Thursday, February 19, 2009
And with that, here's something most, if any of us don't think about.
The body does not know how much money you make.
Yeah, that seems absurd from the first glance. It may appear to be a copout for the lack of success for some of the most talented and highly-paid professional athletes. Making such a statement in the eyes of many disillusioned sports fans is akin to saying “as long as I’m getting paid”.
However, that’s the reality; the body does not know how much money you make.
So when the news of a season-ending microfracture surgery for Houston Rockets swingman Tracy McGrady came across the wire Wednesday afternoon, the refrains of being injury-prone and beyond echoed once more.
Now, of course, there’s the manner of how the news was revealed – he posted a message on his website before his coach, Rick Adelman had discovered such through the newspapers – yet, that’s just adding fuel to a fire that doing quite enough damage on its own. Yet, to think that a player whose individual talents rival that of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James has been unable to perform at their level because of a steady stream of injuries is more than disconcerting.
Now, there’s no apology if this is one of those scenarios where McGrady could have played through the remainder of the season. We hear all the time from the football world that there’s a difference between being hurt (sore or at most, having discomfort in which any correction can be put off until season’s end) and being injured (as in, you kind of need those bones, ligaments, muscles, etc. in order to walk, let alone play). Yet no matter how much his detractors try to make that case, it’s impossible and a bit unfair.
None of us are in the guy’s head.
None of us are in the locker room or on the practice court day after day with him.
None of us know his body and most of us didn’t study kinesiology.
If this was Shane Battier or Carl Landry, the latest injury would be a big deal for a day and not again until the Rockets lose either their playoff position or another first-round series. If this was even Joey Dorsey or Luther Head, it would be quite easy to dismiss their significance to the team as they are just collecting DNP-CDs and a few hundred grand.
A few seasons ago, the New York Knicks endured this with Allan Houston. In 2001, he received the biggest contract extension in franchise history; a six-year, $100 million pact for a player who was a tremendous perimeter shooter, but not heralded for much else. While the contract was an eye-opener at the time, it between 2003 and 2005 that it became an eyesore as Houston missed a combined 94 regular-season games in two seasons. Financially, the Knicks took a major hit, one bad enough that the league office allowed an amnesty tax (affectionately known as the “Allan Houston rule”, though the team never used it on him, but Jerome Williams). Yet, the truth of the matter is that the ligaments in Houston’s knees were gone.
A former teammate of both McGrady and Houston, current Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill, endured some of the same trials. When he signed his mammoth deal with Orlando back in 2000 along with McGrady (who was traded for Steve Francis four seasons later), they were supposed to return the Magic to prominence in the post-Shaquille O’Neal/Penny Hardaway era. Yet from an ankle injury suffered in during the playoffs in his final season with Detroit to nagging shin problems to a sports hernia, Hill’s Magic days were miserable, to say the least. Unlike his former teammates, however, Hill began to give his body the proper rest as not only to properly heal, but in keeping in mind that he was entering his mid-30s with a dimmed window of championship hopes and physical ability.
There have been plenty of players – contracts big and small – whose bodies failed them in some degree, but in the case of the players with mega deals, one who slips under the radar of criticism is Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Redd. If there’s a player whose path thus far seems to follow that of Houston’s, Redd, unfortunately, fits the bill. Instead of signing to play in Cleveland – his hometown team – he signed a six year, $91 million contract in 2005 to remain with Milwaukee. Though he only missed two games in the first season of the deal, he missed 29 games in 2006-07, ten in 2007-08 and will sit out for the remainder of this season after tearing his ACL and MCL back in January.
Recently, we heard about an athlete who admitted that the pressures he faced after signing his nine-figure contract compelled him to make a bad decision. Before landing in Texas in 2001, Alex Rodriguez had the talent and ethic to solicit bids for the highest offer for his services. However, it wasn’t until he confessed to using performance enhancers that you could say that he placed a price tag on his physical being; no matter how large, historic or unheard of a ten-year, $252 million deal had been. In his case, it was all about justifying his contract to the masses by adding something to his body; something well in his control.
Can anyone attribute a dollar value to a body part; healthy, hurt or injured?