The Elephant(s) in the Room

Dec 13, 2008

Most people probably don’t even remember the cartoon strip Pogo from the 40s through the 80s but that little cartoon possum from Walt Kelly had some of the best lines ever written. My favorite Pogo line?

So it was a surprise to most of us when we read a recent article in the New York Times by Alan Schwarz:

The New York Times

December 13, 2008

N.F.L. Meeting Irks Wives of Ill Retirees

BETHESDA, Md. — As the wife of a former N.F.L. player with degenerative dementia, Eleanor Perfetto finds herself performing the most basic tasks for her husband, Ralph Wenzel: she feeds him, bathes him and tries to explain all that is happening to him.

She could not, however, attend a meeting Thursday night in suburban Washington between N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell and former players, the third in a series of discussions regarding the later-life care of retirees. As Perfetto tried to enter the room, Goodell told her the meeting was for players only.

Goodell said later that he had been following the wishes of a group of retired players who had requested the meetings. Harry Carson, a former Giants linebacker, confirmed that in a telephone interview Friday afternoon, adding that players felt that the presence of women could impede the discussion.

Perfetto and the wives of other players with dementia criticized their exclusion, adding their voices to a debate over the care of retired players that has been the subject of two Congressional hearings.

“We wives are the voice of players with dementia, because they can’t speak for themselves,” Perfetto said. “They are only allowing players healthy enough to attend. That means they’re getting a very slanted view of what it’s like out there.”

Kay Morris, whose husband, Larry, lives in an institution in Georgia, said in a telephone interview that she would have attended the meeting had it not been restricted to former players.

“The players who can’t say what they need, their needs should be spoken for,” she said.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.

(And here’s a link to an earlier piece also from Alan Schwarz – click HERE.)

The article pretty much speaks for itself. And I can only speak for myself when I pass on my own observations from what I’ve seen and experienced from my friendship with Dave and his wonderful family. While I understand that many of you are probably divorced (like the rest of us), the few of you who are still fighting the good fight with your families at your sides will know what I’m talking about.

Recently, Dave did another interview and there was one question they asked him that stuck in my mind: “Are you happy?” Dave’s answer was an unequivocal “Yes – of course I am!” He went on to talk about his solid marriage to an incredible wife and their two great kids and how truly blessed he’s been. And it made me think once more about the importance of family. When the chips are down and everything else is gone, having a strong family in the worst of times is something that you can’t put a price on. And having the heart to appreciate it will see you through just about anything.

While I can appreciate the macho attitude of the sport itself – especially for those from many years past – when the cheering stops and you’re no longer in the game, your family is the one thing you’re supposed to be able to turn to in the best of times and the worst of times. As much as a few of the retired players may feel that keeping spouses/caregivers away might help some of the players speak out more freely, I suspect that there’s a lot more lost than gained in doing so. In spite of decades of fighting with the NFLPA and the NFL to gain a little ground, there’s been little accomplished until the past couple of years. And much of those efforts have been as a direct result of bringing in all the help you can find from anywhere you can get it – including Congress, lawyers and the media. So it’s beyond me when I see groups like the Alliance trying to reach out to everyone else EXCEPT those closest to them and their situation. I could go on and I could rant more. But I think the situation speaks for itself and maybe the illustrations we’ve posted with this piece make more sense after you’ve had a chance to read it all. It’s time to realize there’s an elephant in the room: You are your own worst enemy when you don’t include the very people who have stood with you all these years.

Oh – and one more thing. This is just another fine example of the need for transparency. How is it that a bunch of grown men could sit around a table (see the picture again at the top of this post) and decide that spouses and representatives wouldn’t be allowed to attend these life-affecting meetings without informing the very people they were supposed to represent? And then not even mention it when it’s been brought up time and again after every meeting that the Commissioner has held? We had to read about this in the New York Times?!!

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dave Pear
    December 13th, 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    Dave & Heidi Pear
    The New York Times
    December 13, 2008

    “Goodell said later that he had been following the wishes of a group of retired players who had requested the meetings. Harry Carson, a former Giants linebacker, confirmed that in a telephone interview Friday afternoon, adding that players felt that the presence of women could impede the discussion.”

    This is hog wash! Retired players should be encouraged to bring their wives and representatives! Some retired players have no memory and their wives, caregivers or representatives should be allowed to stand up for their legal rights. Did Commissioner Goodell have his counsel at the meeting? Why? We are only asking for simple fairness and transparency.

    NOT ALLOWING THE WIVES INTO THESE MEETINGS IS “DISCRIMINATION!!” (Didn’t Harold Henderson already know that?)

    Why would anyone insult these retired players’ partners that are now faced with the hardship and burden of caring for their husbands?

    This is an embarrassment.

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  2. John Hogan
    December 15th, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    John V. Hogan - Disability Attorney
    I have said it before, but it bears repeating in this context: When I am dealing with a male disability applicant, I insist that his wife (or girlfriend, etc.) participate in the initial interview and the pre-hearing conference. If they don’t, I know that I am not going to get the real/whole story of what he is dealing with.

    The situation is magnified with a former football player, who has been trained not to whine or complain of pain. I’m also probably not going to be able to ascertain if he has the effects of TBI from concussions – unless he is so far gone that his disability is quite obvious.

    If the Alliance was simply trying to boost morale to win a football game, a players-only meeting would be a great idea. If they really want to know what problems retired players are facing, then they need to get the input of their spouses and family members. And if they want to know what’s wrong with the disability system and how to fix it, then they need to bring in a disability expert.

    John Hogan

  3. George Soria
    December 15th, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    The issue of health care has been at the center of every retired players convention for years. Why can’t an organization like the NFL provide medical coverage for all its retired players? The advancements in the last year – whether they were pressured or enhanced on their own are not important – if the results are positive and benefit the retired players.

    Is enough being done to provide basic health care to all retired players? I believe most of you will agree, this is not being done.

    I sympathize with the wives and feel for their situation. I can only share with them a proposal was forwarded to Mr. Goodell, Harry Carson and the NFLPA with a solution for health care for all retired players.

    I asked for their endorsement and support. This is a model which can insure every retired NFL player, their wives and families. This will make health care available for all NFL retired players.

    The NFL recently announced they are paying $100.00 per retired player over age 65 to help provide a medicare supplement plan. Why can’t the NFL provide the same $100.00 for retired NFL players under age 65? Please take a moment and read the proposal