Hurts so dumb
(Reprinted from Jan. 22, 2009)
Any of us whose personalities contain at least a drop of decency tend to refrain from laughing at another person’s misfortune.
But sometimes it’s difficult. That’s especially true when the individual involved is some rough-guy jock, whose entire career is built upon the premise of physical superiority in comparison to the geeky fans who worship him.
However, not all maladies are created equal. On-the-job injuries can actually enhance an athlete’s toughness quotient. Case in point: Joe Theismann.
The former Washington Redskins and Notre Dame quarterback often gets bad-rapped because he appears guilty of a bit more self-adoration than is generally considered acceptable. No question, Theismann has a runaway ego, but no one can ever question his grit after the brutal hit once put on him by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in a Monday night game many years ago.
Theismann’s leg got bent in a direction a human limb is not designed to go, and the snapping of the bone was allegedly audible. Even the most hardened football fanatics were sickened by the sight and sound, which included Theismann screaming in pain. No one mocked him for that, though, knowing the post-injury reaction likely would have been the same for anyone else put in that position.
But for every heroic injury like the one endured by Theismann, there is an almost-laughable counterpart.
Former Arizona Cardinals place-kicker Bill Gramatica, for example, once tore his ACL after celebrating a made field goal by jumping up and down a little too vigorously. Here’s the funniest part: It wasn’t a playoff game-winner, but a kick made during the first quarter of a regular-season contest. A Florida State player duplicated Gramatica’s stunt this past season after making an interception against Boston College.
Remembering Gramatica’s fluke injury got me to thinking about many other sports-world mishaps that didn’t result from in-game contact of any kind. There are more than you may realize.
See how many of these you recall:
• Proving that bad decision-making doesn’t only afflict flaky place-kickers, former Washington Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte chose to head-butt a wall located behind the end zone after scoring a touchdown. In doing so, Frerotte injured his neck and missed the remainder of that 1997 contest.
• In 2002, baseball player Marty Cordova was forced to miss a few games because of sunburn. Did he get it from playing too many July ballgames without an adequate amount of sun block? Nope, Cordova charred himself by falling asleep in a tanning bed.
• On the flip side of temperature-induced stupidity, we find recent Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Henderson. Stealing more than 1,000 bases must have really exhausted Henderson because he once fell asleep on an ice pack and stayed in that spot long enough to incur frostbite, which removed him from the lineup for a time.
• Proving that simple household chores can be debilitating if performed incorrectly, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz once burned his chest by trying to iron the shirt he was wearing and major-league pitcher Adam Eaton stabbed himself while attempting to remove the security tape from a DVD. Honorable mention goes to second baseman Jeff Kent, who got hurt by slipping on a wet surface while washing his truck.
• Losing his balance while putting on cowboy boots was enough to once sideline baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, while ex-Cub Moises Alou twice injured his knee away from the baseball field. He initially did so by falling off a treadmill, then aggravated it a few months later by running over his son with a bicycle.
Lest we think that Chicago athletes are immune from such silliness — Alou, after all, was guilty of his goofy acts prior to playing for the Cubs — here’s proof that’s far from true:
• Young Bulls star Derrick Rose, like Adam Eaton, should be kept far, far away from the cutlery drawer. A while back, the rookie guard sliced his hand while trying to do the same to an apple he was eating in bed.
• Former Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal missed games because his eyelid allegedly got stuck shut and he was kept awake all night by crickets in his hotel room.
• And, of course, who can forget the infamous Sammy Sosa sneeze that threw out his back?
The list goes on and on. In fact, I plan to revisit this subject again because there are just too many classics to ignore.
If you have any personal favorites I haven’t yet mentioned, let me know. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll print some of the best ones.
In the meantime, you may want to let someone else wash your truck, iron your shirts and open your DVDs. There’s no sense in tempting fate, you know.