Hit ‘em where it hurts, so long as it doesn’t hurt ‘em for long
One of the fondest memories for Alabama football fans — the ones who grew up in the 1980s, anyway — was the Tide’s 1986 game vs. Notre Dame.
To set the stage, Alabama, to that point, had never beaten Notre Dame, on the field or off. More than that, the losses to the Irish — deified by a fawning national press — always came in painful fashion. And even worse, Notre Dame had twice stolen national championships Alabama believed it should have owned (1966 and 1977).
So Bama fans wanted that game badly. And the Tide would win the game, 28-10, in front of an apoplectic crowd at Birmingham’s Legion Field.
The game, in retrospect, however, is symbolized by one play: When Notre Dame’s record setting quarterback Steve Beuerlein, on his first pass attempt, was crushed by Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett. The force of the hit — both the initial contact and the impact with the rock-solid turf at Legion — knocked Beuerlein out completely.
Now an announcer for CBS, Beuerlein — who actually returned to the game even though he was concussed and threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter — says he’s still hearing about the play from longtime Alabama fans.
And I bring this up only for this reason: Being a football fan, ultimately, requires a person to make an uneasy truce with sanctioned brutality. After all, Bennett and Beuerlein are now immortalized through video, legend and art by Daniel A. Moore, for that play. The play is part of the pregame video before Alabama home games, and Tide fans often wait for it so they can yell, “BOOM!” when it runs across the screen.
We cheer for these things because we want our boys to play with reckless abandon, sacrificing their own health and putting others at risk for the sake of our pride. We say we don’t want them to hurt their opposing numbers “intentionally,” but then again … we do want them to hit, and hit hard.
As a child, I remember watching games with my parents, and someone for the opposition would go down with an injury.
“I hope he’s OK,” one of them would say. “Tomorrow, I mean.”
So then, maybe it’s not a huge surprise when someone unearths the “shocking” news that a professional football team was offering its players “bounties” to knock members of the opposing color out of the game. Not to hurt them permanently, you know. As long as they’re OK tomorrow.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
a newspaper column about football injuries
Not sure if I made the point I was trying to get at in this week's column for the St. Clair Times. If you'd like another (much more coarse and direct) point of view, you can read Drew Magary's screed on the subject from earlier this month. As always, feel free to disagree with me here or on Twitter.