Last Saturday I posted a comic with a 49ers fan contemplating suicide (a common theme here at The Draw Play), and I proclaimed this the worst offseason for a team I’ve ever seen. I then assumed I had jinxed it. Just a few days later Chris Borland retires and I could barely muster a response when I saw the news. Borland was the one solace for 49er fans who were devastated by the loss of Willis. A possible future star who anchored the defense as a rookie in the void of Willis & Bowman. Now he’s leaving…for concerns over his future? Because he feels the concussive damage isn’t worth the risk? What?

Hot takes flew from every media pundit out there. I’m honestly glad it didn’t break earlier so I had a chance to read them all instead of making a reflex comic and gather my thoughts because I was pretty stunned. I didn’t want today’s to be terribly political, but on an issue like this it’s practically impossible to not pick a side and not sort of sit back and laugh as I normally try to do. So here are my thoughts on Chris Borland.

I think anyone who calls him a pussy or a coward, a quitter or a wimp, is wrong. What Chris Borland just did is unprecedented in football. Borland turned down thousands of dollars, the possibility of millions of dollars, fame and fortune, because he is concerned for his long term health. A future star walked away. Not because of a tragedy. Not because he was already dealing with injury. He was healthy. He wasn’t a nobody who spent a year in the NFL and thought he wasn’t cut out for it, he had already proved himself in one season. He still chose to value his long term health. Football is a culture of toughness, and he was tough as nails on the field, and he still chose to walk away. He knew what he was doing. He knew that people would call him a coward, that they would call him weak, they’d call him a pussy. He knew Joe from Walnut Creek would call into the radio show and yell about how a couple players kill themselves and suddenly the league is a bunch of pussies. He knew people would call him selfish. He knew people would view him as a quitter. He still walked out. He still did what he felt was right for him. I’m sorry, but that took some massive balls, and I find it hard to consider that move cowardly. Someone should not be shamed for being smart enough to consider the bigger picture for once instead of just mindlessly sacrificing his body for our pleasure.

As for the ramifications to the bigger picture, that’s more interesting. As usual, we have two sides. One side says Borland is an anomaly and football has nothing to worry about, this doesn’t signify the death of football. The other side sees this as the obvious beginning of the end. Also as usual, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I think Borland is an anomaly, but his actions have the potential to bring serious problems to the NFL down the road. I don’t think the NFL is in trouble right now. For all the players that do suffer brain damage from the game, plenty more do not. While we know CTE is a thing, it’s still not completely understood. We have no way to test living players. So much is still unknown, so what dangers it does pose are still up in the air as to their severity. I hate the NFL for essentially always doing their best to deny it, to sweep it and their terrible care of veterans under the rug, but I can understand it. It’s easy to hide and keep up appearances when the opposition hasn’t figured itself out quite yet. So many idiots are still unwilling to admit how dangerous the sport obviously is that it still pays for the NFL to act like concussions aren’t an extreme danger to the sport. When the studies of football induced brain damage become more clear and impossible to avoid, then the NFL will show it’s true colors. It’s at that time the NFL will either adapt or die. As of right now, I have little faith in it. I think the NFL’s continued denial has to bite them in the ass eventually and each regime is just trying to push it off to the next guy instead of actually trying to do something about it. Ignoring the problem instead of attempting to fix it. When that shoe drops, the league is screwed. Last year the NFL got a severe PR hit because of their inability to be proactive about problems, and they don’t appear to have really fixed any issues, they just throw as much football our way so that we’ll forget how Roger Goodell basically acts like a dictator inventing his own rules, or how owners completely fleece taxpayers to pay for stadiums. The bubble will burst, it’s just a matter of when. Will it burst all at once? Will it slowly deflate as parents refuse to let their kids play the game? Only time will tell.