Football, and how the late Kevin Turner’s parents now watch it differently.


(Part one of two … part two is here)

Nostalgia is a strange phenomenon. Consider those folks of a certain age and disposition residing in Eastern Germany, who are old enough to remember life in the German Democratic Republic, and who now warmly recall the “pros” of life during Communism rather than dwell on the “cons.”

We needn’t contest that there were pros and cons to life in such a place at such a time. Rather, if we were to ask one of them to explain how the good seems now to outweigh the bad, when the negative aspects of totalitarian rule have been so exhaustively documented, it seems certain that the answer might be a variant of this: “But it’s hard to explain, really. It’s just all so hard to explain.”

As you’ll in the linked essay about the parents of pro football player Kevin Turner, whose early death in 2016 owed to brain damage suffered while playing the game, it’s hard for them to explain why they are able to watch football, and see their grandchildren playing football, all the while knowing what they know.

In my view, the writer Juliet Macur masterfully tells their story. It would be easy to be omniscient and even flippant, bandying terms like cognitive dissonance and Stockholm Syndrome. Macur avoids doing so. Instead, the reader is left to contemplate universals: How could something that felt so very right turn out to be so catastrophically wrong — and why’s it so hard to explain now?

Kevin Turner’s Parents Still Watch Football. But Differently, by Juliet Macur (New York Times)

HOLTVILLE, Ala. — In an airy, four-bedroom house here on Jordan Lake about 25 miles north of Montgomery and around the corner from cotton farms, there is a 90-inch flat-screen television on the living room wall.

The TV belongs to Myra and Raymond Turner, the parents of Kevin Turner, a former Alabama fullback who played eight seasons in the N.F.L. This Sunday, that TV will be tuned to the N.F.L. playoffs, to the game that killed their son.

“I know a lot of people are going to say, ‘How do you watch football knowing football had taken your son’s own life?’” Raymond Turner said. “But it’s hard to explain, really. It’s just all so hard to explain.”

I traveled to Alabama to hear an explanation and try to understand it — and maybe even understand why they allow their two teenage grandsons to play football after Kevin, the boys’ father, suffered for six long years with a brain disease that research has linked to head trauma in football. He died last March at 46.