Junior Seau: A Lesson in How to Live

Stephanie Graves@@StephEGravesContributor IIIMay 3, 2012

HOUSTON - JANUARY 03:Linebacker Junior Seau #55 of the New England Patriots during warm ups at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

We tend to write about football players and then mention when they are good people. But there was something I noticed during the news coverage of Junior Seau’s tragic and untimely death.

They talked about how good a person he was.

Then they said how good a football player he was.

His statistical success is mentioned at the end of every article. His 12 Pro Bowl appearances are not mentioned until the end of the broadcast.

We too often reverse that concept until it’s too late. Seau was a good person who happened to be a good football player. But so often, we talk about good football players who just so happen to be good people.

Unless they die. And then it’s really too late because society has already taken for granted another human being who did their part to help make the world a better place.

If you had to turn off SportsCenter yesterday because you couldn’t handle seeing his mother cry for the fifteenth time in a row, then you weren’t alone. Her confusion echoes a nation’s.

But the nation isn’t confused because a person with such success killed himself. Successful people, unfortunately, often kill themselves. Success and fame carry a burden that most of us will never understand.

The nation is confused because Seau was loved. And he seemed to love others back. Even his ex-wife speaks highly of him.

On Tuesday night, he told her and their three children that he loved them. And it is assumed they responded with love in return with no reason to think it would be their last opportunity.

This isn’t going to be a well thought-out argument about the danger of head injuries and how damage from concussions might have turned a happy man into a severely depressed one. There are others more qualified to give that dissertation.

But this is a plea for everyone to look at athletes differently. And to look at each other differently as well.

Football is the reason we know of Seau, but it isn't the reason so many love and respect him.

Famed sports writer and author Rick Reilly once said: "I don't write about sports. I write about people who happen to be in sports.”

Maybe we should take a cue from Mr. Reilly.

Maybe we should stop defining ourselves by what we do and start taking a closer look at who we are.

Because that is how people are remembering Junior Seau.

And isn’t that how you want to be remembered, too?