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To my dad, George Andrie on Father’s Day

 

Mary Andrie Brooks and her father George AndrieJune 18, 2017
Mary Andrie Brooks
@SalongirlMary

To my Dad on Fathers Day,

You retired from the NFL when Mom was pregnant with me.  I was your 5th child of seven, so I never saw you play.

You were just Dad to me.

You worked hard.  You provided for us.  You loved us, and disciplined us to be respectful and productive people. You owned your own advertising company, and we were just a normal family growing up in a small town.  We weren’t rich like most people thought, but I felt we were because we had everything we ever needed.  We had a solid and close knit family.  I remember only a handful of times our family talking about you having played football.  We watched the games, and were always Cowboys fans.

When I was about 9, I remember being at school, and a girl said to me, “You think you are special because your Dad played for the Dallas Cowboys!”  I was crushed.  I never even thought about that.  I was just a kid.

You were just my Dad, not a football star.

As I got older, I started to see people’s obsession with you.  Wanting to meet you, asking me questions about you and your Andrie1career in football.  I always nicely replied, but always felt a bit uncomfortable.  I guess I just never wanted to be liked because of who you were.  I was aware that lovers of the game saw you as a celebrity, but I did not.

As an adult, I wanted to find every single thing I could about your NFL career.  I craved reading your accomplishments and felt incredible pride in you being a Dallas Cowboy.  I wanted to know THAT man.  The one who was drafted despite not playing your senior year at Marquette University.  The one who sacked just about every quarterback who ever played against him. The one who went to 2 Super Bowls, and won one.  You were fierce and athletically gifted.  And I was so proud of you.

You played with injuries that no player today would play with.  You never missed a single game in your 10 year career, and you always did your best.  That dedication says so much about your integrity and character, and is so much more admirable than winning Super Bowls.

The fear I had of perceived “bragging” about you disappeared.  I became one of those fans wanting to know more about you and your football accolades. I wanted to hear the stories, read the books, and watch the films of the games you played. As I went through all of the photos and newspaper articles Mom had saved, I felt emotional.  I started to understand that people are attracted to dynamic people. People love the game of football.  And so did I.

Then you began to become sick.  Depression, memory loss, confusion and anxiety appeared.  You would forget things, but no one knew there was a bigger problem.  I just thought you were tired and stressed. After all, these things happen to hundreds of thousands of people. Your generation did not openly talk about things like that.  There was no awareness of this being something that almost every NFL retired player was experiencing.  As a professional football player, it is common to talk about orthopedic injuries.  Battle scars. There is almost a certain pride in these injuries, as it shows how tough you are.  There is no shame in sharing those stories.

But what about the brain injuries?  The silent and unseen battle scars.  It’s not as glamorous and easy to talk about those.  Thankfully, science and society are talking about it.  The larger than life heroes of the NFL suffering with traumatic brain injuries for decades, and all the pieces to their puzzles finally fitting into place.

Then you were diagnosed with dementia.  Frontal lobe atrophy, aphasia, scattered multiple foci, and hundred of hemorrhagic lesions all over your brain scan. Your brain is smaller than it should be. The partial and complex brain seizures that occur 12 times an hour on your EEG.  The neurologist says this can only be caused by years of “brain shearing.”  Years of repeated head hits gave you this disease of CTE, and there is no cure for it.  100% caused by playing football.

It’s a disease harder than some, because you look normal.  Because it is newer science, many people deny it is even a real thing.  A lot of times, you can remember the smallest details of events from 30 years ago.  Most days, however, you can’t remember a conversation you had an hour earlier.  This causes stress and anxiety which makes your symptoms even worse.  You cannot find your words to complete a sentence, and impulse control issues, and trouble sleeping.  You can have uncontrollable emotions such as rage and sadness.  Things that make those physical injuries look like a cake walk.

It is so hard to witness this deterioration in someone you love so much.  The more you learn about CTE, the harder it is to stay a fan of football.  I find myself somewhere in between loving football and being disgusted by it.  I guess you could say football and I have a complicated relationship these days. See, you are not a player in an article I read about.

You are my Dad.

Andrie familyIt’s been 45 years since you retired.  You still receive multiple letters for autographs in the mail every single day. These fans look up to you, and you are a hero to them.  It always amazes me that these fans are still enamored of you, and that makes me very proud. You had a gift, and you used that gift to do great things in your football career.

When I’m away from you, and have time to reflect on things, sometimes I cry. I think about being that carefree child who wasn’t aware of any problems you had. I was innocent, and not bitter at times like the daughter I am today.

I love fighting on your behalf for your NFL benefits, and I will never stop until you and countless other players are treated with the respect and dignity you deserve. It is my passion to serve you and help you, as I feel it is every child’s responsibility to return the care they received from their parents.

I will not let CTE be our story.  Love, strength and perseverance will be our story.  77 years of your life will not be  defined as “the glory and heartbreak of football.”  It will be wrapped up in my heart as a beautiful story of a man who is fierce, loyal, and the best Dad a girl could ever have.

I, like many fans, are enamored by you.  You are my hero.

Not because you were an NFL star, and you have Super Bowl rings…..

It’s because you are my Dad.❤️