CRAWFORD | How careful should athletes be in real-life activities?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — What, these guys aren’t supposed to have lives? Rory McIlroy is supposed to sit around and watch his friends playing pickup soccer and not join in? Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t supposed to light fireworks on the Fourth of July?
It was a costly weekend for pro athletes trying to live regular lives.
McIlroy is likely out of the British Open after suffering a total rupture of his left ankle “in a soccer kickabout with friends” on Saturday.
Soccer? I’m sorry, you don’t see Neymar getting hurt on the eve of a big match because he sprained his shoulder trying to drive a par-4 at Barcelona Country Club. But it is the world’s game, I suppose. (McIlroy, in disclosing his injury on Instagram, already is taking heat for calling it soccer, not football, by the way.)
One problem is that you never know how intense these pickup games get. My kids played soccer on Saturday. It turned into a game of “Red Rover.” But look, it’s not like he crushed his ankle taking a curve too fast in his Aston Martin. Or, for that matter, burnt it lighting fireworks.
Which brings us to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who apparently suffered burns to his palm and three fingers, and may have some nerve damage after an accident with a firework.
Here’s the painful part. Team officials, fretful that his injuries might keep him out past the start of the season, and dubious of his judgment in detonating fireworks himself in the first place, pulled their $60 million contract extension offer on Monday, though a $14.8 million franchise tender remains on the table unless medical exams confirm worse news for the sack specialist, or he accidentally sets fire to it trying to fire off the rest of his arsenal.
Here’s Pierre-Paul, the contract literally in his possession but unsigned, literally playing with fire.
(Please, grammar observers, grant me some bonus points for two correct uses of “literally” in the same sentence. Thank you.)
Yes, I suppose he could’ve used better judgment. Adam Schein, of Mad Dog Sports Radio (a host I like, by the way), said of Paul, “What kind of 26-year-old man making millions of dollars, without technically a signed NFL contract because he’s the franchise tagged player, sets fireworks? Congratulations J.P.P. You are the dumbest person in America this weekend.”
I can’t agree. There were LOTS of dumber people in America last weekend. I mean, Donald Trump had to be doing something.
And again, there’s a lot here we don’t know. It’s one thing if a firework malfunctioned. It’s another if he was pretending to be Bugs Bunny using a stick of TNT like a cigar.
What I can agree to is that a guy like Pierre-Paul, who has made $17 million in five NFL seasons, can afford to hire someone to set off his fireworks. Sure, it’s not as fun as doing it yourself. But who does he think he is? Elvis? As I always say, it’s all fun and games until people start blowing up extremities.
Still, all of this leads to the question: How much should athletes be obligated to avoid risk in order to do their jobs?
I think we just have to take it on a case-by-case basis, as these two incidents show.
For instance, let’s look at some OK, not-OK scenarios that have actually happened.
OK: Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson and kicker Jaret Holmes having fondue. Surely no one would object to that. Except that the fondue pot got overturned and Hanson wound up with first- and second-degree burns on both hands and his left ankle while Holmes suffered multiple burns. The incident happened in 2002 and neither missed significant time.
Not OK: Pitcher Nolan Ryan stuck his left hand into a cage that was holding three coyotes. Predictably, he got bit. At least, you could argue, it wasn’t his throwing hand. Also, not smart. I picture Will Ferrell trying to get in the car with a cougar in Talladega Nights. I wonder if Ryan was wearing a Crystal Gayle shirt?
OK: San Diego pitcher Adam Eaton got a new DVD and tried to cut off the cellophane wrapping with a knife. Who hasn’t done that? Who doesn’t have a tale to tell about the hard-to-unwrap item? What kind of sadistic SOBs come up with the packaging on some of this stuff? But I digress. Eaton just happened to stab himself in the stomach while trying to accomplish it. He missed one start. I hope at least it was a good movie.
Not OK: Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tullouch sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers in a 2014 game, which is fine. Then he gave a particularly enthusiastic and mocking rendition of Rodgers’ “discount double check” and wound up tearing his ACL. A good reason to act like you’ve been there.
OK. Or, maybe, not OK: Mandatory team-building activities before training camp. Sure, they sound fun. (Why at this point do you expect the music from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to start playing?) Washington safety LaRon Landry missed the team’s three-day minicamp in 2007 when he was shot in the groin while playing paintball. Probably not the best team-building choice by coaches. Nor was the kickball game they set up in Miami Dolphins camp just last month, which left Caleb Sturgis with a quadriceps injury. Sturgis, of course, is a kicker.
Not all weird offseason injuries are created equal. Louisville center Anas Mahmoud twisted his knee and suffered torn cartilage in a pickup game early last month.
You can’t put bubble wrap on these guys. Ballplayers are going to play ball during the summer. But you can reasonably expect them not to be reckless. There’s a whole lot of gray area between burning your hand on a tipped fondue pot and getting it bit by sticking it into a cage of coyotes.
They don’t hire these guys for their IQ. They once asked Antoine Walker why he took so many threes and he said, “Because there are no fours.” Michael Jordan owns an NBA team, is fabulously wealthy and may have been the greatest NBA player of all time. They asked him what his favorite thing to see in Paris was and he said, “I enjoyed the Luge.”
All you can do is play it smart. Even then, you can’t always keep life from happening. But just by way of public service — whatever crazy stuff you have planned this week, sign the contract first.
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