By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA
“Suck it up and play through it”. We’ve all heard the expression – the last time I did was about a month and a half ago from my father; I called him near tears because my foot hurt “so bad” and I had no idea what was wrong with it. He told me to wrap it up, tough it out, and call him in the morning if the pain got worse. If there’s one thing I learned from my father it’s that a little pain can’t keep you out of the game.
Or can it?
Last Sunday, in the NFC Championship game, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was sidelined with a knee injury. We now know that he suffered a sprained MCL. Throughout the game the exact details of the injury were a mystery, and my father wasn’t there to tell him to wrap it up and tough it out. Before Jay Cutler knew it, he had a media hailstorm on his hands. Twitter is blowin’ up questioning his toughness, sports talk radio is going ape shit, and ESPN just will – not– let – it –go. Every player in the NFL has got something to say about Cutler, even that third-stringer who no one has heard of is getting his fifteen minutes with a jab at Jay. Legendary coach Mike Ditka insists that it would take a paralyzing injury to remove him from a game. Not likely Ditka, but I appreciate you sticking to your Ditka-style of flair for the dramatic.
This got me thinking about watches. No, really, this will connect. Timex once had a slogan that was “Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking” and this seems to be the mentality that we, as fans, are applying to professional athletes as of late. If someone gets hurt they are almost expected to keep playing, keep pushing, keep extending themselves beyond their physical limitations. Many of them do it with great success; look at Tom Brady. Brady is always injured: shoulder problems, broken fingers, cracked ribs, and we’ve recently learned that he played nearly the entire 2010 season with a stress fracture in his foot. Curt Schilling, a la 2004, dominates the Yankees in the ALCS Championship Series as blood seeps out of his ankle sutures into the white cotton of his sock. Fans love that stuff, but at what price – the expense of a player’s physical health?
Look at Jacoby Ellsbury, early 2010, cracked ribs, big mess – he tried to come back too early and what happened? The injury ended up being season ending. Fans questioned his toughness. I’m not a baseball player, but if my ribs were cracked I’d stay home too, seriously. Do you think he enjoyed sitting on the bench? This is a guy who is on Web Gems almost every other week; I doubt it.
So, did Jay Cutler make the right decision to come out of the second biggest football game of the NFL Season? I don’t have the answer to that, but what I do know is that Cutler is not a watch, and I think that sometimes fans can forget that athletes are people too. I’m guilty of it myself. Yes he stood on the sideline, yes he was on the bike, but imagine he had gone back in and been hit again, which is likely, because this is football. What then – an injury that could take the entire off-season to repair, something devastating and career ending? It’s possible and then we would’ve wondered why he didn’t stay out. And as far as his facial expressions – you could call it “detached” or “uncaring” as most people have. But for a second consider that maybe it is disappointment or devastation, consider that maybe Cutler isn’t a piece of machinery, but a human.