I think there is bigger story behind these two articles. Here was an obviously competitive, intelligent, motivated young man with problems. His health issues were “well-documented.” His “run-ins with the law have been well-documented.”

According to both articles, these problems have been known since at least high school. Jim Priest, the executive director of the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit Fighting Addiction Through Education, said that this tragedy provides “a teachable moment.” I hope that is the case.

I could not agree more with Pastor Wade Burleson’s comment comparing football to warfare. I was amazed at the number of places in these articles that brought home this point. According to the “Death of a Sooner” cover story, Box had access to seven counselors, including a licensed psychologist. Austin was also under the care of a doctor.

Not one of these professionals ever saw fit to act as “our brother’s keeper” and sit this poor kid down and say, “Austin, life is not all about football. You have done amazing things. Your body has had enough. You do not need to prove yourself on the field of battle any longer. It is time to take your great drive and determination and find something else that appeals to your heart. You have a long and fruitful life ahead of you.”

It is, indeed, hard to believe the NCAA isn’t providing more oversight, as Priest says. In light of the 75 players currently filling lawsuits against the NFL, claiming that the league has concealed information about the danger of concussions for decades, maybe the NCAA should reconsider their laissez-faire attitude.

If I were Austin’s family, I would be considering my legal options. People need to wake up. In spite of the hype, football is supposed to be sport — not war.

— Paul Wellman
Oklahoma City

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