After The Cheering Stops: An NFL Wife’s Story Of Concussions, Loss, And The Faith That Saw Her Through, by Cyndy Feasel with Mike Yorkey
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Given the popularity of football, it ought to come as little surprise that there are a lot of books written by and about former football players and coaches and their families . Many of these books celebrate the way that football can serve to increase one’s opportunities or provide a chance to serve as a platform. This book, though, serves as the memoir of a football player’s wife looking back on the fall of a football player through injuries, alcoholism, and drug abuse to an early death and a posthumous diagnosis of late-state CTE as a result of repeatedly getting his bell rung. This is an immensely sad story, and being released close to Super Bowl Sunday puts this book in the public eye with the hope of shaping not only public policy but also the mindset of those who are fans of football and whose loyalty to the sport can be extended to thinking about what happens after people leave football with broken bodies and damaged minds. The author and her coauthor do a good job at building up a compelling story about life in and after football.
The book’s contents are organized in a fairly standard fashion, beginning at close to the end, with the knowledge that the author’s former husband had died, and then going back to the beginning to his background and hers and how they got together at Abilene Christian University and gives a deeply personal story of what it was like to be a football wife. Quite honestly, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. She talks about having to pump her husband with steroids, how he was so motivated to succeed in football that he blamed the distraction of her pregnancy for making him lose his edge enough to have a scary knee injury, and how their sex life was less than stellar, limited to Tuesday nights during football season. Then she spends a lot of time talking about the sad life after football to someone increasingly addicted to painkillers and alcohol and increasingly affected by alcohol and drug abuse and deteriorating cognitive function from frequent and serious concussions, to the point where the author divorced her husband and he died a wreck and a disgrace. The level of detail provided in this book would make writing a screenplay a fairly straightforward task should someone want to make a film that was the mirror image of the Blind Side. It just so happens that the author’s former husband was a former center for the Seattle Seahawks widely praised for being an able long snapper and a blue collar grinder in the trenches.
This book paints an unmistakably clear picture to anyone reading this book: playing sports can have an immensely disastrous consequence on one’s life. The act of playing tough in order to keep one’s job in a hypercompetitive and hypermasculine environment causes people to use drugs to mask their pain, harms their brain and hinders their cognitive skills when they most need them–after the money is gone and one has to use one’s brains and life skills to deal with unpleasant life changes. The alarming number of CTE cases in posthumously examined football players–around 96% of posthumously examined players have shown the brain deterioration consistent with CTE, and over 70% of those who played football even at the high school level without ever having gone to the pros–will likely contribute to fewer people playing the game because of the high potential for early death and permanent brain damage and the struggle with lifelong pain and addictions. This is not something anyone should want, and the author’s willingness to discuss the shame and trouble of her own life is a brave act that deserves praise, and that should cause us all to reflect on what we value about sports and how much we value those people after we no longer cheer them on any given Sunday and after they return to the anonymous masses of humanity with the scars and damage from their years on the gridiron.
 See, for example: