Keep your head up

Photo of Chris Borland via

Are our passions worth dying for?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 7, 2015

When the San Francisco 49ers’ 24-year-old star linebacker, Chris Borland, walked away from the game as a precaution against life-crippling head injuries, many were left puzzled and rather frustrated. The puzzlement came from the fact that Borland was stepping away from more than a sport; he left a huge salary, an extravagant lifestyle, and a future of athletic achievements behind. Many would kill to get the opportunity that Borland had and it’s frustrating that the NFL has created an environment where playing a sport professionally has become akin to self-endangerment.

“From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” said Borland in an interview with ESPN. Then he added, “I just want to live a long, healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”

Nobody can argue against a statement like that. We live in a world where we are driven to excel. We work so hard that we are all certainly on the verge of our breaking point. I speak not only of football, but also of life in general. We push ourselves to the limit and we cannot always be certain that our human body and our state of mind can handle the strain.

In the critically acclaimed movie Whiplash—a story about a jazz student striving to be the best drummer possible—we learn what true passion mixed with unquenchable determination can do to someone, especially after an instructor puts them through physical and psychological hell. The movie made the point plain and simple: blood, sweat, and tears were merely the byproduct of success, in addition to the mental strain. In life we should all be so fortunate to have something that we are passionate about, that we can devote our whole life to, that we can one day be remembered for, and when it’s time and we are on our death bed, we can say that we did all we could and then pass away happy.

Borland will live a long life, but he will lose all those glorious moments. Forget the money. There are many ways for an able-bodied man like Borland to make money. What I want to focus on are the intangible moments of life. Life is not everlasting. It’s made up of moments of intensity and long periods of anticipation. Borland will never feel the thrill of standing in front of 60,000 people. He will never lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy in victory. He will only be remembered as a man who merely lived a healthy life. Admirable, but far from inspiring—at least that is how our overachieving society will consider him.

I want to congratulate Borland for his courageous decision, but I won’t. It’s hard to celebrate a quitter. It’s hard to praise a ‘fraidy cat. It’s hard to look up to someone who is a coward. Many people get injured or die on the job, from McDonald’s employees to construction workers to professional athletes. Life is full of uncertainty—disease, accidents, strange twists of fate all happen to normal people—and to simply write yourself off because of a likelihood of injury, well that is pure defeat.

South American teams shine in Brazil, but will they overshadow the host?


By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Originally published by the Other Press. Jun 3, 2014
See Sports Editor, Eric Wilkins’ picks here.

The overwhelming support and pressure for and on Brazil will ultimately lead to a national disappointment for the host team in 2014. Enough has been written about the Brazilian team to convince anyone—including myself—that they are the rightful champion, but in a tournament such as the World Cup, nothing is awarded for achievements on paper; the competition is won with actual merit and a lot of luck.

Ecuador: My dark horse pick is based around a resilient team emerging from the wakes of a tragedy. Christian Benitez, a 27-year-old striker died in July 2013 from a heart attack playing for his club team, Qatar. Pitted against the other five South American teams, Ecuador may seem like the most inexperienced. Antonio Valencia of Manchester United will have to be the electrifying player he is and score some goals, while the midfield will need to support each other in order to get through Group E, which includes the Swiss, the French, and the Hondurans.

Belgium: A team with nothing to lose, but everything to prove is a dangerous team, and I think Belgium epitomizes that statement the best in this year’s World Cup. Placed with Algeria, Russia, and the Korean Republic in Group H, Belgium is the young up-and-coming team that can give the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and Spain a run for their money. No team will take Belgium lightly, but if Romelu Lukaku and their youthful stars can come up big with some timely goals, there is an exceptional chance that the country known for its chocolate can finally be famous for football as well.

Netherlands: Spain versus Netherlands on day two will truly kick off the tournament—no disrespect to Croatia and Brazil of course. They’ve pulled consistently good numbers in the last several World Cup tournaments, and I don’t see any reason they can’t make a legitimate run again this year. Superstars Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, and Wesley Sneijder will play significant roles on the team, and if they are able to reach their elite level in the month-long tournament they will have great success. The Netherlands has the talent and momentum is on their side.

Colombia: If Monaco’s striker, Radamel Falcao can return in time from his ruptured cruciate ligament, then Colombia’s chances may be amped up even more. But the national squad has played without him and is very capable of winning games on their own. Colombia often lurks in the shadow of Brazil and Argentina—even Uruguay and Chile—but the future looks bright for the Colombians and their no.5 FIFA ranking.

Argentina: I’m a strong believer in legacies; I think great players on great teams must perform at key times in order to earn the title of legendary. Lionel Messi is, of course, en route to earning that honour, at least in my books. All he needs is to win the World Cup in 2014. No big deal. Yet recent historical records have not favoured the Argentineans; after all, they have not won since 1986. But the hopes are high, the conditions are familiar in Brazil, and their offence is as capable as the other favourites. Argentina will come up big when it counts and prove many critics wrong in this year’s World Cup, thus earning Messi the recognition on the world stage he deserves.