PITTSBURGH, PA – Jamal Turner, star linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has long been carrying around a monkey on his back. It was the emotional legacy of growing up with an abusive mother and absent father. Turner used the pain to fuel his rise to NFL stardom.
But now, thanks to years of cognitive therapy and the love of a good woman, Turner has broken free of his psychological prison and can finally feel joy again. Unfortunately, his emotional breakthrough has come at the expense of his football career.
Lacking the anger, monomania and dearth of empathy required to be a great linebacker in the National Football League, Turner can no longer unleash the fury that made him the stuff of nightmares for opposing running backs, receivers and quarterbacks. As a result, he has retired from the game to pursue his first love: art therapy for children with autism.
His coaches were happy to hear of his liberation from years of torment, although they will miss the fire that drove Turner to attack opponents like a man possessed by demons of childhood trauma.
“I’m glad to hear he’s overcome his emotional struggles,” Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said. “But I kind of wish he’d waited until after he passed his athletic prime to heal himself psychologically. He could’ve at least waited until after the playoffs. We had a great shot at the Super Bowl this year.”
Teammates felt similarly mixed emotions at the news of Turner’s escape from his personal hell.
“You gotta be happy for the guy,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I just wonder if he could’ve held onto some of that pain long enough to help us get over the hump in our division. Those inner demons really would’ve come in handy against the Bengals.”
The news has rekindled fears that football may soon go the way of the dodo, as parents forbid their sons from playing due to the concussion scare. But experts say that the country’s crumbling social safety net, failing communities and social atomization ensure a steady, if not growing, supply of angry, young men with superior athletic skills who have no interest in self-preservation.
The country’s educational system is also doing its part to guarantee football’s survival. As long as schools’ athletic departments remain flush with cash while their academic and therapeutic resources continue to shrink, our nation’s gridirons will remain well-stocked with top-flight talent fueled by an unquenchable rage.
Other teams expressed relief that their star players had yet to come to grips with their emotional issues. To prevent a flood of well-adjusted and no-longer-motivated players, the NFL has obtained a restraining order against the American Psychological Association, requiring its members to remain at least one football field away from players and coaches at all times.