October 6, 2015

Sweet Relief: Bears Beat Raiders

October 4, 2015

Bears 22, Raiders 20 – A Smelly Life Preserver

Robbie Gould’s 49-yard kick was good, the fans went wild, and the Chicago Bears topped the Oakland Raiders 22-20 at Soldier Field on Sunday, a victory that might not save Chicago’s season but at least temporarily kept it from getting downright silly.

Speaking of silly, Gould’s strong kick through Chicago’s obdurate winds provided the winning margin for the Bears but the silliness actually was not over and the game wasn’t over either. On the ensuing kickoff the Raiders played a serious game of hot potato and it worked as Oakland’s series of laterals and scrambles helped them matriculate the ball well into Bears’ territory before one last lateral finally went awry and the Bears smothered it, time had expired, and thank God it was over.

Those crazy laterals on desperate kickoff returns are some of the funnest things you ever see on a football field and why don’t we see them more often? Even if the Raiders hadn’t eventually coughed up the ball on that final mad dash they wouldn’t have scored as they were eventually – perhaps inevitably – flagged for an illegal forward pass which nearly always happens on such returns.

Here’s an idea: Why not allow teams to have one forward pass per game on a kickoff return?  Because you can’t do that, that’s now how football is played, you stupid-face. But, again, why not? Why not make it a little more exciting, a little more fun, a little more rugby-like (I know, rugby does not allow forward passes but you know what we’re trying to convey here) with more constant flow and action, angles and adventure? Why not?

Back to the concrete world, though, and we accept that the Bears probably won this game because the Raiders, previously known as the “resurgent Raiders,” are likely more ordinary than exciting. Oakland actually has, statistically, just about the worst defense in the league and the Bears still only managed 22 points.

But that’s 22 more than Chicago scored last week and quarterback Jay Cutler’s return was a big reason. Number-6 made a lot of crisp passes; completing 28 of 43 for 281 yards and two scores, but also tossed up a few regrettable ones, including a late interception that almost cost Grandma her bingo money.

The Bears also won the time of possession, ran more plays, had more yards rushing and did not lose the turnover battle. Funny how all those things can lead to a long kick hanging in the wind and falling in your favor.

The Bears are now 1-3 and head to Kansas City to play the Chiefs who are also 1-3 and have dropped three straight. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! The Bears will soon be 2-3, and then at the .500 mark by Halloween. Look out, kids. Momma’s got her Midway Mojo and Daddy’s not wakin’ up soon. –TK

Not Cool: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

September 27, 2015

Not Cool: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

The Chicago Bears lost to the Seahawks 26-0 in Seattle on Sunday in a game that made children cringe and statues weep.

But don’t accuse the Bears of not trying. They punched the opponent in the mouth all day long. The problem is, Russell Wilson’s crew just kept spitting out teeth and cackling.

The Bears came out with a spirited effort and, for once, an effective pass rush and for a while they went toe-to-toe with the two-time defending NFC champion Seabirds who were 0-2 coming into this game and thus were a nasty, angry, desperate bunch.

The Bears were also 0-2 and just as desperate and scrappy but on the Bears’ flight from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest their offense got lost somewhere over Kansas and simply could not keep up and the result was a pummeling that left the Bears at 0-3 for the first time since 2003.

2003? That was a couple of wars ago and before the iPhone, wasn’t it?

Let’s be fair to our Bears. They didn’t have starting quarterback Jay Cutler, starting wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and presumptive rookie starting wideout Kevin White all of whom were sidelined with injuries. (White, their top draft pick, has not played yet this season.)

Beating the Seadogs, especially in Seattle, would be tough even with the first string but with the gutsy yet ineffective Jimmy Clausen at QB and a roster that’s looking increasingly Canadian every week, a Herculean football task became a recurring Sisyphean offensive nightmare:

The Bears had the ball ten times and punted ten times. Such odd and depressing statistics are tough to measure but one report we’ve seen says no NFL team has ever done that -punted literally every time they got the ball – since at least 1980.

Sure, punts are better than turnovers but not when the other team pulls the old switcheroo and returns one of those punts 64 yards – damn you Richard Sherman!

Clausen completed nine passes on the day for 63 yards. That wasn’t a drive. That was the game.

The Bears finished with 146 total yards. Leonard Fournette piles up 146 yards walking to the bathroom.

Still, still, still, the Monsters of the Mad-lib almost kinda sorta had a chance, didn’t they? One possible fumbled punt by the Searats in the first half should have gone the Bears’ way but didn’t as the officials said it wasn’t a fumble when video showed it indeed was.

C’mon, fellas, a football doesn’t suddenly go in a different direction unless it either hits something, or smells cheese, right? The ball hit a Seattle player’s leg and the Bears recovered, but the powers-that-whistle didn’t see it that way.

Could this have been a big difference? Probably not. If the Bears had gotten the ball they would have been in great field position and probably would have kicked a field goal and trailed only 6-3 at halftime or maybe it would have been tied, 3-3 instead of the Bears trailing 6-0. And, we know we’re reaching a little bit, yes we are, because the way the Bears’ offense struggled in this one they were going to have a tough time finding the endzone with a blimp and a bag of magnets.

In any event, a 6-0 game at halftime quickly became 13-0 when the Seacheesers opened the second half with a 105-yard kickoff return by Tyler Lockett, marking the second straight game the Bears have surrendered a kickoff return TD. What does that mean when your special teams are struggling? It probably means your roster is thin.

It was 13-0 and felt like 183-0. By the end when it was only 26-0 it almost felt like a relief. The Bears were shutout for the first time since 2002 but at least they escaped alive, and man it hurts to have to write such silly things.

Before the season many of us said that the Bears could actually play decent football and yet still start 0-3 because the three foes who have vanquished them thus far – the Packers, Cardinals and Seamuskies – are all very good.

But the Bears have been outscored in those three games by a count of 105-46. That 59-point differential is by far the worst in the NFL and with Cutler hobbled (yes, we know Cutler is not Roger Staubach but he gives the Bears their best chance, he really does) Jeffery hurt, White out of sight and a coaching staff that still seems to be finding its legs, things don’t look to get better soon, even though the Raiders are on the way.

Oakland, after more than a decade of doldrums, is actually playing very well and will come to Soldier Field next weekend with a record of 2-1 and a belief that the playoffs are actually a place, not a myth.

The Bears, meanwhile, have now lost eight straight dating back to last year. They haven’t won since before Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving

No one in Bearland thought this was going to be a good year. All spring and summer we knew this was a building season, a season for head coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace to assess the roster, create a system and then contend in 2016.

But the road from this year to respectability is a lot bumpier than we thought. And it sorta smells.

Hold your nose. Lower your shoulder. Be wary, but bold.

— TK

Cardinal Droppings

September 20, 2015

Cardinals 48, Bears 23: Cardinal Droppings

The Chicago Bears were assaulted physically, emotionally, religiously, ritually, openly, unabashedly, spiritually and repeatedly by the Arizona Cardinals at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon, resulting in a 48-23 score and widespread anger, doubt and sadness.

It began, as they say, in the beginning when Arizona’s David Johnson returned Robbie Gould’s opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown and thus the Bears trailed 7-0 before most of the Soldier Field crowd had even had their first stick of nicotine gum.

It wasn’t exactly all downhill from there as the Bears did manage to fight back with Jay Cutler hitting Josh Bellamy for an impressive 48-yard score late in the first quarter to tie the affair, 7-7.

But by halftime the angry birds led 28-20 with Carson Palmer having hit Larry Fitzgerald with the first of their eventual three TD connections on the afternoon and while this game at that point was certainly entertaining from a football point of view, it was also undeniably anxious from a Chicago point of view.

It really turned sour for the good guys late in the second quarter when Cutler was intercepted by the Cardinals’ Tony Jefferson who returned it for a score and Cutler got hurt, leaving the game.

How many teams in the history of football have ever won a game in which they gave up a special teams touchdown and a defensive score in the same half?

The answer in Chicago on Sunday was none ever, ever, Pinky.

Cutler was lost for the game with a bad hamstring and in came Jimmy Clausen and at this point there were serious conversations in the stands and in living rooms about why the Cardinals were the ones who left Chicago in 1960 and the Bears were the ones who stayed.

Arizona is good. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are like Yarbrough & Peoples in cleats. And the Cardinals’ defense hits hard and they’re well coached by Bruce Arians who would have been the Bears coach three years ago if the Bears had wanted him. Instead, as you know but just be patient because I have to tell you again, the Bears hired Marc Trestman and endured two unholy campaigns.

Now, though, the Bears have a good coach in John Fox who is going to get this thing turned around, isn’t he? Just not against good teams. Not just yet.

The Bears are 0-2 and at this point don’t look, feel or sound like they’re getting better anytime soon. And now they have a trip to Seattle where the 0-2 Seahawks are waiting for them with talent, anger and caffeine.

Old Chicagoans wish the Cardinals well. They will always have South Side blood and we would rather see them hoist a trophy than the Patriots, Packers or many other NFL selfie-takers.   But we’re a Bears town. And we want to Bear down. We want to believe. We want a better pass rush, secondary and cheerleaders.

It’s a sunny September. We want a lot.   — TK

September Starts Sadly, Badly, Madly

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Packers 31, Bears 23: New Season, Same Sadness

The Chicago Bears opened the 2015 season with a 31-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Chicago’s Soldier Field in a game that was either not as close as the final score indicated, closer than the final score indicated, or, like Goldilocks smoking a cigarette after the show, just about right.

No one expected the Bears to beat the Packers because that would be like expecting Urkel to win an Oscar. But the Bears, by virtue of not getting wiped off the face of the Earth like they often have against the green and gold marauders from up north, did achieve some measure of self-esteem by hanging in there and making some sober voters think they had a chance.

They did have a chance. The Bears actually led at halftime, 13-10 and were down only 24-16 with about six minutes left in the fourth and were putting together a good drive when…(no Grandma, I ain’t gonna use no cuss words! Just finish eating your chicken and we’ll leave in a minute)…Jay Cutler threw a pass that hit Packers linebacker Clay Matthews right between the Green and the Bay.

Soon after that it was 31-16 and the Bears didn’t give up but hey, neither did George McGovern.

That killer interception was Cutler’s only pick of the day but he completed just 18 of 36 passes. Granted, the Bears’ receiving corps is about as healthy as Greece’s economy and Cutler gave it his all, but I suddenly want to write about nicer things, like Elton John, puppies and ladies with small feet.

OK, back to life on Planet Chicago, which will get better. The Bears probably won’t win a lot this season but John Fox is a good coach and these things take time. So did The Deer Hunter.

Bears running back Matt Forte was great – 141 yards – but afterwards he went out of his way to criticize the Bears coaches. Last year’s coaches. Holding a grudge while carrying a football cannot be easy.

What’s very troubling in Bear Land is with this defeat the Bears’ lead over the Packers in their all-time series is now down to just one game, 93-92-6. A loss on Thanksgiving night in Green Bay and we’ll be tied.

We’ll be dead. We’ll be sad.

But maybe we’ll be 9-2.

Urkel can act. Bears can dream. — TK

Under The Lights

If you want a perfect snapshot of America go to a high school football game on a Friday night.
On this past Friday the setting was Niles, Illinois, just outside Chicago, where Notre Dame College Prep hosted Evanston and romped the visitors 48-21 under an unmarred late summer sky.
The beauty of high school football is the optimism, the excitement, the innocence, the potential and the myriad storylines:
Who will win?  Who will get to play?  When will my kid get to play?  Why isn’t my kid playing more?  Did that kid get hurt?  Isn’t that your history teacher?  Those cheerleaders are cute, no I’m not being weird, I’m just saying they’re cute.  How much did those new helmets cost?  Why are those two sitting together?  How come his father never comes to the games?  Where’s the party afterwards?  Is there a party?  Why isn’t my kid playing more he’s faster than that other kid?  Gosh, that kid is so fast he could play D-1…
It’s relentless fascination, speculation and jubilation.  Kids who go to class all day then practice and sweat and scream and cry just for a few moments of fun on a Friday night.
And, for most of them the dream, the fun and the violence all ends when their high school careers end.  How many high school kids will play college ball? How many college players reach the NFL?  How many of them will you even remember?
Notre Dame Prep football is also about Walking Tacos.  That’s a small bag of Fritos or Doritos opened up with chili and cheese dumped inside and you get a plastic fork and you’re smiling brighter than Jerry Jones after a facelift.  And they only cost $2.  And a Diet Pepsi is only $1.
And the price to get into the game is a whopping $5 and that includes the Freshman and Sophomore games, too, if you get there early enough.
$8 for a football triple-header, delicious food, a bubbly beverage and a snapshot of America: loud, violent, reverent of youth but also tradition, discipline and sex appeal, and the team with more money almost always wins.
The signs at every border, and every football game, should say “America: It needs a lot of work…but we’re having a lot of fun.”

The Cardinal Coach

July 28, 2015

Welcome, Jen

It is not as if we needed one more reason to praise Bruce Arians and (quietly) root for the Arizona Cardinals, but now we do have another one: The Cardinals have hired the first female coach in NFL history.

Jen Welter has been added to Arizona’s staff as a training camp/preseason intern coaching inside linebackers. And while that’s a long way from wearing the headset on Sundays, this one small step on the field is a huge leap for equality and instantly makes the NFL a bit of a better place.

No, we shouldn’t applaud someone just for being female (though most females qualify, to be sure) and it would be naïve to think the Cardinals are not doing this in some part for the publicity. But, as Arian said himself recently, all any football player wants (besides hitting other football players and drinking diet Dr. Pepper with Tony Dungy) is to learn how to be a better football player. And Arians, who might be the best coach in the NFL and one of the few humans who can really pull off the beret look, would not hire Jen Welter if he wasn’t confident she can teach his players a lot.

Welter has played football and coached football and has the backing of the man in charge. Will that be enough to convince players to listen to her?  Can she hold up to the scrutiny?  Most NFL coaching interns don’t give interviews or sign autographs.

We are going to find out.

We already know that Becky Hammon is proving to be a successful assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, even coaching the team’s summer league team to a title.  This is great progress and makes sense in part because women excel at basketball, and hoops is very much a people sport.

But football is, bear with us a moment, a man’s sport through and through.  Women play it, yes, but not nearly on the level that men do and it’s impossible to imagine a woman ever playing in the NFL.

Which, of course, should mean absolutely nothing because by our count of the 32 current NFL head coaches only 11 of them actually played in the NFL.  And those who did do not include last year’s Super Bowl coaches and two of the best in the business: Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.

So welcome, Jen Welter. Make those guys play. Make us all listen. –TK

The Longest Yard

July 24, 2015

The Longest Yard (1974)

Sometimes being a man means doing something stupid. Most women would probably agree that’s the case and, upon honest reflection, most men may very well concur.

The Longest Yard is all about men doing dumb things. Men committing crimes, treating people poorly, defying social order, betraying friends, farming shame.

And it’s also about playing football, which some might opine is also not the wisest thing.

This 1974 film showcases Burt Reynolds in perhaps his finest, most unfeigned role as a former NFL quarterback whose life has fallen apart and he lands in jail. His character, Paul Crewe, is quickly exposed to a prison environment in which he is abused and revered, shamed and put-upon as he tries to survive his new reality, and perhaps find a shortcut out of it.

The prison warden is played by Eddie Albert who engineered to have Reynolds behind his bars because of his football skills. Eventually, Reynolds, instead of playing for the prison, essentially plays against it – or is the other way around? – as he forms a team of inmates to play the guards.

The result is a quest for the inmates to find humanity and respect, while the guards and the warden want to flex their muscle and create humiliation.

Certainly in real life we would pull for the guards, wouldn’t we? But this is a movie and it’s Burt Reynolds and what makes The Longest Yard not just a fun, and funny, action movie but a terrific study in power, character and manhood is that it shows us the lines between good and bad are often not nearly as thick and sturdy as prison bars.

It is a movie about men doing dumb things to satisfy their egos and get an extra scrap. It is a movie that reminds us that you can accomplish a lot when you don’t give a damn. You can also create a lot of pain.

Ed Lauter, the late, wonderful, Ed Lauter, plays a prison guard and is perfect. So are Joe Kapp, Ray Nitschke, Michael Conrad, Harry Caesar and James Hampton under Robert Aldrich’s direction of Tracy Keenan Wynn and Albert S. Ruddy’s screenplay.

Men spend half their lives doing dumb things and the other half trying to atone for them. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a football game in the mud. It’s a long, tough fight.


When J.J. Met Jennifer

July 23, 2015

When J.J. Met Jennifer

It is nice to know that even giants can be humble, bashful and shy. Of course most any man would be humble, bashful and shy around Jennifer Aniston.

We were happy to learn that the best player in football, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, got all weak-kneed and googly-eyed when he recently got to meet the would-be love of his life, Ms. Aniston.

J.J. apparently has been in love with Jennifer his whole life. Many of us can say that but for J.J. it’s actually close to true because Mr. Watt was just four years old when Jennifer swooped into the hearts and dreams of American men when Friends debuted 21 years ago.

So for J.J., Jennifer Aniston is like Lynda Carter or the late, great Farrah Fawcett was for so many of us who grew up in the 1970s. But even we are who are the same age as the 46-year-old Aniston still love her but probably not as much as the guys whose first ideas of beauty were based on that smile, that hair, those eyes, and oh God this is getting creepy.

One more prurient thought: imagine Jennifer Aniston as a Houston Texans cheerleader. I am certain J.J. has.

NFL players, as I understand it, are normally not allowed to date their team’s cheerleaders but there’s a classic old photo out there somewhere in computerville that we don’t have the rights to which shows Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White giving a dramatic kiss to a Cowboys cheerleader after Super Bowl XII.

The Cowboys won that game so Danny deserved her affection. Being Roger Staubach’s backup, White only threw two passes in that game, completing one for five yards but (remember!?) White was also the Cowboys’ punter and booted it well that January day in New Orleans against the Broncos, five times for a 41.6-yard average.

Can you imagine in today’s NFL, which treats quarterbacks like family heirlooms, letting your backup QB be your punter? That would be like letting Jennifer Aniston co-star in an Adam Sandler movie.

How many NFL players would choose a kiss from Jennifer Aniston instead of a trip to Disney World or a new pickup truck for winning the Super Bowl? At least one.

Extra Points, Catching Up and Remembering #55

May 20, 2015

Extra Points, Catching Up And Saying Thanks

The most boring play in sports will be a few percentage points less boring this fall now that the NFL has voted that extra points will be kicked from the 15-yard line instead of the 2-yard line.

League owners voted 30-2 to make the change with the two teams voting against also clamoring to bring back leather helmets and stickum.

The change is welcome but a bit odd. The longer distance comes about because NFL kickers are so good (plus many of them play indoors) that they make more than 99% of their extra point conversions. But Pro Football Focus says the new distance, basically a 33-yard field goal instead of a 20-yarder, reduces kicker accuracy only down to 97.6%.

So kickers will keep converting at an alarming rate but there is some added spice as two-point conversions, which will still take place from the 2-yard line, can now be returned by the defense all the way to the other end zone for 2 points.

So, with kickoff and punt returns being diminished because of concussion fears picked off 2-point conversions might provide the only opportunity for NFL fans to see a guy take one the length of the field for a score. How many of these players will be huffing and puffing and then get to the 40 and realize that all this running will only get them two points and say “the heck with this” and take a knee?

And what happens when a defensive player intercepts a 2-point conversion pass and then fumbles and the offensive team gets it back? Do they get a point for that? Or can they run it into the end zone and still get the original 2 they were hoping for?

All this confusion and Sturm und Drang will probably force NFL coaches to just stick with the 1-pointer more than ever.

Oh, and are you allowed to squeeze the ball a little tighter on an extra point?

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t do anything that bad, did he? When Brady and Peyton Manning campaigned to get control of their own team’s footballs before the game didn’t everyone know it was to tweak the game balls a little bit?

There are those who say “cheating is cheating” which is a phrase I often heard flowing up from the living room during my parents’ bridge night with friends in the 1970s followed by some other phrases which cannot be repeated here followed by punches and broken gin bottles and shattered friendships.

But, while deflating footballs is certainly done to get a competitive advantage that the rules do not allow for it’s a lot different than a pitcher scuffing a baseball because, in that case, the hitter, the opposing team, is directly getting screwed. But in football, the other team’s QB has always been welcome to doctor the footballs as well. What? Think Tom Brady is the only one who does this? That is, of course, in all seriousness and fairness, if he did it. He says he didn’t and he has his right to appeal.

If Brady is guilty then he should have said, back before the Super Bowl “Hey, I have always looked at this as more of a guideline, not a hard, steadfast rule. This is something quarterbacks and kickers have long done but now I won’t do it again. Now stop staring at my wife.”

There are those, possibly Patriots owner Robert Kraft among them, who might say Brady should just admit guilt now and perhaps that admission and, likely, contrition, might lead the NFL to lessen his four-game suspension. Kraft seems to be thinking along those lines as he says he will no longer fight the NFL’s punishment of a $1 million fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder the next year.

But Brady, it seems, despite some troubling evidence, is going to keep fighting. Is he a guilty man who refuses to pay for his crime because he either really doesn’t think it’s a crime or because, hey, doesn’t everyone know I’m Tom Brady? Or is Tom Brady really an innocent man battling to clear his name?

How will the Patriots be if they have to play their first four games without Tom Brady? Brady wins about 77% of his games (best of any QB in NFL history) so it’s safe to say the Pats would probably go 3-1 with him in the lineup. If they go 2-2 then in the long run, Brady’s absence probably won’t matter. But what if the Super Bowl champs with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, go just 1-3 or, gasp, 0-4, against the Steelers, Bills, Jaguars and Cowboys? If so then the defending champs will probably miss the playoffs.

If New England isn’t a playoff team this year than that first-round pick they don’t have next year will be that much more valuable. We don’t yet know where next year’s draft will be held but Chicago certainly made the case this year that moving the draft out of New York and giving other cities the spotlight is only good for the league.

Chicago enjoyed beautiful spring weather and thousands of fans crowded the Auditorium Theatre and Draft Town in Grant Park for the three-day pigskin celebration. By all accounts it was fun, it was cool and, the NFL being the rock star that it is, it doesn’t matter where it performs, the fans will find it, watch it, love it and sponsors will pay for it.

The last time the NFL draft had been held in Chicago was 1964, back when the league’s annual selection process was less like a reality show and more like roll call. Two years after that draft the Bears selected a skinny linebacker out of Louisville named Doug Buffone. The Monsters of the Midway plugged in #55 and he was a mainstay on the Bears’ defense through 1979.

Doug Buffone was talented and tough as nails and was one of those guys who, had he played on better teams, probably would have gotten a few Pro Bowl honors. Instead, he played on just two winning teams and made the playoffs just twice, both first-round losses.

So Doug Buffone never became a superstar, a legend or a millionaire. He was simply Doug Buffone, the old Bear. Or, as generations of Chicagoans knew him simply as, “Buffone.”

After his playing days he went into broadcasting and he and fellow former Bear Ed O’Bradovich’s analyses of the Bears in good times and bad were heartfelt, funny and priceless.

Doug Buffone left us suddenly and far, far too early when he died last month at the age of 70. I watched Buffone play, remember his final game and listened to him for a long time but never met him. I did see him in the building once as we worked for sister radio stations and I nodded and said hello and he said hi and smiled and, I’m not kidding, he really seemed to mean it. He appeared genuinely happy to see me even though he had never seen me before.

I have told others who did know Doug Buffone that story and they say that’s exactly how Doug Buffone was. More than being talented, strong, tough, loyal and entertaining, he was nice.

And that never fades. –TK


Logan’s Run…From Football

March 17, 2015

In the 1976 movie “Logan’s Run” life is exciting, beautiful, sweet, fulfilling and fun. The only drawback is everything comes to an end when you’re 30.

There are fears that such a preposterous storyline might become a reality for the NFL.

Before this week most football fans had not even heard of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland but Borland’s shocking decision to retire from the NFL at the age of 24, after just one (very solid) year in the league has made the former Wisconsin Badger both suddenly famous but also, to some, an unlikely hero, a “Logan” for a new age of football and sport.

Borland told ESPN he was hanging it up because of his fear of concussions, of one day suffering serious brain damage because of NFL violence. And, as David A. Graham wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, what’s most surprising is “how quickly fans and fellow players seem to have accepted Borland’s decision.”

Indeed, Twitter is aglow with praise and understanding from fans and other players. And some players are doing the same thing.

Borland’s fellow Niners linebacker Patrick Willis, a five-time first team All-Pro, is also quitting football. He’s 30. Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker is hanging it up at the ripe old age of 26.

A decade ago the thought of walking away from millions of dollars at such a young age would have seemed crazy. Now, the prevailing belief seems to be not that he who hangs on the longest and gets the most money wins but he who gets what money he can and then walks away on his own terms, of sound mind and body, is the true victor.

“For me it wasn’t worth the risk,” Borland told ESPN. “I could be wrong…but for me it was the right decision.”

And a decision that has many people wondering what to decide about their own future in football.

And about the future of football itself.