I left Copper Harbor and made for my cousin Bob’s house on Lake Superior. We had pasties and took a sauna before bathing in the lake and watching a fine sunset with his wife Darlene. It was a great evening. I slept in a tent they had put up right by the lake. Here is a shot of the sunset.
I have been headed pretty much due southwest straight for Denver. So I passed through the U.P., Wisconsin, and Minnesota without incident. Not too many photos, just pedaled all day. I was on another rail trail near Minneapolis when I came across this water station that also had chips and pretzels! Is this normal or was there an event? I did not see any other people so maybe it is just good old fashioned midwest hospitality.
Is this what camping has come to? People bring satellite dishes? This was in a campground near Minneapolis.
I rested a couple days in Minneapolis before striking out into the Minnesota farmland. Three days of corn and soybean fields. Here is a typical road.
Huge fields of corn and soybeans.
Ar one point I passed a big windmill farm.
Campsite in a cornfield. Comfy and quiet.
Does O.J. have CTE?
With nothing but flat roads, cornfields and soybeans to occupy me, I had some time to think. A few events occurred recently that I began to think about.
One was a study published recently in the medical journal JAMA on Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE. CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease that can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated minor head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms. These include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior.
It reminded me of a PBS documentary I saw a few years ago called “League of Denial.” The film centers on Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE in an autopsy of former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster’s brain. The brain showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but Webster was only 50 when he died. Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle pain before his death of a heart attack. Omalu’s findings were largely ignored by the NFL and the league went on to deny, dismiss, and cover-up possible ties between concussions suffered on the football field and long-term brain injuries. There was a film made about this called “Concussion” starring Will Smith, but I have not seen it yet.
Anyway, the study, conducted by Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center found CTE in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to the research (110 out of 111 brains.) You can read about the study here. CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy and so is impossible to diagnose while the patient is still alive.
In 2013 The NFL finally agreed to pay $765 million to former players for treatment and compensation.
The second event that I heard about was that O.J. Simpson was granted early release from prison for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping conviction. He is now 70 years old and could be released from prison as early as October 1.
Finally, I started watching the five part documentary “O.J., Made in America”. Which summarized his life as a football player, celebrity and finally, accused murderer. It struck me that he probably is suffering from CTE, which would explain his violent, erratic behavior since he retired from football. Other players who have been diagnosed with CTE are Junior Seau, who shot himself at age 43, Ken Stabler (died of colon cancer at 69), Frank Gifford, Tony Dorsett, and Jim McMahon, among many others.
This does not excuse O.J.’s behavior–if you commit a crime you must pay for it, but perhaps it explains it better. He is mentally ill. If so, this is another tragic story of a world class athlete suffering from the violence of their profession.
What’s the solution? I can’t imagine why people still play football, knowing what we know now. Is it worth several years of fame and fortune, but incurring the risk of dying or dementia by the age of 50? Some people may say yes. Personally I would rather live a boring healthy life and live until 90.
Other than that, we can radically change the way the game is played. Can we eliminate helmets? People will be less inclined to bang their head against another skull if there is no protection. Rugby players do not use helmets and they have fewer cases of CTE.
So what should we do? Keep our teenage sons from playing the game? Change the rules? Do nothing? What are your thoughts? I await your comments.
Back on the road, I am currently in Sioux Falls, SD. Mileage to date is 4600 miles since leaving Miami on April 2. The plan is to continue SW for the next two weeks where I expect to get to Denver. More corn and soybeans are expected.