The best description I ever heard for pro football was “expert violence.” But I watch it anyway. And I should know better.
As a young sports writer just out of college, my …
The best description I ever heard for pro football was “expert violence.”
But I watch it anyway. And I should know better.
As a young sports writer just out of college, my sports editor in Iowa gave me a scorebook and sent me to cover Friday night high school football games.
I walked the sidelines, entering every single play as the official scorer.
But it was a sobering sight, seeing those violent teenage collisions up close. Why would any parent want to run the risk of their son being paralyzed because of these collisions? Not me.
Before that, as sports editor of the school newspaper at Colorado State, I had occasionally walked the sidelines. Those collisions were even more violent. I shuddered after seeing some of them.
But even after seeing all these human head-ons, I still wasn’t prepared for what followed as a sports writer for the Montreal Gazette, I was assigned to cover a college game between McGill and Bishop’s University, in rural Lennoxville, Quebec. The game was going along normally, when it suddenly stopped. A player was down, motionless. It was a chilling 15 minutes.
The McGill player had been paralyzed. I’ll never forget his name: Butch Voce. I visited him in his hospital room a few days later. Ironically, his room in the Royal Victoria Hospital looked out on…the McGill practice field.
I’ll be thinking of Butch when I watch the Seahawks open their season Sunday, and hoping none of the players are gravely injured.
We got to know a guy named Johnny Rogers in Montreal. He was the first Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Canadian Football League. Johnny, who played at Nebraska, told me it usually took at least five days before he stopped hurting from a game.
I was hoping to watch some games this season with Markus Koch, a lifeguard at the pool here who played in two Super Bowls with the (then-named) Washington Redskins.
Koch, German-born and Canadian-educated, has left the building. He just returned last week to his alma mater, Idaho State, to get a master's degree in psychology.
Koch, a defensive lineman, once showed me his knees, which had more cross hatches than a crossword puzzle. Knee surgeries from his playing days.
But Koch, for reasons I don’t understand, wants no part of football any more. He even sold his valuable Super Bowl rings.
He came over to my place to watch a Seahawks game last season. But Koch, a bright, introspective guy, didn’t really want to watch the game, and often averted his eyes. He wanted to talk philosophy and writing.
He is a football divorcé. I can understand that. But it’s rare.
I told him I’d seen plenty of high school and college player collisions, but I’d never been down on the sidelines during an NFL game.
“It’s worse than you can imagine,” he said quietly, shaking his head.
But, yeah, I’ll be watching this weekend — and hoping no player gets seriously hurt.
— Want to know what a true student-athlete looks like? Look no further than just to our north, where Canadian colleges don’t have any athletic scholarships. Amazing. Even a step further, I met some McGill footballers who were…fourth-year med students! That seemed impossible to believe to this Yank.
—Want to watch…or listen to…a great and entertaining radio/TV show? Go to YouTube and search for the Mark Thompson Show. Mark is an old friend from back when he was a TV weatherman at the NBC station in San Francisco. (He even asked me to fill in on his weathercast one night, which was frightening, both to me and to viewers.)
Thompson’s current YouTube show is a continuation of the talk radio show he was doing in S.F. on major, 50,000-watt KGO. When the station was “blown up” — the format was dropped — Thompson went to YouTube. He’s one of the brightest and cleverest people in broadcasting. His regular guests include such worthies as former ABC White House reporter Jim Avila and Pulitzer-winning journalist David Cay Johnson, whom you may have seen on MSNBC. Check it out.
(PT humorist Bill Mann is Newsmann9@gmail.com)
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