For years, Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon was the image of a rock 'n' roll persona in the NFL: the hit-absorbing gunslinger who played hard on and off the field.
In recent years, however, McMahon has been the image of the burgeoning tragedy of former NFL players who are fighting dementia or other life-altering injuries incurred from their days in the league. As research continues into the effects of concussions and hard hits, especially on players who didn't take time to rest or recover in between the brutal blows, McMahon's life has become a cautionary tale of the worst effects of playing in the NFL, as he fights severe memory loss in his 50s.
McMahon has voiced regret before about playing the sport — and especially playing it the way he did — but he added a new wrinkle to the conversation this week, comparing football to the other choices an athlete of his stature could have tried if he knew what he was getting into.
"Being injured, if you don't play, you don't get paid," McMahon said of his time in the NFL on Chicago's WFLD-TV, according to Yahoo! Sports. "If I was able to walk out on that field, I was gonna play.
"Had I known about that stuff early on in my career, I probably would have chosen a different career. I always wanted to be a baseball player anyway."
McMahon called the sport his "first love" and said he would have preferred baseball in college if he could have played it on scholarship.
"But football paid for everything," he said. "It still does. [And] that Super Bowl XX team is still as popular as it ever was. Until [the Bears] win again, we're gonna still make money."
While McMahon has enjoyed the adulation and amenities that come with football fame, he's now 53 years old and fighting to get through daily life with serious memory loss. He and other former players have joined a lawsuit against the NFL, arguing that the league hid the risks of concussions.
McMahon said he wants to raise awareness about the issue, and there may be no better front man than a quarterback known for taking the most vicious of hits.
Thumbnail via Facebook/JimMcMahon
Anybody else excited to see Kevin Garnett getting fired up about basketball again?
"I think the key for us, if we're going to win another championship, is going to be our health. You have to be good. You have to be lucky. Sometimes those are things you can't control. As you saw, from the first year we won it, we haven't been lucky enough to be healthy. If we're healthy this year, then we can make another run at it."
– Paul Pierce, talking championships
Jason Varitek is getting the love.
@nesn it is great to have Varitek back.THE CAPTAIN!
— teachermom (@teachermom50) September 28, 2012
Hey — Kevin Love can play baseball, too! Watch him give more analysis to his first pitch at a Twins game than he usually gives a T-Wolves game.