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And here I am waddling back across the street during rush hour. Time to move on or else.


Time to face the end. Time to lay it on the table and smash the motherfucker to a million pieces. So move along then. Your football life is through.

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To hammer it home, I write freelance pieces about the NFL, knowing that it will distance me from my life as a player. Soon I have a literary agent. Then I go to New York to pitch my idea for a book. I meet my agent in person an hour before I make my first pitch—she is wonderful—and I return to Denver with a book deal. I'm a writer now. I pick up the sharpest pen I can find, plunge it into my belly, and twist.

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Self-purification frees the hand to record the truth in all things. But it must be done in solitude. I sit alone in my house. My Broncos memories are everywhere. I gather them up and stack them in the basement: helmets, jerseys, footballs, gloves, hats, photos.

Out of sight but not out of mind. I still feel them on my skin.

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I still smell them. They taunt me mercilessly. The sentences I write bounce off the walls and come back as question marks. I have to get out of here. I pick up the lease on Barrick's Venice Beach apartment, throwing myself into the netherworld of memories and loose connections: palm trees and spinning spokes, caffeine and concrete, guitar chords and skin. I tape butcher paper to my apartment walls and scribble notes with lines and arrows and drawings and scribbles. To visit my apartment is to enter the lair of a madman. Often the only person I speak with all day is the girl at the register of my local cafe who takes my order.

I speak so infrequently that my vocal chords atrophy.

Olympics: Hicks, Carillo host closing ceremony

Dark fantasies play out in my head. I write poems about the women around me at the coffee shop.

I write as much as I can. I wake up every day ready to write. Sometimes that means staring at a blank screen for hours, enticed by a fleeting thought or dream fragment. Sometimes the words flow like a waterfall and all I have to do is turn on my laptop and I'm sucked into a trance. I look up hours after I've sat down in the coffee shop and there are strangers around, the sun has gone down, there's a new shift of waitresses, and I have no recollection of what I've written.

I read the pages as if for the first time. The more you write, the more you think about mortality. Death becomes the blinking light on shore that can steady the ship. Death is a trusted companion, the moral to every story: Old Yeller. Or Dave Duerson. Right about the time I got the book deal, the former Chicago Bears great blasted himself in the chest with a shotgun and left a suicide note asking that his brain be examined for evidence of CTE. We football guys are all tough guys. Pain is nothing. But there's something else rattling around up there in the skull, isn't there?

There's something more than the lizard brain. There's a soul. And it is weeping. Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on a trademarked soapbox and juggles a chainsaw, a machete, and an egg: profit, public relations, and the fragile human brain. This is your brain, this your brain on football.

here Any questions? If we are to throw aside the war of sensation and semantics and believe the scientists, here's the skinny: cut open 36 dead football players' brains and 35 of them have CTE. The percentages aren't in my favor. I try to write about the suicides. But I get depressed too. I feel an electric current shooting through my brain when I write the letters C-T-E. I feel brain damaged when I think about it. I don't want to sit on the porch with a gun in my lap, waiting for my symptoms to appear. I want to live!