house had its own phone booth so Brooke could carry on her teenage conversations in private. There was a pool down the street. “It was like he wanted to make our dreams come true,” said Pam.
At first, that was exactly what it looked like: a beautiful dream. Pam loved Kansas City. So did the kids. But they began to notice changes in Mike, almost imperceptible at first but growing more noticeable during his final years in Pittsburgh and Kansas City and now impossible to ignore. Before, Mike rarely raised his voice; now his temper was short. He became easily distracted and forgetful. He was often lethargic and indecisive. Where Webster once had approached his work with unrelenting focus, now “he couldn’t decide what to have for breakfast,” Pam said.
Webster soon became obsessed with the failings of the monument he had created. “He was
at that house,” said Pam. “It got built, and then he found fault with everything.” Minor leaks or a problem with the tile sent him into a rage. He thought the contractor was out to screw him. Without warning, seemingly, the Websters had financial problems. Mike had led Pam to believe they were set for life, but now they were having trouble making the house payments. She couldn’t understand why.
Pam was at a loss for why it was happening or what to do. She worried it might have something to do with her or the kids. As Mike’s behavior grew more erratic, Pam began to think that her husband was rapidly being replaced with another person who occupied the same body.
ChuckNoll had a question for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ brain specialist. His name was Joe Maroon, and at the time he was the only one of his kind in the NFL. Maroon had been a pint-sized running back at Indiana University back in the late 1950s. Now, in 1991, he was one of the top neurosurgeons in the country, the chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. To reach that position, Maroon had survived nearly two decades of rigorous medical study, including residencies at Georgetown, Oxford, and Indiana. He had edited or contributed to hundreds of books and papers on everything from orbital tumors to the management of cervical spine injuries. He had served as general program chairman of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, an international education society with thousands of members.
And now a football coach wanted to know: On what basis are you telling me that my quarterback can’t play?
Steelers quarterback Bubby Brister had sustained a concussion the previous Sunday. Maroon, who moonlighted, unpaid, as the team’s neurological consultant, had examined Brister and determined that he should sit out the next week against the Buffalo Bills.
Noll had gotten the Steelers job in 1969 after Joe Paterno turned it down. He was known around Pittsburgh asa Renaissance man who played guitar and dabbled in subjects as varied as photography, oceanography, and haute cuisine.
Brister looked fine, Noll told Maroon. He was throwing well. He knew the plays. Maroon, though, insisted that Brister had to rest for a week.
“Those are the recommended guidelines for this type of concussion,” Maroon explained.
“Well, who wrote the guidelines?” Noll said.
Maroon informed the coach that, in fact,
had, along with other top neurosurgeons experienced in sports medicine. The guidelines were based on previous experiments that had examined the effects of mild traumatic brain injury, the medical term for a concussion.In one series of early experiments, professors at Wayne State University dropped dogs, pigs, pregnant baboons, and human cadavers down an elevator shaft to study the effects of concussions. In another experiment, a researcher put metal helmets on monkeys and applied pneumatic arms, which were propelled back and forth rapidly, violently shaking the monkeys’ heads. The monkeys were then euthanized and their brains cut out to examine the