Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Leaf’

I never knew I had a favorite country singer. “Now I Know.”

I learned this Jan. 23.

Was doing one of the 40 or 50 online searches I do during a work shift and I saw a familiar face but the headline was out of my view.

I scrolled downward and the headline was crushing: ‘Now I Know’ Singer Lari White Dead at 52.

Whatever sports stuff I was searching for quickly took a backseat. I had to read that story immediately. Totally saddened me to learn how a rare abdominal lining cancer that she was diagnosed with four months earlier took her life and left three teenage kids without a mom.

They are holding a “Celebration of Life” for Lari White in Nashville on Monday evening and I decided I am going to do my part to keep her memory alive.

I once wrote an item on this website about rock singer John Waite’s top 10 songs and it remains one of the most searched things that causes people to land on my website. So five years from now, 10 years from now, people can still reminisce or learn about Lari White by seeing this post.

That works for me.

In case you didn’t know, Lari White would help people pronounce her name correctly by saying “it rhymes with starry night.” That is fitting because that certainly will be her star shining in the sky when you look upward at night.

Funny that I learned about her due to her three gigantic Top 10 hits off the “Wishes” album in the mid-1990s. But upon her death, I learned that she is famous to millions of other people due to her acting.

That is Lari White playing alongside Tom Hanks in the dramatic final scene of the movie “Cast Away.” … Yeah, I never knew … but here it is for you … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afiuJ2tsoVA&t=17s

The other thing that has stuck out to me since White’s death is reading hundreds of comments from people who either knew her well, knew her slightly or had a chance meeting with her.

Every single person raves about her. I’m talking gushing remarks with details of her unparalleled kindness and caring nature.

Most people reaching a high level of fame who sing their hits on the Letterman and Leno shows develop a bit of an ego. Remember, I cover sports for a living and have lots of firsthand experience of seeing arrogance at its highest level. Or lowest level (Hey, Ryan Leaf!)

So it is rare for someone this accomplished to remain so grounded and be so beloved by everyone. Usually, a person’s success alone is going to create jealousy from someone at a minimum, and typically the increased demands and attention pull out some hidden warts.

I can’t find a single person who didn’t like Lari White. All I find are people who adore her. Pretty touching.

Oh yeah, so you are wondering how the heck I even know of this woman since I grew up listening to The Cars and The Doors and whatever band John Waite was in (Babys, Bad English) when he wasn’t a solo act … OK, here are the details.

I only know country music from 1994-98 because my sister and one of my brothers used to hang out at the big country bar in the Mission Valley area of San Diego.

So pretty much, if I wanted to hang out with my sister, I had to go to that place. (Um, please refrain from jokes about hanging out with my sister. Someone might read this to her).

It was different music than I was used to on some levels, but there were plenty of songs that weren’t too far off my comfort level.

The first time I heard “That’s My Baby” at that country bar, I had no idea who was signing it but I instantly knew it was someone with a stellar voice. Then I saw the video for the song and it was amazing just how much fun the woman was having. Such magnetic personality with a total goofy side. Impossible not to like her.

This video was my first time seeing Lari White sing that Top 10 hit … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjPp01DQgsA

Then a few months later, I heard the stellar “Now I Know” and I somehow recognized the voice. I ended up buying the cassette tape (wow, might need a picture of that for the younger folks) as one of my few country music album purchases.

That song was not only a Top 5 hit, but it proved therapeutic for me following the end of the 1994 college football season. For whatever reason, when the work slowed down, I was hit with a lot of depression over a three-month span that I couldn’t seem to shake. So I would lay there at night (picture 3 a.m.) and play “Now I Know” five or six times in a row just looking for inspiration.

Eventually, I would get some sleep.

Here is Lari White’s biggest hit here … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLn5pdWeBLE

Also on the same album was “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love).” During the past few weeks, I have seen dozens of accounts of people saying that Top 10 hit was their wedding song and how people would write White to tell her that.

That is kind of cool. Almost as cool as having David Letterman inviting you to come sing it to the studio audience … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNEz8y5eYc4

And like all albums with three major hits, there is another song on “Wishes” that would be the best song on most people’s albums. Got to say “Go On” is a pretty good fourth-best song for one cassette tape (Yeah, I have the CD now) … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm8GTVRRiP4

My country music window closed a few years later and I never heard any other songs from White at the time of their release. I know now that she eventually put the music career aside and was concentrating on acting and starring in a Broadway musical and with being a mom.

But I did find a very lively hit song called “Take Me” from her “Stepping Stone” album. And I think we get a good glimpse of her personality at the beginning.

She is trying to teach a kid how to pronounce her name and he is saying “Larry” or “Lori” and she just can’t get him to say it right. Her reaction when the kid calls her “Lori” is pretty funny … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9ML95rnLY0

The title track song was new to me as well and here’s the link for that … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PowEaoFdr0U

So I was thinking … I really knew nothing about what was going on in Lari White’s life for about 23 years. Nothing about her music, nothing about her acting. Flat-out nothing.

But this whole situation hit me kind of hard — she was just 52! — and I have been reading a lot of things about how fast Lari’s health went downward.

As 2017 reached its midway point, White probably figured she would live another two or three decades. She even released her first album in 13 years earlier in the year.

Heck, I saw an interview of her that is from February 2017 where she is so full of life and encouraging her fans to get on her email list or contact her on social media.

More Heck, I saw a video of her singing at a concert from early September. Less than two weeks after that, she was diagnosed with cancer.

She had been teaching online songwriting and voice lessons to people and in mid-November, she penned a letter saying she needed to step away due to the cancer. Two months later, she was gone.

We all know life isn’t always fair. We never understand why a creep like Charles Manson gets to live to age 83 while some 8-year-old kid gets a rare disease and dies without getting a chance to live.

So yeah, somebody who is a fabulous person by all accounts dying at age 52 is bothersome. And I’m not even factoring in the talent part of the equation.

I think that is why it hit me so hard and continues to have an effect. This was one person the current world needed … badly.

But perhaps heaven needed some reinforcements too. As in another angel.

RIP to Lari White, the best country music singing voice I have ever heard.

There are undoubtedly a lot of people who knew her personally singing one of her spectacularly sung lines:

“I always wondered how I’d live without you. Now I know.”

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Monday is that dreaded night for San Diegans who vociferously supported the Chargers for the past 56 seasons.

Friday was the rough day for me because I happened to draw the preview assignment for the Chargers’ opener against the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

I took that vow of journalistic objectivity a quarter century ago and play no favorites – or enemies – when being paid to produce work. Whatever needs to be written is done so and always in a professional manner.

But this preview was a different assignment in many ways.

It is the Chargers’ first game since abandoning a city that cheered them unconditionally, never more evident than the night 75,000 people filled the stadium on a Sunday night to welcome the team home after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

It is the same city that was treated rudely by Dean Spanos the past few years, never more so than 2016 when the club had to play in San Diego because NFL owners didn’t vote for the team’s Los Angeles relocation proposal. Spanos was crushed not to gain approval and imagine all the fake at-chance conversations he had with fans of the team he encountered (you know, on the days he actually wasn’t afraid to leave his La Jolla house).

So when it came to the sentence that needed to be written in the preview, I swallowed hard and said it in the proper journalistic way even though the most honest way would have been to write that “spineless Dean Spanos picked up his longtime squad of losers and will now mis-manage it in smoggy Los Angeles, where they don’t even care about his miserable organization.”

Instead, the professional way won out and rings out soundly as the wording reminds the reader of the travesty without bordering on a cheap shot … “while the Chargers play their initial game since unceremoniously ditching San Diego after 56 seasons.”

Read the stellar preview here: http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/football/nfl-preview.aspx?page=/data/NFL/matchups/g1_preview_44.html

I went to dozens of Chargers’ games as a kid and later covered the team as a professional for seven seasons. Once you cover a team and are around that type of nonsense – lots of petty things that fans don’t see and can’t wrap their heads around – you really could care less about the team.

But yeah, remember last September when I said the Chargers would lose to the Cleveland Browns? And they came through in December when they visited Cleveland, being the ONLY NFL team to lose to the horrific Browns.

That is the memory that sticks with me as Spineless Spanos took his sorry team to Smogville. Losing to the truly lousy Browns.

Spanos failed to land a new stadium, he signed off on the move to hire Norv Turner as coach, he was fired up about the drafting of Ryan Leaf, and he promoted his own kids to top-level positions in the organization to run it for basically the next 30-to-40 years.

Who wants a guy like that polluting the San Diego sports scene any longer?

So instead of ignoring the Chargers on Monday night, I will turn on the game because it will be fun to see the Chargers do what they do best: Come up short just like their so-called leader.

Dang, imagine if I could write THAT type of stuff in the preview.

The NFL draft begins Thursday and I am noticing I’m not really looking forward to it.

That’s an odd feeling in that I covered the draft as a professional more than a dozen times at either the professional or college level. And always made sure my Saturdays were clear to watch it prior to that well before this decade’s dumb three-day format.

Analyzing things, I can see why I’m not all that interested in the 2017 NFL draft.

That’s because this is the first draft in my lifetime in which my hometown doesn’t have an NFL team.

Not the least bit interested in who the Los Angeles Chargers pick. Geez, it is hard writing that city’s name before Chargers.

The Chargers belong to San Diego, not the smog clowns and silicone fakes of Los Angeles. The draft is really the first time a big NFL event happens in which the Chargers aren’t referred to as “San Diego Chargers.”

When Roger Goodell reads that phrase off the cue card as the Chargers make their first-round pick, it is a loud reminder to the football world that San Diego is no longer an NFL town.

Dean Spanos had ample opportunities to make it work in San Diego and didn’t have the big-boy leadership abilities to make it happen. Good riddance to him and his poorly run organization.

That is where we will miss the draft — mocking the Chargers for their sad first-round picks.

The lousy picks roll off the tongue easily — receiver Walker Gillette in 1970, running back Leon Burns in 1971, fullback Bo Matthews in 1974, cornerback Mossy Cade in 1984 (Google him to see what a total reject he is) and the biggest draft bust of all-time in quarterback Ryan Leaf in 1998.

There are many other busts — one of my favorites being receiver Craig “Buster” Davis in 2007. I called up Davis’ receivers coach at LSU while writing a profile story and got greeted with all kinds of criticisms of Davis’ desire, toughness and inability to stay healthy.

Guess what Davis was known for during his 26 total games over four seasons with the Chargers? Yep, low desire, no toughness, always injured.

During Davis’ second season, I already wrote song lyrics about him called “Wasted Draft Pick,” to the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation.”

Great pick, A.J. Smith! Might want to talk a player’s position coach before you select him.

Of course, there were superb first-round picks over the years too — defensive tackle Gary “Big Hands” Johnson in 1975, tight end Kellen Winslow in 1979, defensive end Leslie O’Neal in 1986, linebacker Junior Seau in 1990, running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 and the great quarterback maneuver of 2004 when Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers but Smith drafted him anyway before working out a trade with the New York Giants for Philip Rivers.

General manager Tom Telesco has fared well in the first round of the last three drafts with cornerback Jason Verrett, running back Melvin Gordon and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The Chargers select seventh this time around so they are positioned well to land another good talent.

But there will be a different feeling when Telesco makes his pick.

You see, these aren’t the San Diego Chargers anymore. So it no longer is a big deal if the team scores with its pick or lands another bust.

Perhaps that is why the draft’s appeal isn’t there for me this year. My hometown doesn’t have a team and the fun is gone.

You see, I could care less if a team from Los Angeles messes up its draft.

   Been asked several times since last night about how I feel about the Chargers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles.

   My answer has been pretty consistent — the actions of the team having been pointing toward this development for 18 months and it is like the day has finally arrived.

   Anger? Nope, not from me. I put on the journalistic objectivity cap a long time ago. I also covered that team so I am also quite aware from the inside perspective of what a poorly run organization it is.

   Sadness? For others. For all the fans that loyally supported the franchise since 1961. For all the younger folks who may not have a team to watch and support for future decades.

   Good riddance? Sure. Dean Spanos is a horrible leader and he will be an even bigger failure in Los Angeles, where the stakes are higher. San Diegans want to keep their team but they despise the ownership. So yep, get your sad-sack meek self out of town, Dean.

   And stay out!

   Dean Spanos is the son of a very wealthy man named Alex Spanos. Dean didn’t EARN his way to being a pro sports owner. He got there by being born into the right family. He has always been in way over his head when it comes to running a football team.

   Heck, his leadership skills were horrible when the Chargers posted a franchise-best 14-2 record in 2006. General manager A.J. Smith wouldn’t acknowledge coach Marty Schottenheimer and little Deano was too afraid to make the two grown-ups sit in a room and work out their differences.

   And remember, the same situation occurred in 1996 when Bobby Ross had to exit as coach because he and general manager Bobby Beathard could no longer co-exist.

   So it happens again a decade later and Spineless Spanos still can’t figure out how to handle it.

   Schottenheimer was fired and a few days later, a few of us reporters got an audience with Dean on the second floor of the facility.

   There was nothing more surreal than seeing his flustered face as he began telling us that the organization was dysfunctional.

   This after a 14-2 season!

   Imagine how dysfunctional things were when they went 1-15 in 2000.

   Things were dysfunctional because Dean Spanos doesn’t function properly.

   He made it clear he was done with San Diego in the fall of 2015 as he worked overtime on getting the Carson project approved. What a hit to the ego it had to be that other NFL owners trusted Stan Kroenke the Donkey with the Los Angles market more than Dumbbell Dean.

   So he came back to San Diego with his tail between his legs and began talking this big game about how he was going to get the stadium thing solved. I just chuckled at that stuff.

   Dean Spanos was unable to get it done the previous dozen years. Why would he suddenly become this stadium magician?

   The ballot measure in November never had a chance and the fact that even 43 percent voted yes tells me there were a lot people who voted for it that felt desperate to keep their football team.

   That’s exactly what it was — San Diegans wanting to keep their team. Nobody was voting to keep Dean Spanos or his two sons, who now have major roles (Again, two kids born into the right family, no EARNING things when you are filthy rich).

   The best thing is the Chargers have taken the plunge to Los Angeles and nobody in that smoggy city cares that they are coming.

   USC football will always be 20 times more popular than the Chargers … heck, the football pecking order goes like this:

   USC, Rams, UCLA, Chargers … Spanos should be happy Long Beach State no longer has a program.

   Oh, so reflective? Certainly.

   I attended dozens of Chargers’ games as a kid. The cost was $1.50 the first time I went. There probably isn’t anything in the stadium that you can get for $1.50 now.

   I waited overnight to get playoff tickets — in the Don Coryell era, playoffs were a yearly thing — and I later covered the team for seven seasons as a professional. Spent a lot of time in that complex in Murphy Canyon, both during the era the Chargers let reporters in the building and again in a later era when they threw the reporters in a stinky trailer that probably couldn’t pass code.

   That also means I spent a lot of time at Qualcomm Stadium. It was a good place when I first started covering games there — including two Super Bowls — but it certainly had declined over time.

   One time they were doing the Sky Show fireworks after a San Diego State football game and I went into a back room in the press box to write. And with every loud boom, I was surprised the stadium didn’t collapse to the ground.

   During my last season covering games, I was on board with everybody that said it needed to be replaced. It was officially a dump.

   But Dean Spanos never got his stadium. The San Diego voters said no to the infinitely rich guy who could have built his own stadium a decade earlier. Part of why they voted no is that San Diegans don’t respect Dean Spanos or his cronies.

   San Diego loves its football team. It just despises the guy who moved it.

 

   It sure has been a fun time on Twitter since news of the move broke Wednesday night. Here are some of my contributions:

Good-bye #Chargers … don’t forget to pack all your #SuperBowl trophies … oh, none of those? … Hmmm, pack all your losing seasons.

Marlon McCree is telling people tonight he’d still run with that interception he fumbled to set up #Patriots rally. #SpanosEraChargersFail

A.J. Smith still bragging to people that getting third-round compensation pick for Drew Brees was an outstanding move #SpanosEraChargersFail

That time #Chargers took bust Craig “Buster” Davis in first round & his college WR coach slammed him in my feature. #SpanosEraChargersFail

If the eggs were off the mark or fell incomplete, they were thrown by Craig Whelihan. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

Can we slide in the Galaxy at No. 11 and drop the #Chargers to 12? Heck, slide in the WNBA team too. No. 13 it is.

Two words: Ryan Leaf. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

This might be as fun as day the fan at training camp serenaded Ryan Leaf with “Lonesome Loser” and Leaf tried to fight him. #SpanosEraFail

1-15 in 2000 with 11 straight loses to start season & coach Mike Riley led team in “Hip, Hip Hooray” after lone win. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

350-pound Chris Mims drunk at downtown Del Taco, urinates outside, beats 150-pounder with belt, steals his four tacos #ChargersSpanosEraFail

Not sure what this 4 thing is … perhaps #Chargers will play in Los Angeles high school section 4A level during time at tiny StubHub.

That #Chargers logo with the 4 … got to be the Spanos way of celebrating all those fourth-place finishes in the AFC West. #SpanosEraFail

The time Dean Spanos looked at me & said the #Chargers were a dysfunctional organization. After going 14-2. Look at them now. #SpanosEraFail

The night in Boston when Dean Spanos looked me in eye & said Philip Rivers didn’t have torn ACL. Two days later: Rivers torn ACL #SpanosFail

LA Galaxy still assured of being highest-scoring team playing in #StubHubCenter with arrival of #Chargers this fall. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

One of the many things you learn when you cover professional athletes for a living is this: they are typically really, really good at deception and hiding the truth.

Take former NFL quarterback Erik Kramer, for example.

In July of 1999, I wrote that the San Diego Chargers signed Kramer to join Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Leaf in the battle for the starting quarterback gig. That same day, a woman identifying herself as Kramer’s grandmother called the newspaper.

She was so excited that her grandson had signed with the Chargers and was looking forward to reading many stories about him.

About four months later, I really would have liked to call up the grandmother with this message: Your grandson, Erik, is a major jerk.

And using the work jerk would’ve been a nicer term than the one that truly fit.

Kramer is on my mind this Sunday night because he spoke publicly about his failed suicide attempt of last August in a well-done story by the Detroit Free Press. If you have 30 minutes of free time, it is a terrific read — Ex-Lions QB Kramer gets help after suicide attempt

If you just have time for a quick read, here is a superb summary put together by someone you know — Former NFL QB Kramer talks about suicide attempt

Basically, Kramer has been dealing with depression for about 25 years, beginning early in his NFL career. Things reached a crisis level last summer after family deaths in 2011 (a son), 2012 (his mom) and 2015 (dad was ill at time of Kramer’s suicide attempt and later died) amid a divorce and other personal problems.

Kramer decided to take his life but the gunshot didn’t kill him. The bullet went through his chin and tongue, up his sinus cavities and out the top of his head. He was in a medically induced coma for six weeks but survived and finally returned home last month.

Now 51, Kramer joked to the Free Press that he’s only alive because he’s “a bad shot.”

What the Free Press story also does is make me think about the Kramer of 17 years ago.

Seriously, only Leaf was a bigger jerk than Kramer on the 1999 Chargers, but Kramer somehow threw interceptions at a even greater pace than Leaf.

He played in six games (four starts) with the Chargers and threw 10 interceptions against two touchdowns. He was trying to play through significant neck pain but the injury forced him to retire during the season.

When you factor in what Kramer revealed in his detail of the suicide attempt, you have to wonder if his depression issues were a major factor in 1999. He said he had major depression troubles in the offseason following his career-best season of 1995 when he passed for 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Chicago Bears.

If depression was flaring up at a high point of his career, it surely sounds plausible that Kramer was dealing with the illness when he was on the downside of his career and seeing the end was near.

Heavy depression certainly would affect his demeanor and the way he treated people.

Heck, most NFL players dislike reporters to begin with so imagine feeling lousy every single day and then having some pesky reporter — hey, that’s me — grilling you about the three interceptions you threw in a 31-3 home loss to the Green Bay Packers one week after throwing four second-half interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks.

Kramer lost his job the following week and the media seldom saw him again. Nobody that I know of shed any tears.

But remember what I said about how athletes are really, really good at hiding the truth?

I’m willing to bet Kramer was dealing with heavy depression at the time.

He probably wasn’t nearly as bad a guy as he seemed. Just a troubled individual dealing with something none of us knew.

We all know now after the events of last summer and Kramer’s decision to discuss the situation with the Free Press.

And now he’s trying to make the best of things after dealing with a bunch of darkness and setbacks in his life.

This qualifies as a real-life audible — and that rates as a bit more important than the on-field ones.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

(more…)

We haven’t done a Sports Disgrace post in a while and apparently Britt McHenry has been aiming to get her chance to be profiled.

Who is Britt McHenry, you ask? Good question, I had never heard of her until just recently and she happens to be one of those 20-something blonde gals that somehow lands a job with ESPN despite very little experience.

And you thought ESPN looks for established pros with a long history of stellar journalism. Yeah, right.

Experience aside, we know now all about McHenry and there is nothing pretty about the girl on the inside.

Mocking a (possibly) minimum-wage tow truck yard worker with elitist rhetoric and making fun of her weight is well below the standard of somebody worthy of working for ESPN. I knew what was coming from reading about it and I still cringed when I saw McHenry spewing some of her garbage on the video tape (see it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5JesKdZJ2Y).

You know you have lost when you have to resort to “I’m on television and you’re in a f–king trailer, honey” and “lose some weight baby girl.” Kind of like when NFL bust Ryan Leaf yelled “I can buy your dad” after being kicked out of a college party.

McHenry is her demeaning best when she ridicules the woman’s education – “Do you feel good about your job? So I could be a college dropout and do the same thing? Why – cause I have a brain and you don’t? Maybe if I was missing some teeth, they would hire me, huh?”

If you’re throwing out that you’re on TV to a woman working at a tow lot, you rank pretty low on the classy meter. Save that entitlement for when you’re trying to impress yourself in front of the mirror.

The rest of the stuff is just beyond embarrassing. Not that it matters Britt, but you don’t seem as pretty in the tow lot video as when ESPN covers your face with makeup that must take hours to squeegee off.

ESPN suspended McHenry for a week and she tweeted out a apology that seemed about 50 percent apologetic. Not the least bit surprised – deep inside she probably doesn’t get why her behavior was so wrong.

I’d be willing to bet McHenry acts different when she has to interview an athlete. That I’m on TV stuff act doesn’t impress too many athletes or coaches.

Hopefully McHenry learns a lesson from the whole ordeal. But now she can cross off one of those goals from her list – she made it on MrSportsBlog!

Because she’s the latest Sports Disgrace. Congrats, Britt!

I see the social-media “experts” are terming David Wilson as a “bust.”

You know, all those people who know football through their televisions … or fantasy-football stats … or their “Madden” teams.

In other words, not the type of people who played the game for a living … or have attended hundreds or thousands of football practices … or have seen up close the physical toll playing football takes on someone’s body.

So there they are – calling David Wilson a bust because the career of the New York Giants’ running back lasted just two seasons before being cut short by a serious spinal condition.

A bust? Really? For suffering a career-ending injury before his career even got moving?

Seriously, nobody really has a clue how Wilson – who recently turned 23 – was going to develop as a player. There is a difference between a guy being a bust – hey there Ryan Leaf and Brian Bosworth – as opposed to someone getting hurt and never really getting the opportunity to show whether or not he could play at the NFL level.

It is perfectly fine if you were disappointed in Wilson’s 2012 rookie season output of 358 rushing yards. It’s not the first time a guy struggled in his first NFL campaign but obviously his production didn’t live up to the standards of a first-round pick.

It didn’t help that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin – a back I thought should have been selected before Wilson, not after – rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns that same season.

Wilson got hurt last season and played just five games. He underwent major neck surgery and having a neck issue is never good for any human, let alone one in a profession that calls for repeated physical collisions at high speed.

So when Wilson recently suffered a setback early in training camp, it was surely a concern. During the examinations, doctors determined he has spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal – and advised him to give up the sport.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Something tells me risking paralysis isn’t a smart move. Wilson made the right decision by leaving the game (he didn’t officially retire yet, meaning he will be placed on injured reserve and be paid his 2014 salary).

So call him a bust if that makes you feel better about yourself. Let out that anger that the Giants selected him and not a different player.

But you know, there is nothing wrong with leaving the word bust out of the equation and simply looking at Wilson this way:

As a guy whose NFL career was cut short by injury.

The 2014 NFL Draft will forever be known for one of the big-time moments in sports history: Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player to be selected.

It looked like the draft might conclude without Sam hearing his named called before the St. Louis Rams tabbed him with the 249th selection of the 256-player draft.

Being chosen in the seventh round is a bit lower than one might expect the SEC Defensive Player of the Year to be picked. But it certainly is a good situation for the outside linebacker who played college football a few hours down the freeway at Missouri.

Having an esteemed veteran coach like Jeff Fisher – a secure leader who has handled a multitude of situations during his career – makes the situation a good one for Sam. Fisher’s presence will help things become more manageable as the upcoming media crush hits minicamp with everybody wanting a piece of Sam.

The playing football part is up to Sam. Yes, his draft stock fell partly due to his measurables. Sure, he’s a bit of a tweener. But he was a standout pass rusher in college and he should be able to play a role for the Rams.

And if for some reason he doesn’t pan out as a player, it won’t be because he’s gay and kissed a guy on television after being drafted. It will be because he didn’t pan out as a player.

Period. Just the way it should be.

Here are some other draft thoughts …

Wasn’t all that long ago when I had questions about whether or not Johnny Manziel was worthy of a first-round pick or more likely to forever be a knucklehead like Ryan Leaf. I started to feel he was first-round material last September when he tore up Alabama and I think he went right about where he should have by going 22nd overall to the Cleveland Browns. Jon Gruden looked like a fool opening ESPN’s coverage by hyping the Texas A&M star as the possible No. 1 pick and Manziel will now have an opportunity to show us all he can play at the NFL level in the near future. Well, Browns coach Mike Pettine said prior to the draft that none of the quarterbacks could beat out Bobby Hoyer for the starting job. Watch how quickly that thought process changes now.

Got to say I hope the NFL Draft goes back to April for next year. Not sure I’ve ever watched less of a draft than the current one. Dragging out the hype became even more galling than usual and pushing it back to May didn’t work, no matter the silly claims of commissioner Roger Goodell (who never admits being wrong about anything). It was only pure luck that I got to see Sam get drafted as it happened during the small timeframe in which I even turned it on for a few minutes on the third and final day.

I really liked the early defensive selections by the San Diego Chargers. Both cornerback Jason Verrett (first round) of TCU and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (second round) of Georgia Tech can help shore up deficiencies that were exposed last season. Verrett is small in stature but heavy in aggressiveness and production and Attaochu is a pass-rushing force with plenty of room to get better. The fifth-round pick of defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (Arkansas State) also could be one of those mid-round steals.

Remember when San Diego State running back Adam Muema departed the NFL combine early in February because God had informed him he would be chosen by the Seattle Seahawks? Well, that didn’t happen. I’m guessing his post-draft prayer session with God will be a bit, um, interesting. Muema originally made a poor decision by skipping his senior season with the Aztecs but he buried himself when he left what was essentially a job interview for all 32 teams to go wander around an airport in Fort Lauderdale for three days. That lack of accountability and just flat-out weirdness clinched he wouldn’t be drafted.

And can’t overlook this factual truth, the Texas Longhorns didn’t have a single player selected in the NFL Draft for the first time since 1937. Repeat – 1937! That was the year my father was born and he has been in heaven for close to 11 years now. The list of schools that had players drafted include Bloomsburg, Concordia-St. Paul, Furman, Liberty, Lindenwood, Marist, McGill, Pittsburg State, Saginaw Valley State and Towson. Even Princeton had a player picked. Again, not a single player from Texas was drafted. The school ought to fire Mack Brown again just for this embarrassing fact.

I covered a game in 2008 when the San Diego Chargers were blanked in the first half by the Oakland Raiders and later scored 25 fourth-quarter points to pull out an improbable victory.

But the Chargers had a secret weapon that sunny day in Oakland five years ago and it had nothing to do with LaDainian Tomlinson running wild in the second half.

Yep, Lane Kiffin was coaching the Raiders that day. It was his final game before being fired.

Kiffin wasn’t in the facility this time around as the Chargers committed five turnovers and put up a substandard performance while digging themselves a huge hole in a 27-17 loss to the Raiders late Sunday night.

The game ended at 11:40 Pacific time – 2:40 a.m. Monday morning in the East – due to the time being moved back because of the Oakland Athletics being involved in the major-league baseball playoffs.

And for two-thirds of the contest, it appeared that only the Raiders were interested in playing at the late hour.

Oakland was strong at the outset and quickly built a 17-point lead. The Chargers were so dreadful over the first 2 1/2 quarters that you would’ve thought Otis Sistrunk, Matt Millen and Lester Hayes were back on the Oakland defense.

Then Nick Novak had a field-goal attempt blocked with under six minutes left in the quarter. But instead of the Raiders taking over, backup tight end Ladarius Green scooped up the ball behind the line of scrimmage – making it eligible to be run with – and notched a first down.

The Chargers eventually got on the board a minute later on a Novak field goal and the late-night weirdness took another turn against San Diego when Danny Woodhead fumbled and Charles Woodson – yes that ancient defensive back who entered the NFL the same year (1998) the Chargers selected Ryan Leaf – scooped it up and ran 25 yards for his 13th career defensive touchdown to make it 24-3.

But signs of a comeback picked up when Philip Rivers threw touchdown passes to Woodhead and Keenan Allen in the first five minutes of the final quarter to make it a seven-point game.

Perhaps history would repeat itself but as quickly as Sebastian Janikowski could boot a 50-yard field goal from second base, the comeback was derailed.

Rivers was intercepted twice in the final two minutes – that made a season-high three for the game – and the Chargers now take a 2-3 record into a Monday night contest with the fearsome Indianapolis Colts.

“We had every opportunity at the end there and that says a lot about the character of the football team after being down 17-0,” coach Mike McCoy said in his postgame press conference.

Rivers finished with 411 yards for his third 400-yard outing in five games under McCoy’s tutelage but he was outplayed by Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, who was 18-of-23 for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chargers also had no sign of a running game against the Raiders with just 32 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Ryan Mathews left early with a concussion and neither Woodhead or Ronnie Brown fared well.

Now San Diego needs to rebound against the Colts or risk being 2-4 six games into the season with two games each against undefeated AFC West rivals Denver and Kansas City still ahead.

We will learn a lot about this football team – and its rookie head coach – by the way the Chargers play against Andrew Luck and the Colts.