PITTSBURGH - Before Pete Rose was a pariah, he was a baseball writer's best friend.
Mention a topic, and Rose was off and running. He always had a story or two, always had an opinion.
Somebody brought up Forbes Field one time, and he went on about the rats that lived under the stands and about a down-to-the-wire race for the batting title that he and Matty Alou staged one season.
Decades after the fact, Rose could recall specific games, even specific at-bats in detail.
Compare and contrast that experience with football players, some of whom don't even remember suiting up for games.
The toll taken on some players by repetitive head trauma is as frightening as it is heartbreaking.
A man named Ralph Wenzel played on the offensive line for some bad Pittsburgh Steelers teams in the late 1960s.
He doesn't remember those days. In 2007, the New York Times caught up with Wenzel. The story was chilling.
Wenzel had no memory of playing football. He couldn't recall friends who were teammates. He had lost the ability to feed himself and needed the same degree of care a small child needs on a daily basis.
Wenzel was 64 then. Maybe he would have developed dementia even if he'd never played football.
But it's likely there was a connection between the debilitating condition and the constant collisions in games and practices.
The Times story came about because Wenzel's wife was trying to find some financial support for the constant care her husband requires.
Some former stars can make some money doing autograph shows - provided they can remember how to write their names.
That's why it's so sad to see current NFL players dismiss plans to make the game safer, or at least to study the effects that come from playing a violent game for a long time.
They think they're invincible. They're willing to take those risks. They don't need anybody's help.
At least they don't until they reach a point where they can't communicate and can't dress themselves.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org