Sunday, December 08, 2013

What You See Depends on Where You Sit -- Or Where You Lie Flat on Your Back

You see something new every day in every game. Last week, I saw the NFL with a head injury of my own.

Freezing rain is impossible to distinguish from plain old rain until you go outside and try to walk on it. One step onto the front stoop equaled one spectacular pratfall, one large cut on the back of my head and one quick trip to the Lahey Clinic emergency ward.

There was something on the CAT scan the neurologists didn't like. I was stable, mind you, but just as a precaution, I was, in words all sports fans know by heart, "held overnight for observation."

(Next time you hear that phrase, fans, spare some thoughts for the athlete being observed. The words may seem reassuring to outsiders. To patients, they're not.)

So I watched the Patriots-Texans and Broncos-Chiefs games on a small TV screen about eight inches from my nose in my hospital bed.  And my sensations watching those games were different. I was about 100 times more acutely aware of the collisions, violence and possibility for injury on every play than I ordinarily am.

This didn't affect my interest in the games. On the contrary, they held even more fascination. But they did affect my enjoyment of them. It didn't lessen it, just alter it. Perhaps the best way to express that is to say my pleasure in a typical NFL Sunday was significantly less mindless than it sometimes is.

The primal facts of pro football are danger, pain and body breakage. That's been true since the Providence Steamrollers were champs. They are facts even players themselves would rather not dwell on. How could they, and still keep playing?

But it's better we all get a refresher course on the basics from time to time. I don't recommend the course I took to anyone. But then the Browns and Pats kick off this afternoon, try and have your empathy settings switched to maximum.

I was sent home Monday in due course. I feel fine. I wonder how much empathy I'll be able to generate this afternoon.


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