Monday, June 15, 2015

Bob Newton tackles his toughest opponent



     Bob Newton never became the athlete he might have been.
     Yes, he played football with Nebraska the year the Cornhuskers won their first national championship.
     Yes, he played for 11 years as an offensive lineman in the NFL, five years with the Chicago Bears, with teammates like Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. Then six years with the Seattle Seahawks.
     But Newton could have done even better.
     “The Chicago Bears, after my first year at offensive guard, thought I had the potential to be an all-pro offensive guard, which means one of the best in the league,” Newton said Friday at Mount Carmel High School. “I never made it. I never reached that potential because what I was doing off the field.”
     What he was doing off the field was drinking heavily. Many men wouldn’t admit that to themselves, never mind to others, never mind to a gym full of high school athletes taking a break from their summer weight training. But Newton, a recovering alcoholic, who went straight from the NFL into rehab, and for the past 15 years has worked at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Rancho Mirage, California, is trying to help young people avoid the pitfall of addiction.
      “I speak to patients, families, and high schools, as often as possible,” he said. “Going to assemblies, training teachers, school administrators, to identify signs and symptoms of substance abuse.”
     He told the athletes how, despite the rising tide of legality, marijuana can be addictive and affect cognition. “It saturates your brain cells.”
     Newton said that in addition to hurting his athletic career, his drinking also destroyed his marriage. And that addiction runs in families.
     “How did my problem start, where did it start?” Newton asked. “When I look back on my life, I started drinking alcohol in high school. Back in those days there was not a lot of intervention. I went on to the University of Nebraska, my drinking continued. There were signs I had a problem. My father had a significant problem with alcohol, and aunts and uncles on both sides of my family had a significant problem with alcohol. If people in your family have a drinking problem, I would be very cautious. This problem is handed down.”
     Newton is 65, his hair and beard now snowy white. But he still is a commanding 6’4 presence. He knows he’s going against all the glitz that Madison Avenue can muster, the endless big bucks promotion of alcohol wedded to pro sports.
     “My concern is all the advertisements,” he said. “Young people are bombarded. By the time you’re 18 years of age, you’re going to see 100,000 messages to drink.”
     Football is a team sport, and Newton enlisted a more famous teammate to help get his message across. His last year with the Bears was Walter Payton’s rookie year.
     “I never saw a player work harder in practice,” Newton said. “One of the hardest working guys. A great teammate. I never saw him put a toxic substance into his system. Never saw him drink. Never saw him do any other drugs. He came to practice every day to work. But he felt like it, because he wasn’t putting these toxic substances into his system. We all know how phenomenal he was, one of the greatest football players to every put on a football uniform.”
     Mount Carmel was eager to have Newton speak.
     “We’re not naive to think these kids never drink,” said athletic director Dan LaCount. “A lot of them have aspirations to play Division I football and beyond. It’s important to us to have someone who has been where Bob has been to speak to them at this age. We’re very aware of what can attract these kids, and we do our best as a school, as an athletic department, to be sure they get the right message.”
     I could tell from the players’ faces that Newton had caught their attention. Afterward, I asked a few what they thought.
     “Eye-opening to see an NFL player who went through these problems and to come out and talk about all of it,” said Jake Cirame, 17, a lineman entering his senior year. “Personally, I think it affected me.”
     “Truly eye-opening, to have someone whose been through all of that and have the guts to speak about it,” agreed Logan Brokop, 16, a defensive back entering his junior year. “How he beat it, and he’s still sober and beating it today.”

48 comments:

  1. Bravo for Bob Newton! Maybe a few of my fellow Mt. Carmel alumni will as a result of his talks avoid the rocky path that many of us inexplicably find so attractive.

    John

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  2. Both myself, and President Obama, have saturated our brain cells with marijuana in our youth. Let me assure you we are perfectly normal adults.

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  3. You are exaggerating about the President, Mr. Republican Bernie.

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    1. I post here because I enjoy the prevailing ambience of civil discourse. Hurtling insults, like the R-word, is uncalled for.

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    2. And I don't exaggerate about the President, he is normal, you, you, Lyndon LaRouche supporter!

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  4. Don't know whether Bernie is a Republican or not, Anonny, but one can be a big supporter of the President and still be aware of his days with the Choom Gang:

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/obama-and-his-pot-smoking-choom-gang/

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  5. If that picture is any indication, I don't think his message got everyone's attention...

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  6. Jakash, that's mere sensationalism. Not saying he's a perfect saint. Don't give the right fodder.

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    1. It may be "sensationalism" if you don't want to read about it. But it's "biographical detail" if one is not disturbed by the truth. I don't consider it "fodder" for the Right, because it doesn't diminish my respect for what he's accomplished at all. As if the Right needs help coming up with fodder, at any rate.

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  7. Of the three most popular addictive substances I doubt that marijuana does the damage to the lungs that tobacco does or to the liver that alcohol abuse is known to do. Psychological damage is probably harder to asses. Best advice is probably to not smoke, drink in moderation and use little or no weed until more is known.

    Public drunkenness is now frowned on so modern day drunks become adept at hiding the signs, That didn't always used to be the case, as these immortal lines by Thomas Love Peacock indicate.

    "Not drunk is he who from the floor
    Can rise again and drink some more.
    But he is drunk who prostrate lies.
    And cannot drink. And cannot rise.'

    Tom Evans

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    1. T.E.,

      Your advice almost nailed it, IMHO. Why "weed" doesn't get the same go-ahead for "moderation" that you give alcohol has never been sufficiently explained to me, though. How many more decades must its effects be studied? We've been running a pretty extensive longitudinal study in this country since at least the 60s and the predicted dire consequences just don't seem to have been forthcoming. From what I've read, Tylenol actually can be very dangerous, and, unlike marijuana, actually kills people, but people can stock up on and consume as much of that as they like. Yet weed remains the bogeyman.

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    2. Tom:

      I think the most popular addictive substance is caffeine (coffee and coke mostly), but science keeps waffling over whether it's good or bad.

      John

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    3. Tate,

      Perhaps you saw this N. Y. Times article. Anyway, this guy argues that there's less justification for the waffling than we've been led to believe. He concludes: "But it’s way past time that we stopped viewing coffee as something we all need to cut back on. It’s a completely reasonable addition to a healthy diet, with more potential benefits seen in research than almost any other beverage we’re consuming. It’s time we started treating it as such."

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/upshot/more-consensus-on-coffees-benefits-than-you-might-think.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0

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    4. Because even a bit of weed affects the brain in a diff. way and not just temporarily. One may need more weed, a rare drinker doesn't necessarily need more wine. Don't be obtuse.

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  8. Jackash, I think I know why you are trying to justify pot. And no, I'm not justifying liquor at all since indeed I rarely have any, and never hard liquor.

    Wine is a gourmet item for meal enhancement and even helps cholesterol and heart, to a point. Please don't put pot in that category. Do they have pot lists at fancy restaurants? Don't be absurd. I expect better from you.

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  9. Is the culture of wine in moderation in France and Italy to be compared with pot smoking? Don't be idiotic, J. And there or in those cultures here, kids are given a bit and it's not some forbidden fruit and their brains didn't rattle. Those they suddenly don't go crazy and think they have to have fake id's to drink or do overboard partying in college.

    Perhaps on Check please on PBS (program) they should light up a joint according to you while they compare restaurants? Is a somalier sp? equal to someone rolling a joint.

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    1. You are quite often mistaken in your assumptions about other commenters, of course. Your guess as to my reasons for "trying to justify pot" is but the latest example. Personally, craft beer is my current attitude adjustment facilitator, thank you very much. Usually with food, sometimes without, FWIW... Not that I eschew your beloved wine altogether!

      Mentioning "Check, Please" is irrelevant to your point. They're not eating while they're doing the show, as far as I can tell, so they might just as well pass a joint!

      But as with Bitter Scribe, I'll bet there are a host of folks who could testify to pot adding to "meal enhancement", for whatever that's worth. Is there a swell culture of wine-drinking with meals in the countries you mention, and many others? Certainly. Is that at all relevant to my points about whether marijuana should be a legally permissible substance? Sadly, no. I know little about the long-standing culture of marijuana enjoyment in this country and elsewhere. You evidently know less. For us to argue about how it compares to wine drinking in Italy is pointless, IMHO.

      Aren't there lists of conditions for which marijuana is an approved medical treatment in many states? Yes. Does that effectively counter your point about moderate wine consumption being beneficial to one's health? Yes. So, "Don't be absurd. I expect better from you." ; ) Regardless, this ain't an either/or proposition.

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    2. Not just in those countries but in the U.S., there is a wine tasting culture as well.

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  10. Pot does enhance the appetite much better than alcohol IMO.

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  11. Craft beer can be interesting. I think this goes back to the comments of the other day of if liquor is more dangerous than pot, so lighten up Jak. You are overanalyzing the points.

    Take a visit to Napa Valley please. Stay out of Colorado. That goes for BS too, wink.

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  12. Get off your high horse, Jackass. You missed the point about Check Please.

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  13. It certainly would be odd for them to be smoking on Check, Please!, what with recreational marijuana being illegal here. Fun fact: I briefly appear in an episode of that show, the part where they show the restaurant in action, and, quite characteristically, I'm tossing back a glass of wine.

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  14. cool that you were on there

    but the point isn't really about smoking there

    ah yes, here comes Jak's lady protector and schmoozer

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    1. Ms. Coey, that is

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    2. That's cool, Coey! I believe that we've seen every episode of "Check, Please" over the years, and although they've featured several of our favorite places, we've never been extras in a video! ; ) You don't care to mention what restaurant it was?

      Anonny,

      Your assumption that I'm riding a horse is another mistaken one. ; ) Frankly, I'll over-analyze your under-analyzed points if I feel like it. Lord knows why I bother, though. Nor do I need to lighten up, thanks very much. And if Scribe and I were planning to get gay married while high in Colorado, why should you care? ; ) I didn't MISS the point about "Check, Please" -- I indicated why it WASN'T a good point. Though Coey is right, of course -- they'd have to leave passing a joint for the Denver or Seattle productions of the show, if they have them.

      Alas, this sniping has gotten well beyond the point at which it should have been relegated to the Rocket Motel. Uh, I believe that will wrap it up for me...

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    3. Even though I'd love to plug the place (we're friends with the owners), I'd prefer not to do it here. I'm sure you'll understand.

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    4. Jak, I was merely making a general point. I don't split hairs. This is a blog not a place to write a thesis. You're giving me a migraine. There's is no need to play one upmanship games.

      You need a wife and kids to keep you centered.


      And why do you keep saying that Scribe is gay????

      ha ha about the horse

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    5. typo, there is , not there's is

      you sound angry Jak, get some anger management counseling please

      one can't always agree with you

      are you handy around the house? go fix something if you own one

      perhaps you need a big lawn so you can go cut the grass or work on the car please

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  15. Jeb Bush, what a joke, as was his brother and his keepers: Rumsfeld and Cheney. They helped set up some of the mess that Iraq finds itself in today and that Repubs blame on the Pres.

    But at least some arms companies made money.

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  16. We seem to have strayed from the topic of alcoholism and its dangers. I grew up in a dry household, due to the influence of my grandmother, who, as a social worker, ran a shelter for women and their families many years ago. She found alcohol to be a root cause of much of the domestic abuse. It probably still is, but these days the mean drunk is as liable to be the wife and mother. No longer would we hear a maiden trilling

    "For I trusted that he who stood waiting me then,
    Was the brightest, the truest, the noblest of men.
    Your lips on my own, when they printed farewell,
    Had never been soiled by the beverage of Hell.
    But they come to me now with the bacchanal sign,
    And the lips that touch liquor must never touch mine."

    Tom Evans

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    1. Have you remained a teetotaller, Tom, or did you eventually succumb to the siren call of demon rum? While the disease of alcoholism is indeed a scourge for many families, and a danger to society because of DUIs, there is no question that most people who consume alcohol (and marijuana) will not become addicted. Your grandmother saw its worst effects, but probably had less exposure to its more benign use.

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    2. Tom, one of the main reasons for the Temperance movement was to stop demon rum which caused drunken, abusive men and hungry and beated wives and kids. PBS has been rerunning their Prohibition special. In those days of 14 hour workdays and saloons all over, it was easy to give in. What a miserly life was. REad also, the Jungle or Angela's Ashes.

      Of course some won't touch it at all due to religious fanaticism, conveniently forgetting about the water into wine parable.

      Well this is a general topic page so it s okay to switch gears.

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    3. Agree, Coey, liquor won't always lead to drunkenness.

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    4. Mr. Evans, in full sincerity, I'm wondering how you pull all of these relevant quotes. Are they all memorized, or do you think oh so and so said something on this and have to look it up? If the former, I am so jealous and in awe. The latter I'm still a bit jealous.

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    5. I read a lot, and some years ago began entering bits I thought particularly wise, unusually well put or, as in the case of the little Victorian ballad cited above, charming in my "mish mash" book. (A little notebook I call that in imitation of John Ciardi, who kindly answered a letter I wrote him once and said he had entered a quote I had asked about in his own "mish mash" book. I have the letter framed above my desk and like to refer to it as my correspondence with a famous American poet.)

      I like leafing through the pages from time to time, and when something Neil says strikes me as pertinent to an entry enjoy sharing.. I don't think he minds. Or if he does he hasn't told me. Anyway, you can do it too if you start now.

      Tom

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    6. Don't know if anybody is still reading here, but since my honor is at stake I must state I'm not teetotal. I believe life's pleasures are to be enjoyed unless they are harmful to self or others. Smoking is clearly suicidal behavior, moderate drinking is not. I take my cue from A. J. Liebling, he who dubbed our town "the Second City," and once wrote:

      " No sane man can afford to dispense entirely with debilitating pleasures; no ascetic can be considered reliably sane. Hitler was the archetype of the abstemious man. When the other Krauts saw him drinking water in the beer hall they should have known he was not to be trusted."

      TE

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    7. Well, I for one rather enjoy your quotes. I love the story of your "mish mash" book, and it is indeed a great idea. Much better than my sticky notes all over my studio.

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    8. The "mish mash" book is a swell idea, T. E. I'm glad that you responded to the queries about the quotes which you cleverly apply to Neil's posts. Other than the anonymouse who thought that you were a show-off, I think everybody who bothers to read these comments enjoys your contributions, and I don't see why NS wouldn't appreciate them, as well. They're certainly much more enjoyable and topical than the bickering I engaged in yesterday, for example Ahem. ; )

      Eric Zorn used to have an occasional feature on his blog called "Fine Lines" where he'd just post unrelated quotes that he'd come across in his reading recently that he found noteworthy or engaging. He doesn't seem to do that anymore -- perhaps he keeps them in his own "mish mash" book these days.

      Not being much of a poetry fan, myself, my entire knowledge of John Ciardi is limited to the short segments he would do on NPR's "Morning Edition" back in the day. (Lordy, he died in 1986, so that was 30 years ago -- ugh!) Those pieces reflected his interest in etymology, and were delightful. Neat that he responded to your letter.

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    9. It was a lovely response. Must have been shortly before he died. I was working for the Army then and the quote I inquired about related to my work. He signed his response "John Ciardi, Ex T/Sgt USAF."

      He was a fine poet and essayist. And. so I heard from someone who had studied under him, a good teacher.

      Tom

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  17. Tom, literature is great and you make a connection of literary quotes to any topic?

    If I told you I cleaned my toilet today or had to fart, what quote would you find?

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  18. Coey, you are nosy.

    Jak, you are a cappo di cazze.

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  19. This reminds me of a joke. Stop me if you've heard this one: A woman is sipping on a glass of wine, while sitting on the patio with her husband, and she says, "I love you so much, I don't know how I could ever live without you." Her husband asks, "Is that you or the wine talking?" She replies, "It's me...talking To the wine."

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  20. yes, a funny one, I heard and worth repeating

    Anyway, congrats to the Blackhawks, I didn't think they'd do it.

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  21. I cook with wine. Sometimes I put it in the food.
    -- WC Fields

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  22. Jak, I'd like to see you make a nice neckbone, tomato pasta sauce with wine and see how much more useful that would be than putting weed in it. wink (brownies don't count)

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  23. One of these days, Jak, I will put you over my knee.

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    1. Now who's flirting? ; ) Uh, you can continue to press your point, curse me in Italian, or whatever, but I'm done arguing about this.

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