by Amy Conn, special to ContractBud.com|
Play Hurt, Be A Hero
Is this the message we want to send to our kids?
The baseball season has now ended after two spectacular evenly matched playoff series and the Red Sox finally breaking the curse. Fans and sportswriters alike are heralding the heroes of the game. But let's look at some of those heroes.
Yet as I watched these two incredible athletes perform, with the press crediting these heroes for their toughness to perform despite their injuries, I couldn't help but think Is this the message we really want to send to our kids? Play hurt, be a hero.
- The Cardinals' second baseman, Tony Womack, had a spectacular performance. Despite back spasms, he hit well, stole bases, and fielded some pretty tough plays.
- Curt Schilling, with a torn tendon sheath, pitched to help the Red Sox win the World Series.
Tony Womack was clearly suffering. If you've ever had a back spasm, or even witnessed one, you could appreciate his gut-wrenching grimace as he swung that bat, slid into second base to steal the bag, and ran like hell from third base to beat the throw at home. His face was so contorted at times, he almost didn't look human.
Curt Schilling had to have surgery to play. We saw blood coming through his sock as he pitched something the media just had to show over and over again to emphasize how incredible his performance was under the circumstances. Topping that off, they were talking about the possibility of having to perform the surgery again if the Series went further, and Schilling would have to pitch again.
Did these players contribute to their team's successes? Absolutely.
Does that justify putting them in the game in the first place? Absolutely not.
We watch this same trend over and over again. Football is another classic example. Anyone who watched Troy Aikman play through his entire last season in a dazed fog due to repeated head trauma knows what I'm talking about. Gilbert Brown playing one out of every four plays because of bad ankles. Brett Favre going back into the game without medical clearance to throw a touchdown. The list goes on and on and on.
I know what everyone's thinking, "Yeah, but those are great players. The teams can't afford to play without them." And I say that's crap. Just as I believe that no game can be won or lost by a bad call you should be able to win without it coming down to such measures I believe teams should have enough talent on their bench so that they don't have to force players to play hurt.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe anyone held a gun to Favre's head and said "get in there." In fact, my guess is, it would have taken 5 guys to restrain Favre from going back out on to that field. But that's my point. We've built a culture that playing hurt is cause for idolization. Play, win. You're hurt? Here's a shot. Now get in there and play to win.
What message does this send to all those players and coaches of the Pop Warner, junior varsity, varsity, and college teams? Making Schilling a hero for his performance leads to so many kids saying "I want to be just like him." Many of these players, whose careers end at the mid-point of their lives, will suffer from permanent injury and chronic pain. But they were a god at age 28. Is that what matters?
Sports management has to take more responsibility for the morality of the game, not just winning the game. If one player is that indispensable, then as a coach or general manager, you're not doing your job.
I also believe officials should play a stronger role in guiding the ethics of the game. Ironically, one of the most violent sports boxing has clear rules that if the referee feels the boxer can no longer continue, the match is called. Why can't the same rules apply to other sports? Bleeding through the sock while pitching?! Curt, have a seat. You're done.
Let's worship our heroes. Let's give credit where credit is due. But let's also protect the players, and the future players, of the game.
Read the rebuttal from her own brother!