Dave Duerson Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL

Dave Duerson committed suicide on February 17, 2011.  He will always be remembered as a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team.  He was a four time NFL Pro Bowl player and won a second Super Bowl with the New York Giants. He finished his career with the Phoenix Cardinals. Dave Duerson was the 1987 NFL Man of The Year award winner.

dave duerson

I remember watching Dave Duerson play at Notre Dame. He was a two time All American.  Dave also graduated with honors in Economics.

Early in his retirement Dave started his own food processing company. He turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

However Dave Duerson succumbed to the impact of chronic brain trauma. All for the glory of Sunday football. It was only after his family donated his brain to research did the tragic effects of his brain trauma reveal the type of punishment professional athletes in many sports accept as part of the game. The suicide of San Diego linebacker Junior Seau proved Dave Duerson’s death was not unique.

How much longer will we see former NFL players suffer long term brain injuries after their glory days are over.  More importantly will the NFL or fans realize the game has reached such a high level of contact that its literally killing their Sunday heros?

Malcolm Gladwell evening in Milwaukee

Friday was a wonderful evening with Malcolm Gladwell. I was able to get a personalized copy of his book David and Goliath. As usual he was sharing a remarkable series of intertwined events. Tonight it was about the IRA collapse in Belfast, Alva Vanderbilt and the women’s suffrage movement in America. Malcolm is truly a great storyteller.
Malcolm Gladwell in Milwaukee

Tableau your data!

Dan Murray was the keynote speaker at the March Milwaukee Tableau User’s Group and discussed his new book Tableau Your Data!

Tableau your data

I was lucky enough to win a raffle for one of the books and Dan was kind enough to sign.

Look forward to diving into Tableau dashboards by tapping into an Oracle data warehouse and Google Analytics data.

Clearly this type of Business Intelligence tool has been gaining ground among data report writers, supervisors and even C-level executives.

My latest read: Bobby Orr – My story

Bobby Orr was my favorite athlete in my childhood growing up in Toledo Ohio. My father watched CBC broadcasts of NHL games and they are some of my earliest recollections of sports. I kinda learned about Bobby and the Boston Bruins from my Dad.

Bobby Orr

His first year playing in Boston was also the year I was born. My knowledge of his skills as a player came later in his career. I recalled later in life learning that my father worked for Storer Broadcasting‘s WSPD-TV station in Toledo. In 1973 Storer purchased the Boston Bruins and the Boston Garden.

After Storer purchased the Bruins my parents went to Boston and my Dad returned home with an official Bruins press kit featuring black and white photos of the team and every player. It was like striking hockey gold for a kid who played hockey in the back yard and on the cement streets around my neighborhood.

Without the internet and cable television it was very rare for me to see the Boston Bruins play on television growing up less than an hour from Detroit, unless it was broadcast with Harry Neale and Ron MacLean.

My interest in hockey began to wain when Bobby left Boston for Chicago while I had just turned ten years old. I remain a Bruins fan but was sorry to see him retire after missing so many years with his bad left knee. By this time I was playing basketball, having never played organized ice hockey and was following Dr. J and the Sixers.  Funny how my Dad played high school basketball with Dr. J’s teammate Steve Mix. My hometown hockey team the Toledo Goaldiggers had a pretty good player for two years as well — Mike Eruzione, yea that Mike Eruzione.
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My latest read: A Spartan Game

Merriam-Webster defines Spartan as a person of great courage and self-discipline and A Spartan Game The Life and Loss of Don Holleder is just about a perfect story of such a person.  Yet I find it somewhat difficult to share how immense Don’s life was today. Many heroes on the gridiron and battlefield have been lost to our collective memory simply because HDTV, the internet & social media did not exist in the 1940s.

a spartan game

Since the 9/11 attacks only a handful of professional athletes have chosen to serve our country rather than continue playing sports.

Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal defensive back turned down a multi-million dollar NFL contact extension to enlist in the Army only to be killed under questionable circumstances in Afghanistan.

If you found Pat’s story compelling then A Spartan Game reveals how Don Holleder played and lived in a much higher stratosphere. Pat was killed two years after leaving the NFL. Don Holleder was killed 11 years after leaving West Point, but within three months of arriving in Vietnam.

The early chapters of A Spartan Game reveals Don’s family history, his extended background and amazing success playing high school football and basketball in Rochester New York. His high school team actually traveled to my hometown of Toledo Ohio in the early 1950s to play Toledo Central Catholic in basketball. I was surprised to read so many Catholic schools in the 1940s and ’50s traveled so extensively throughout the country.   Don was an extraordinarily gifted athlete and he excelled as a football player.

Don was expecting to attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship but something changed his life. After his senior football season but before he graduated Don’s father died suddenly. His father never told Don he wished for his son to attend West Point. It was only after his father’s wishes were revealed by his mother that Don focused solely on attending West Point.
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Battle of Ia Drang Valley 48th anniversary

This week marks the 48th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.  Today, November 18th marks the end of the battle that cemented the concept of “body count” by the US military. 79 Americans and over 1,000 NVA troops were killed in this battle.
Battle of Ia Drang Valley 48th anniversary

One of the most enduring photographs of this battle captures the US 3rd Brigade 1st Air Cavalry and helicopter pilot Bruce Crandall.  He flew over 14 consecutive hours between landing zone Xray and US Army firebase Falcon delivering ammunition and evacuating the wounded.  Crandall was awarded the medal of honor for his acts of intrepidity.

50th anniversary: Diem assassination

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the US-backed assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam. He was America’s handpicked leader to the stillborn democracy in Saigon.

Ngo Dinh Diem assassination

This anniversary marks the beginning of a long reflection over America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. The coup d’état and murder of Diem and his brother Nhu deepened America’s already long standing commitment to a war against the communist north.

Spearheading the upcoming anniversary will certainly be the Pentagon Papers from the US National Archives. Declassified and released for the first time in history these papers now allow permit further insight surrounding the US involvement in Southeast Asia following World War II.

Coupled with the slow release of books, classified documents and interviews with combatants from all sides we now understand our mistakes in Vietnam. Documents reveal a splinter within the Kennedy White House.

The direction for the coup was driven by Henry Cabot Lodge and McGeorge Bundy, not by President Kennedy. Lodge and Bundy made critical decisions without Kennedy’s knowledge or involvement.  A military aid acting only on the orders of Lodge was in contact with the military leaders who drove Diem from Saigon.  It is now known Lodge’s aid also gave $40,000 to the military as payment for the coup. Kennedy was assassinated just three weeks later.