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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Trying to Contain Max Lane

What could be better than being a pro-athlete? Well, being a retired pro-athlete, of course. At least that’s what we took away from our recent interview with Max Lane, a former offensive lineman for the New England Patriots. While relaxing mid-week, Max talked about his roots in rural Missouri and how football brought him to Boston. He also shared his outlook on the current state of the NFL, the Patriots’ imminent return to dominance, and some moments from his time on the field. But life after the league is pretty busy. Max is not only working, but also involved in his own charity organization that finds creative outlets to raise money for children.

MM: What’s going on in your life right now? How are you staying busy?

ML: The charity I started, The “To the Max” charitable foundation keeps me busy. I’ve done charity stuff around Boston since I’ve been here. Working with the Patriots, you’re kind of forced to. Then, from doing it there, it became fun, it became more voluntary, so when people would ask me, I’d do it. Theres a lot of different charities around town. The retired pro-athlete in Boston isn’t forgotten up here. Over time they tend to forget the bad stuff and remember the good stuff. People keep their interest. Last year during the fall, I had a couple friends that went to put together a food thing. They wanted to do food, and I knew a guy who did a barbeque sauce, and I said ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do a tailgate party’? We cooked up that idea.

I told [my girlfriend] Jackye about it and then she asked, ‘well, why don’t you do it for charity’? and then it became Tailgating to the Max. From that, Jackye recommended starting a foundation. I’ve been to the cocktail parties, live auctions, golf tournaments, etc. I went to them and found them a bit saturated. I wanted to find other creative ways to raise money. Tailgating was a fun way to have food, fun, sponsors, bands, and that kind of thing. The next thing I came up with was triathlons. I did my first one with Jackye last year, and she came up with the idea to do it for charity, so we call it “Tri’s to the Max”. My ultimate dream is to have a flag football team in Boston.

That’s the gist of how that was started. Our mission is to seek and employ creative avenues in which to raise money, and to include every level of donor. I’ve realized these fancy charity dinners in Boston are charging $1,500 a ticket to go to. It’s arrogant to ask for that. It’s nice if you can afford it, but I think everyone deserves a chance to donate, and a lot of people get priced out of it due to entrance fees. I like making ways that the blue collar person can give back, and also have fun.

MM: Here’s a memorable moment for ya. From Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay packers, the three words: ‘ok, go ahead.’

ML: Ha! That was from the ESPN interview! Just like I told them, going into the game we had a plan. We were playing against Reggie White, probably considered one of the best defensive linemen in history, and going into that game, the tight end [Ben Coates] kind of hit him. We cut him off, he lost balance, and it was going well in the first half.

There wasn’t this feeling of panic, [the Green Bay Packers] had to respect the running game. We got into half time and [Ben] comes over to me and says, ‘Hey Max, looks like you’re doing alright in there.’ Then he said he’s not going to hit Reggie anymore and I said ‘ok, go ahead.’ At that point I realized what I’d done. After years of over analyzing it, I was thinking I shouldn’t have done it. If we had stayed with that game plan, I don’t know whether or not it would’ve changed the outcome of the game.

Sometimes I think back, ‘what if a coach poses that question to you’? It’s like a challenge. For a competitive person, you’re going to take it all on. Nothing like that was ever proposed to me without consulting the coaching staff. I wouldn’t watch it because I didn’t want to see it, because it would probably make me cringe or get up and do the movements. Now it’s in the past. Over time you can put things in perspective. A lot of times when you make mistakes on that type of stage, you tend to blow those plays out of proportion, especially with the media and fans that make it out to be more than it was. Was it a factor in the game? Yeah, but not the only one.

MM: Tom Brady is back for ’09. How dangerous are the Pats going to be?

ML: He’s back from his injury and I think he’ll be all right. They signed Fred Taylor; some of the moves they’re making will put them in a good situation. I think they’re going to be in great shape for the season. Every year, they’re a threat to go all the way. It will be interesting to see how Brady comes back from the injury. Ever since he’s been here, everyone knows how hard he works on and off the field. They’re in pretty good shape.

MM: Concerning the recent studies on head trauma from football players and life expectancy, have you known someone who has suffered from something like that?

ML: Ted Johnson. Him and I played together for years and when he left football there were things that he said about the ways the Pats dealt with him and the players regarding problems with concussions. There’s also Chris Nowinski. He went to Harvard, played football, became a pro wrestler, and got tons of concussions. He started a foundation called Sports Legacy to start doing studies on peoples’ brains and the impact of concussions on a person. There’s been stuff aside from that. There’s been players who have killed themselves, died, or had things happen to them and they’re attributing it to their playing days. It’s a pretty hot issue.

I’m not sure if they’re trying to find fault somewhere, or just trying to make people aware of it. Playing offensive line is different than being a linebacker or running back where there are those impact collisions. What I’ve heard about concussions is that you don’t have to be in that position to have concussions. There’s a term: a “stinger,” where your bell gets rung a little bit, and that’s basically a concussion right there. It’s not necessarily when you’re passed out and unconscious. Right now I think the struggle they’re having is finding the best way to test for this kind of thing. The only way you can find out is after someone dies. Some donate their brain to be used for study, which is the most accurate way to find out about it.

I think it’s pretty important, but I always knew it was a dangerous sport from the beginning. There are risks we take everyday, whether it’s football, leaving the house, or driving in Boston. No one can live in a bubble.

For more of Max Lane and his full, uncut interview, go to umassmedia.com