Looking at injuries

How much do fans care about violence in sports?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Despite initial opinions from doctors that he will likely never walk again, fans are breathing easier after reports that Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett has regained some control of his arms and legs.

Everett should now hopefully walk again after a cervical spine fracture, which left him motionless on the turf during Buffalo’s week one loss to the Denver Broncos, and fans can begin to move on with their lives.

That’s a big problem.

Fans of Buffalo and the NFL have followed the story closely and shown a lot of support for Everett, but let’s be honest " within a couple of weeks, the story would have lost traction in favour of newer and bigger news, with Everett walking or not.

Given how quickly we forget about injured players, can we really say we care at all? Does it mean anything to support crippled athletes in the initial days after the hit, then forget about them while they come to grips with the fact they’ll be in a wheelchair their entire life?

Get well soon cards are fine, but how much consolation will Everett have while he goes through rehab, enduring the painstaking process of re-learning to control his extremities?

We as fans claim to care about professional athletes, who we gleefully watch each week risking their bodies. At the end of the day, though, how do their hardships end up affecting us? Can any of us honestly say we’ll lose sleep in six months because of Everett’s injury?

What about Steve Moore? His name comes up fairly often if Todd Bertuzzi is being criticized, but how often do you think about him outside of argument over his attacker? On more than one occasion, I’ve expressed to friends that he wouldn’t have been a decent NHL player anyway, showing where my priorities lie.

Anytime an injury like this happens, we talk about the brutality of sports. Athletes sacrifice their bodies week in and week out, willing to risk permanent injury for fame, money and love of the game.

Clubs are constantly accused of not caring. Former Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent wrote in his book North Dallas Forty that football players are simply pieces of equipment to their franchises, used until they’re broken and then disposed of.

The NFL is currently fighting with former players over pensions for those suffering from chronic effects of injuries, specifically post-concussion syndrome.

All these issues are addressed often in the media, but it’s rare we as fans face the scorn we deserve for our role in this process. After all, Gent’s claim could very well extend to us.

The first question we ask when an athlete hits the turf isn’t whether he’ll be alright, but rather how important that player is to the team’s success " we think of them as athletes first and people second.

Until we start recognizing athlete injuries as what they are " potentially life-ruining health risks suffered by real people " we have no right to criticize athletes, franchises or sports in general for their violent tendencies.

We’re as bad as they are.

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