Reviewing Kassulke

If you ever heard his name you remember it. If you ever watched him play football, you remember it. This week I want to talked about hard-tackling Minnesota Vikings’ legend, Karl Kassulke-and most of what I write will have little to do with football.

I just finished reading two books about Karl Kassulke; the first was written by Kassulke’s ex-wife, Dr Jan Thatcher Adams. Thatcher- Adam’s 2011 book is titled “Football wife: Coming of age in the NFL as Mrs. Karl Kassulke.” This was a very detailed look at a newly-married, vulnerable young couple as they face rewards and struggles of both Karl’s ten year career as a Minnesota Viking and Jan’s hard work at the University of Minnesota to become a Family Physician.

Karl Kassulke’s 1981 book is titled “Kassulke.” It details his hard-hitting style of football for Bud Grant’s Minnesota Vikings and hard-living lifestyle which eventually lead to a motorcycle accident and paralysis then finally to redemption and accepting Christ.

The books are very different, so much so that it is hard to understand how either of these two people ever married. Thatcher-Adams did medical research work prior to becoming a doctor and so her book is detailed. It is also very frank and talks often about the results of a life in the spotlight and on the field. The spotlight makes Jan feel very vulnerable while life for Karl on the football field gives him a lot of adoration even as the concussions he receives take much away. Kassulke’s book is more about football stories, his paralysis after the motorcycle accident and eventually becoming a Christian.

I think the one story through both books was that both authors were good people. They both worked hard, accomplished much and did good for others. They were both honest and kind but married very young before much of their growth occurred. Thatcher-Adams’ perspective on life changed through education while Kassulke’s growth was more emotional maturity and spirituality. Both authors really struggled and learned from these struggles but it was relationships outside the marriage that killed their marriage. These affairs occurred prior to a time when their individual growth might have intersected and brought them together as should be a wife and husband.

The side story of Thatcher-Adams book is CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) which occurs when the brain receives repeated concussions and leads to loss of memory, dementia and depression. I am reading a book about this degenerative disease titled, “League of Denial” and it describes some very sad endings to professional football careers.

The books authored by Dr Thatcher-Adams and Karl Kassulke are ultimately triumphant and testify to the human spirit. Thatcher-Adams spent much of her life working as a Doctor in Shakopee, Minnesota and is still a medical doctor. She did work with Dr. Patch Adams (no relationship), eventually re-married and helped many people through her medical practice, Kassulke spent the rest of his life as a paraplegic but re-married, had another son with his wife Susan and healed the spiritual needs of many by showing them a path to knowing God. He also got back to his beloved football field as he became a coach at Bethel College. Kassulke died in 2008, while Thatcher-Adams still has an active practice.

I would like to pretend my appreciation of these two books was purely intellectual. They were both interesting and covered important topics however I think my enjoyment had less to do with content and more the fact that I simply liked both authors. Kassulke was from Wisconsin while Thatcher-Adams was born in South Dakota. Their stories of Midwest life, and the quiet issues we all deal with, endeared them to me in such a way that I felt myself having converations with each of them in my mind. I guess stirring some thought is the goal of any book. Both of these books are available on Amazon for pennies but there value is much greater.

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