Scot Brantley, a former Gators and Bucs standout, said he knows four or five people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. "One of the guys I know just killed himself the other day,'' Brantley said. "The pain was too much.'' Brantley worries that someday he might develop ALS or Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or something from all the concussions and injuries he sustained during his 20-plus years of playing football, including his time with the Gators and eight seasons at linebacker for the Bucs. Last week, Brantley took particular notice when the NFL agreed to pay more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who have various health problems caused by concussions. Brantley said he was involved in the suits. He has no idea how many concussions he might have suffered in all his years playing football. "I've been a guinea pig over the years,'' he said. "I've had so many MRIs and CT scans. Man, I hate those things. I get claustrophobic in there.''
Brantley, 55, has had various health issues since his playing days. He had hip-replacement surgery, and later doctors discovered he had a hole in his heart. Then he suffered a ministroke that permanently impaired the vision in his left eye.
As far as his brain, Brantley said he has trouble remembering names and events. After hosting several radio shows in the Tampa Bay area and working as a radio analyst on Bucs games, Brantley lives in Ocala, where he grew up, and hosts a talk-radio show in Gainesville. He must write down everything he wants to talk about on the air.
"I have to, or otherwise I just won't remember,'' Brantley said. "That's the biggest thing for me, my ability to recall things.''
Like many former and current players, Brantley doesn't know if the monetary settlement is going to be enough to help all those in need of money and care.
"Today's players make millions, but there are a lot of guys out there like me,'' he said. "I finished playing in 1988, and I didn't make a million dollars total in my career. There are so many guys out there who are having serious problems and have no money. I'm glad some of those guys can get some help right away, if it works out that way.''
Brantley, a third-round pick of the Bucs in 1980, said he would like to see all former players get health care for life.
The best part of the settlement, he said, is that now everyone is aware concussions can cause long-term problems and money will be set aside for research and education.
"When you play football, you know it's a dangerous sport,'' Brantley said. "It's not a contact sport. It's a collision sport. You know you're going to get hurt. But I never knew — none of us ever knew — that it could cause long-term problems for your brain. We had no idea that you might end up with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or that you would have guys killing themselves. Never. We never knew that might happen.
"The thing I like about this is now everyone is going to be made aware of the dangers. Everyone can now know the consequences, and the more we can educate people, the better it is. That's the thing I like most about the settlement.''
Numbers of the day
So, the NFL has agreed to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of former players suffering from concussion-related illnesses for $765 million. Did you know the NFL gets $1.9 billion (that's billion with a B) annually from ESPN for television rights? That doesn't even count all the other TV money it gets from Fox, CBS and NBC.
Considering the NFL doesn't have to reveal what information it did have about the long-term effects of concussions, you can understand why some former players are calling the $765 million payout "hush money.''
Former Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley called it a "drop in the bucket'' for the NFL.
The good part is that many former players who desperately need money immediately should have the ability to get it.
But don't kid yourself.
Considering the NFL was facing lawsuits that could have cost it billions, this turns out just peachy for the league. It will pay what is a small sum for the league, likely eliminated future lawsuits and can turn the page on an issue that has been a PR nightmare for the most powerful sports league in this country.
Why did the former players agree to this settlement? My guess: They feared the NFL could have dragged out these lawsuits for years and many of those who could use the money likely would be long dead before they could ever see a dime.
I'm still trying to figure out how ESPN could run a story based on such thin evidence saying the famous "Battle of the Sexes'' tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 was fixed.
The story said Riggs agreed to throw the match to get out from under a gambling debt owed to the mob. The story is based on the recollections of a Tampa man who says he overheard a late-night meeting of mobsters discussing a fix at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in South Tampa and kept it secret for 40 years.
That was it. That was the basis of the story, which got major play and attention. And that isn't nearly enough to question the integrity of what is considered one of the most triumphant moments for women in sports.
King told the New York Daily News, "This story is just ridiculous. I was on the court with Bobby, and I know he was not tanking the match. … It was fair and square, because I was there."
Three things that popped into my head
1. The Angels are paying Josh Hamilton $17 million this season and owe him $106 million after this season. They are paying Albert Pujols $16 million and owe him $212 million more. Pujols is out for the season with a bad foot that could bother him the rest of his career, and coming into the weekend, the two had combined for 36 homers and 124 RBIs. Baltimore's Chris Davis by himself had 47 homers and 121 RBIs, and is making $3.3 million.
2. A magic moment could happen this week. The Pirates could clinch a winning record for the first time since 1992.
3. Happy 25th birthday to Bangladeshi cricketer Mushfiqur Rahim. See, now no one can say I never write about cricket.
tom jones' two cents