This past weekend I watched two wild card football games in their entirety. Without once flipping over to one of my go-to chic-oriented channels. No Bravo. No Lifetime. No OWN. No, just two mesmerizing football games – Colts v. Chiefs Saturday; Packers v. 49ers Sunday, that held my attention all the way through.
Rabid football fans (my TV mate included) likely relished in the strategic call-playing, successful execution on those plays, thrilling and disappointing monkey wrenches thrown in those plays, and the suspenseful conclusions of each game.
But for this yogi – who winces at the slightest shove, prefers running down a straight and narrow path devoid of any obstacles, and moves best in a 90 degree heated studio – watching these wild card football games summoned up a host of emotions and new appreciation for what these guys do for a living.
Maybe they do earn it.
I used to balk at the high salaries awarded to professional ball players. And still do, to some extent. But watching a dazed Jamaal Charles lie prone after suffering a concussion in the first quarter of the KC/Indianapolis game – a concussion that probably wasn’t his (or any player at this level’s) first – I appreciated the physical sacrifices these guys make to pursue their chosen field. Wide Receiver Donnie Avery’s subsequent concussion just a short time later confirmed how frighteningly ubiquitous these incidents are in this high stakes game.
The giant clouds of frozen breath coming out of the players’ mouths in the subzero temperature game in Green Bay took up a good part of my TV flat screen. Watching players sprint out onto the field from a frozen standstill on the sidelines made my middle-aged muscles ache. I’ve worked out my entire life, feel pretty limber, but oh God if I tried to run, throw, block, or leap in cold weather with no warm up whatsoever I’d pay for it dearly. I can only imagine what a morning-after must feel like for these guys.
Maybe they do earn it.
In subzero temperatures, again and again, these dedicated athletes butted heads, hurled the ball, caught the ball, leapt, rolled, ran through human cinder blocks, and willingly gave and received powerful hits, play after play. As though their lives depended on it. And with a career certain to end soon enough, their livelihoods do depend on it.
What other big-dollar earner shivers on the sideline with a chattering jaw eagerly waiting to strip off the monster parka to go back out there and get clobbered again? And again? What other big-dollar earner knows that any play, maybe even the next one, might summon stars and the shoulders of two trainers to get back up again? What other big-dollar earner fundamentally knows the second half of his adult life could very likely be rife with early-onset arthritis, joint replacements and possible brain damage?
So, clearly, in my mind. These players earn it. Every cent of it.