“Junior Seau: The Life and Death of a Football Icon” by Jim Trotter
Football (American), biography, death, Chargers
October 27, 2015
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau is a name that even casual football fans recognize. He is considered to be one of the best linebackers to ever play professional football. Growing up in southern California, he dreamed of playing for his hometown team, the San Diego Chargers. After a great high school and college football career, his dream came true when the Chargers made him a first round draft choice. He was charismatic, generous and a fan favorite. Teammates and opponents alike respected him. He seemed to have the charmed life.
However, as this biography by Jim Trotter reveals, it wasn’t always easy for Seau. Many did not realize this until his suicide in May 2012. It was revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from repeated blows to the head. That disease has also been diagnosed in other former professional football players and is a hot topic in the current discussion on concussions in the sport. Therefore, when I picked up this book, I was hoping that some insight would be shed into this disease and how players are affected.
That was not the case. The book is a good but typical sports biography. There is excellent writing about Seau’s football career, especially his time with the Chargers (he also played for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots) and how he was not only the best player on the field but also a leader in the locker room and in the community. His charitable work and his successful restaurant are mentioned prominently throughout the book. There are also passages about the pitfalls many athletes encounter – excessive drinking, marital infidelity, poor investments – that make Seau’s story typical of most celebrities who get caught up in the high life.
Where the book and Seau’s story takes a different turn is when he drove off an embankment in 2010. While it was dismissed as one of his many episodes of poor judgement while driving, not everyone believed this to be the case. The author, through interviews with many who were close to Seau, takes the reader through a journey that reveals there was more to this incident than just drinking or bad driving. It is the first exposure that makes one believe there was something terribly wrong with Seau. Again, in both this book and in real life, that doesn’t seem to be understood until he was found dead by his ex-wife on May 2, 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Here, the book scratches the surface about Junior’s suffering from CTE and the effects, but does not dig into that topic. Instead, the author focuses on how the surviving members of Seau’s family are coping with their loss. Again, typical material for a biography of this type but nothing that is earth-shattering.
This book is one that football fans, especially Charger fans, will especially enjoy as they will read about many of Seau’s exploits on the field and his happier times. Readers who enjoy celebrity biographies will also enjoy it as the book sticks with the tried and true format. They should just not expect anything new or intriguing about the situation or disease behind Seau’s disease or death.
I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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