A not-so-thin line between life and sports

| Staff Columnist

I used to think there were more important things in the world than sports. After all, if we say something’s “for sport,” it usually implies at least some level of diversion from everyday life. Sure there’s a competitive element, but ultimately this has to take a back seat to one’s well-being, right?

Of course if you followed last week’s news of the odd, than you almost certainly know where I’m going with this. An offensive lineman at a Division II school chose football over a finger. Let me say that again: when told he needed season-ending surgery on his dislocated pinky, he told the doctors just to lop it off so that he could play. Now, before you pronounce final judgment on this guy, you should note two arguments that can be made in support of his choice. The first is that football’s been his life since he was playing Pop Warner, and now he’s a senior with just a couple of games left in his career. The second is that a person can survive without one little pinky.

Be that as it may, however, this is just the latest publicized account of athletes prioritizing sports over life. How often do we hear after the fact that someone took the field with a broken this or a torn that? More often than not, playing injured backfires and the quarterback throws four interceptions or the pitcher gives up eight runs. Yet the most shocking part about all this, at least to me, is that the injury often becomes the source of blame for the poor performance. Coaches are likely to say that someone didn’t have their “A” game because they were injured, instead of bringing up the fact that they shouldn’t have been playing at all. One would think the reason behind this is to avoid criticism for allowing an athlete to play injured, but this isn’t the case. In fact, I constantly hear the media rip athletes who don’t play as being “soft,” when any doctor would call it a basic concern for one’s well-being.

Yes, clichés like “chicks dig scars” and “pain is temporary, pride lasts forever” can be found a dime a dozen in our culture today, and it’s generally valid to argue that a professional athlete playing a little banged up is just like the office worker who goes in with a cold. But even for the toughest of the tough, there is a threshold beyond which the only option is calling in sick. If I’ve got a 102 fever, I stay in a day or two and get better. I don’t go to class, where I might only make my illness worse.

All of this seems like it should be common sense, but evidently to people like Trevor Wikre (of the amputated pinky), there are some things more important than a measly appendage. Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to milk all this publicity for enough TV appearances to let him live happily for the rest of his life. But what happens if he finishes his football career, maybe in the process even winning some awards or leading his team deep into the playoffs, only to find that perhaps he was a bit rash in getting rid of that finger, that having 10 fingers instead of nine might just have made the rest of his life a lot easier? Unlikely, yes, but it could happen.

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