This week in sports: The Carolina Panthers equipment manager has a mercifully polite encounter with a fan, N.F.L. retirees are suing the league for over-prescribing painkillers, and a miraculous recovery in a sailing race.
- The final installment of that three-part New York Times series on hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard ran Tuesday, providing the medical-science payoff that helps explain his death. After first introducing Boogaard and explaining how he got into the odd career of professional hockey fighter in part 1, and giving an overview of his famed but brief career in part 2, writer John Branch tells what doctors found when they examined the athlete's brain after his premature death: "Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E., a close relative of Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. It can be diagnosed only posthumously, but scientists say it shows itself in symptoms like memory loss, impulsiveness, mood swings, even addiction." Boogaard died of a drug and alcohol overdose at the age of 28, much younger than the boxers and fellow hockey players also diagnosed with C.T.E. Like the rest of the series, the feature on how the condition manifested in Boogard is a long one, but if you've got some time, it's worth it. [The New York Times]
- The Carolina Panthers' assistant equipment manager got a chance to shine after Cam Newton made his record 13th rushing touchdown Sunday at Tampa Bay -- one he'd probably rather have skipped. The manager, Don Toner, had to ask a 16-year-old girl to give back the touchdown ball back after Newton handed it to her in celebration. Awkward! The team's manager knew they'd have to preserve the ball for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. He tells ESPN: "The funny thing is when Cam scored and started running over there, we're all yelling, 'Oh no, don't ... It was like watching it happen in slow motion. It was painful." Fortunately the fan, Katie Brown, gave the ball back with no fuss. "She was real sweet about it. She didn't hesitate. She was so excited, she was trembling. She was just giddy about what had just happened," Toner said. It's a feel-good story better suited to a small-town newspaper than ESPN, but when it has to do with a hall of fame ball, one makes exceptions. [ESPN]
- Orlando Magic CEO Vander Weide is retiring after just a year and a half as top executive (though after 20 years with the team) after he drunk-dialed Magic superstar Dwight Howard. Orlando's CF News has the [priceless] quotes: "Vander Weide confirmed that he made a 1 a.m. phone call in recent days to Magic superstar Dwight Howard, and Howard thought Vander Weide may have been intoxicated. On that call, Vander Weide told Howard how much the Magic wanted to keep him in Orlando. 'I was playing paddle with friends and had a couple of glasses of wine,' Vander Weide told BHSN. 'Maybe Dwight thought it was inappropriate to talk business after a couple of glasses of wine... Maybe I should have waited until the morning.' " Sounds like there are no hard feelings with Howard, but drunk-dialing the talent is apparently frowned upon in sports executive circles. [CF News via Deadspin]
- A dozen retired N.F.L. players are suing the league for over-using the pain reliever Toradol during games, a practice they say made injuries like concussions even worse because the blood-thinning drug makes it harder to interpret pain. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Joe Horn told The New York Times that players on his team, the New Orleans Saints, and the Altanta Falcons took the drug "like clockwork." The complaint paints a disturbing picture: "The plaintiffs have described the situation as one of being in a pregame locker room with players lining up to receive injections of Toradol in a ‘cattle call’ with no warnings of any sort being given, no distinguishing between different medical conditions of the players, and regardless of whether the player had an injury of any kind." N.F.L. spokesman Greg Aiello said the allegations were bunk, and the league "has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so." [The New York Times]
- The Puma sailing crew is apparently set to be a contender once more in the Volvo Ocean Race after their mast broke off during the first leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. After a seemingly miraculous trip under the power of a jury-rigged sail got them to the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan de Cunha, a freighter picked them in a perilous operation with a crane and is due into Cape Town Tuesday night. The crew expects to be ready to set sail for the second leg of the race, which starts Saturday. [The Telegraph]