final 2 games or resting him until the playoffs. Admit it Jeff, this article was about you. I dare you to reach out to him personally.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Better comparison: How about if we found out writing books caused concussions, and in the course of writing six books I’d suffered eight or nine. If someone said, “You should stop writing books …” it’d be ENTIRELY appropriate.

      And how the hell do I have the resources to reach Wes Welker?

      • Bobby Fetter

        Ummmmm….let’s see. He’s a professional athlete and you are a professional sports writer. I am sure, through six degrees of separation you could make contact with him. Your response tells me that you haven’t even made the effort.

        • Jeff Pearlman

          Ummmm … let’s see. You’re a guy, you have no clue how this works. So here’s how: I’m a writer with zero—literally zero—ties to the Broncos, the Patriots or Texas Tech. I don’t have Wes Welker’s home address or phone number. Bobby, as usual, you’re wrong.

          • Bobby Fetter

            You also had zero ties to the Chicago Bears or Jackson State or Payton’s family until you put in the effort. In the days since you wrote this article, Welker has not played and it looks like they are going to rest him until the post season. Like, I said, that would have been more reasonable to argue for instead of outright retirement. That is why your article is so self serving. The focus is only about your opinion on a person that you have never even made the effort to communicate with or even his team or inner circle.

          • Jeff Pearlman

            babble … babble … babble … babble.

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  • jeff dinunzio

    The comments are pretty funny, JP. Poorly written, and logically and grammatically deficient–shouldn’t be surprised that’s trickling down to the point where a recent OECD education report highlights the “educational stagnation” (Sec of Ed Duncan’s words) of the US. But I digress.

    With respect to your take on Welker, well, two words: John Moffitt.

    NYT – http://nyti.ms/1iXZeQ1

    …and a candid interview w/Dan Patrick — http://youtu.be/G4nvpympvrQ

  • Sense and Senility

    Wow guys. Those of you attacking Pearlman are really off base. Either (1) you don’t trust science, (2) you’ve never heard of Junior Seau, or (3) you’d be the ones watching Gladiators and giving them the thumbs down (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYNUOkqzcVA).

    Pearlman’s letter was an act of compassion. He could have written about Mike Shanahan. He could have waded into the Cutler vs. McCown debate. Instead he stuck a flag in the ground and said “Wes, we love you and enough is enough”.

    Anybody who has a problem with that, do a little soul-searching this holiday season. Perhaps meditate on the relative value of a man’s mind vs. the entertainment we all love.

    Pearlman, don’t listen to idiots. I want to apologize behalf of those of us who made it all the way through high school.

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  • Ingrid’s Little Angel

    Ooooh, yeah. And, right on cue, the tough guys come out and speak up. The mighty internet warriors. The last line of defense before America becomes “pussified”. Why, better dead than not tough enough… Right?

    You know what amuses me about all these “true heart” football fans protecting the sacred religion of football from the scourge of “wimps” and “whiners”? It’s not THEIR asses or heads that are on the line. Oh, no. It’s not them getting multiple concussions playing a game. It’s not them putting their necks on the line and facing a potential blow to the head on every play. Nope. It’s Wes Welker’s head. Or Steve Young’s. Or Troy Aikman’s. Or Junior Seau’s and Dave Duerson’s and Andre Water’s. But it sure as hell isn’t THEIR head, is it? Why, of course not.

    And why it be? Far easier to act like some sort of tough guy while sitting their ass in front of their 2000″ TV, or typing away on the internet, than it would be to put their own asses in the line of fire. To the likes of them, I say: You first. YOU sign a pro football contract. You take those shots to the head. You get your bell rung over and over. And then, and only then, can you tell others to do it for your entertainment.

    Until then? There’s nothing tough about you telling football players to take abuse for your amusement, nor is there anything tough about you calling people “pussies” for being concerned about player safety. To the contrary, YOU are the biggest pussies around. Why? Because you’re the ones thinking you have the right to tell others to endure suffering you sure as hell would never endure just for your weekly fix of blood and violence.

    I followed the game almost religiously myself for 30 years. Not anymore. I’m done with it, because of the head injuries and the abuse these players go through. I do not feel I have the right to expect human beings to have their minds and bodies wrecked for entertainment’s sake. I haven’t watched a game in five years now, and still feel guilt because of watching players like Seau and Duerson go from pro-bowl players to deceased ex-players.

    This isn’t a religion. This isn’t a war to protect this country. This is a freaking game. Believing people should suffer permanent, debilitating injuries in the name of it – and your view of “manhood” – is warped.

    If I had kids, I’d feel safer letting them watch hardcore porn than football.

    I’m with Mr. Pearlman on this one. May he put his long-term health first, ahead of “sacred” football. If that means deciding this latest concussion is “one too many” (though, even one is “one too many”) and ending his career, do it. I’d rather see that than see another statistic down the line. I’ve seen too damned many already.

    And, while we’re at it, may the NFL take some real steps toward protecting player safety. We’re talking about human beings here. Not toys. Not pieces of meat to discard.

  • Matt Alston

    I’m with Jeff, Wes is awesome, but he needs to retire. His family needs him to be in his right healthy state of mind 10,20 and 30 years from now. He doesn’t need to retire full of regrets because he didn’t get out of the game soon enough.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life