Jay Cutler's Road Fighting Diabetes and Playing Quarterback in the NFL

Jay Cutler's Road Fighting Diabetes and Playing Quarterback in the NFL
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler is not the type of guy who likes to make excuses for himself. He doesn't want anyone else doing it for him either.

"What worried me was, if I went out and had a bad game, people would be like, 'let's give him a break, he has Type 1 diabetes,'" Cutler told Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver in 2008. "I don't want that. I want to be judged like any other quarterback."

Jay Cutler's attitude is nothing short of admirable.

The mistake many people make, is confusing Type 1 diabetes with Type 2. Or, simply believing there is not much difference between the two at all. There could be nothing further from the truth.

Of all people who refer to themselves as "diabetic," approximately 90% have been diagnosed with Type 2.

While both conditions have to do with the body's inability to regulate blood sugar, Type 2 is more of a condition or affliction, brought on by poor diet and obesity, which can be regulated with diet and exercise; Type 1 is more simply an incurable disease.

It is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks cells in the pancreas which make insulin, a hormone that controls a person's blood sugar. There's nothing a person willfully does that triggers it.

"The first thing I do in the morning is test myself to see where I am, and it's the last thing I do before I go to bed," Cutler said. "This whole thing is a little scary sometimes, but it's not like you have a choice. It's part of your life, you know?"

There's really no other way to put it than this: People living with Type 1 diabetes must take several doses of insulin every day just to survive. Sometimes, even that is not enough. Studies have suggested that the life expectancy for people suffering from Type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as many as 15 years.

But how does all of this affect Jay Cutler's ability to play football? Or to be "nice to the media," for that matter?

Some of the more common causes of dangerous fluctuations in insulin levels in patients with Type 1 diabetes can be stress, an adrenaline rush or strong physical activity. All of the things an NFL quarterback faces each week.

"I check my blood sugar about four or five times before a game. I try to stay around 150-160 before kickoff. When you get the adrenaline rushing, things can change pretty quickly, so when we come off the field after an offensive series in the first half, I'll test again to make sure I'm not getting low."

For athletes suffering with Type 1, it becomes very easy to overshoot their insulin dose and get low. If that happens, oxygen will gradually stop flowing to the brain, and without a dose of simple-carbohydrate sugar, the person can become disoriented, suffer from vision loss, or have a seizure resulting in long-term brain damage, coma or death.

I remember watching the mentally and physically tough Jay Cutler nearly brought to tears after hearing how players around the league questioned his toughness following the NFC title game vs. the Packers, and it pissed me off.

Nobody knows, to any degree whatsoever, what Jay Cutler has to go through to play at the high level he does. No one except Jay Cutler. Yes, I'm talking to you Deion Sanders, Mark Schlereth, Maurice Jones-Drew, and all the ignorant fans sitting on their couches at home, slowly eating themselves to a far more fitting-fate of Type 2 diabetes.

100% of Cutler's critics after that game made a mistake; a mistake that humans make every day. You were quick to judgment. So was I. Instead of continuing to question Cutler's toughness, backpedal and make excuses for your own lack of testicular fortitude, how about being a man yourself and admitting you were wrong?

I'm not suggesting to you that Cutler's diabetes was a factor in that game, I don't know that. What I am trying to do is paint the picture of a guy struggling to do his job in a way other's cannot understand. A guy struggling to do his job, without making excuses, while the rest of the world crucifies him.

I don't expect the expect the tradesman, currently laid off, struggling to make ends meet, a victim of irresponsible business practices, to feel particularly bad for the $35 million dollar QB. I just hope you understand that everything in life is relative.

Cutler's status in society makes him no less human; it makes it no less difficult to deal with those who would have the gall to question your heart.

Jay Cutler may not approve of my pining for him; he may not care for the excuses to be made on his behalf. In fact, that's a big part of what makes him tough to begin with.

Cutler has at least one professional athlete on his side, however. Charles Barkley spoke out on his behalf, saying "I was mad at players, to be honest with you. I think it was wrong to question a guy's heart. That crosses the line."

Yes, I'm just as tired of this argument as the rest of you. I'm just as sick to my stomach of having to defend Cutler amidst the army of meathead morons and insecure idiots as the other true-blue (and orange) Bears fans out there.

But just like those people fully intend to continue to take cheap shots at Cutler, I'll continue take the far more deserving shots at them.

Luckily, I very seriously doubt that Jay is doomed to face this particular criticism for the rest of his career. It was just two months ago that he was revered as one of the toughest players in the league. Everything in due time Bears fans, everything in due time . . . This too shall pass.


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  • Do I sense a crush on our Chicago quarterback, LOL??? I don't think any of us know whether or not Kristin is good or bad for Jay. I haven't seen them out partying or being "scandalous." You said it yourself, it's none of our business. I don

  • Thank you for the wonderful and educational article. As a parent with a son with Type 1 diabetes it annoys me when they are confused with Type 2 diabetes. Both are serious diseases in their own right, however as you stated, Type 1 diabetes is NOT something one brings upon oneself in any way. It occurs because the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. If they do not take insulin by injection they will die, plain and simple. I know most people do not understand the difference but they do not take the extra time to find out either.

    People with Type 1 have to be in tune with their bodies, knowing how they are feeling and what it could mean at any given moment. I'm sure Jay has been to many a press conference where his blood sugars were a bit off, which can result in being a little anxious, tired, irritated. Too bad more of the media does not take this into account before throwing him into the fire. This is not something Rodgers, Manning, Rivers, Brady, Sanchez, Ryan, or any other QB has to deal with along with the media. Jay does not want it to be a factor, and that is cool, but how can he possibly get away from it not being at times.

    He is an inspiration to MANY children, teenagers and adults also living with this everyday. Too bad most of the media can't see that. Because that would be a REAL story.

    I will support Jay on whatever team he is on. Oh and Deion Sanders, Mark Schlereth, Maurice Jones-Drew, and all the ignorant fans sitting on their couches at home....get over yourselves already.

  • In reply to dennie:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate the thoughtful words, and wish your family well in dealing with this disease.

  • In reply to dennie:

    I know I'm late to the party but here here! Well written and explained in such simplistic detail that even the most ignorant of the many mouth breathers out there can understand. Don't get me wrong they would still disagree, but they would at least know that they're stupid and now would be just reacting to save face and just pure hate. Once people hate you it seems it stays forever till you kill someone or something, Supposedly find God, blurt your favorite God phrase like God is good or some other insincere crap, and than everyone will love you again. certainly not because of an unforgivable offense for not giving a rats ass what anyone who has no bearing on his life and doesn't pay his bills thinks. Namely the aforementioned Mouth breathers, and the elitist EX-players who want their rings kissed among other things.

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