Theater of Pain
I called McGahee recently. He now plays for the Denver Broncos and was recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament. With the playoffs approaching, and with NFL injuries becoming ever more of “an issue” — the global warming of American sports fans, something to be fretted over and put aside — I wanted to talk to someone whose career has been defined by very public injuries and whose very public injuries have defined the state of football over the last ten years. But he didn’t see it that way. “Injury has not been part of my career,” he said. “I’ve only gotten hurt twice. I got hurt once in college and once in the pros.”
Right, but that second injury, against the Steelers…
“No. I mean now. The MCL.”
“So you don’t consider the concussion an injury?”
“That’s what they consider it. But getting a concussion and hurting your knee are two different things. You get back up from a concussion.” Willis McGahee was knocked out cold against the Steelers. He went out on the board. He didn’t consider himself injured, though, because like all NFL players he considers himself an expert in what qualifies as an injury and what doesn’t. The loss of consciousness he suffered in Pittsburgh didn’t qualify because it didn’t require rehabilitation. It didn’t put his career in jeopardy. It didn’t exile him from his teammates.
And most of all, it didn’t hurt.
There might have been a time when this Esquire article would have shocked the American public. After all, players keeping pain journals (before they become human veggies), taking Toradol like it's a daily multi-vitamin, and distrusting team doctors so much they bring in their own are all disturbing revelations.
But apparently they're not disturbing enough. The NFL is as popular as ever, the current generation of players knows the risks, and the ranks of college players continues to swell.
It's sad to say, but it's probably going to take an actual death in front of a live television audience on a big stage to shock anyone at this point.
Carry on, Mr. Goodell.