There's a fine line between being brave and being a fool. The difference between the two may be something as simple as success. A brave man may run into the street to save a kitten, but a fool runs out to save that same kitten and ends up getting kissed by a Mack truck.
Ok, so it's not the greatest analogy in the world, but it helps bring me to my point. Does the comeback attempt by New England Patriots' linebacker Tedy Bruschi after a mild stroke eight months ago make him a brave man or a fool?
To start with, this isn't a question I delve into lightly. Calling a man brave is quite a high honor, one that shouldn't be handed out without due reason. But at the same time, calling a man a fool — especially a man with the physical prowess of Bruschi, who could probably throw me through a window if he wanted to — is a harsh criticism that deserves a fair part of rationale.
Don't get me wrong here, I think the recovery he's made is a blessing in its own right, and I'll admit I'm a sucker for a great comeback story. Whenever I hear the story of Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis and the amazing recovery he made following a near-fatal car crash, it still chokes me up. To survive like he did, and return to his team knowing he may not be the same player, and make a significant contribution, that's bravery to me.
Yet for some reason, when I think of Bruschi's story, I just don't feel the same way. Sure I'm happy for him that he was able to recover from a sudden stroke, but his return to the field just doesn't bring the same feeling to me as the story of someone like Zematis.
And why doesn't this feel the same? Because what Bruschi's doing is not brave, or gutsy or anything like that. No, what the Patriots' standout is doing is flat-out foolhardy.
Zemaitis' story displays bravery because he made a miraculous recovery to full health. Bruschi hasn't made that recovery and truthfully never will. Broken bones heal, torn tendons can be mended, but a stroke — there's no cure for that. Bruschi suffered some severe symptoms following his first stroke — losing vision and motor skills — and there's always the chance that another one could leave him much more disabled or worse, dead.
Now I'm no doctor, and truthfully, I know as much about strokes as Brittney Spears knows about raising a child, but I can't imagine returning to such a violent sport is conducive to preventing a second stroke.
It's not as if Bruschi hasn't enjoyed any success in his 10-year career with the Patriots, either. Three Super Bowl rings and a trip to the Pro Bowl isn't bad when you consider he's made a good chunk of change during that time as well.
"I'm not just doing this just because I just want to play," Bruschi said in an interview with the Associated Press before his return. "I mean, come on. I lost my sight. One morning, one day you wake up and you can't see your sons very clearly anymore because you've had a stroke. You can't walk right."
And that's exactly what I'm talking about. Bruschi needs to sit back and think through this one more time. He's 32 years old and already he's had a stroke; there's no telling what another one could do to him.
I have the utmost respect for Bruschi; he's a classy guy on a classy team. But there's nothing classy about this move. I believe from the bottom of my heart he would do anything he could for his wife and three sons, much like any father would. And, for his family, what he needs to do is step away.
After all, family should always come first.