'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SPORTS CELEBRATIONS GETTING DANGEROUS
A few weeks ago Sports Illustrated magazine mentioned an unusual story. Marcus Thornton, a high school basketball star in Georgia, had to sit out the remainder of the state championship game after spraining his ankle. How did he sprain his ankle? Driving to the hoop trying to score? Leaping for an important rebound? Nope, he sprained his ankle when he landed awkwardly after doing a jumping chest-bump celebration with a teammate.
You’ve seen the jumping chest-bump, haven’t you? It’s the latest in a long line of carefully choreographed sports celebration rituals. The young head coach of Butler University, Brad Stevens, performed the jumping chest-bump multiple times on national TV during his team’s improbable and inspiring run to the national championship game during the NCAA tournament.
Stevens is 33 years old, but he looks like he’s about 20. He’s young enough to attempt such an athletic celebratory feat. I can’t quite envision Jim Calhoun or Jim Boeheim giving it a try—unless paramedics are nearby to pick up the Achilles tendons which surely will shoot out of their lower legs and across the court.
Getting injured while celebrating during a ballgame is not a new phenomenon. Back in 1997, Washington Redskins’ quarterback Gus Frerotte scored a touchdown and then expressed his joy by head-butting the padded wall behind the end zone. Apparently the padding wasn’t too thick, or maybe the concrete behind the padding was, well, concrete-like. Either way, Frerotte hurt his neck and spent the second half of the game at the hospital getting X-rays.
In 2002, Arizona Cardinals placekicker Bill Gramatica booted a field goal, and then jumped up to celebrate. When he landed, his knee twisted and a ligament snapped. He missed the rest of the season.
A medical research project was conducted to study “score-celebration injuries” among professional soccer players. In a fairly short period of time, nine separate athletes were injured after scoring goals, either by running full speed and then sliding knees first, or being tackled by joyous teammates. The injuries included ankle, rib, and clavicle fractures; knee ligament damage; and lower back sprains. The average length of time on the disabled list was over six weeks.
I’m old enough to remember when ballplayers would celebrate only after truly momentous occasions, such as hitting a home run during the World Series or wining the Super Bowl. Even then, the celebration consisted of shaking hands or a slap on the butt. (The shaking hands I understood. The butt-slapping? Well, I still have no clue about that.)
Then at some point, shaking hands turned into “slapping five,” which then turned into the “high-five.” I think this is when the injuries began. I played a lot of softball back in the ‘80s, and once a teammate got so enthusiastically high-fived by another teammate, he torn something in his shoulder and never could throw the same again.
Nowadays the high-five has morphed into the much more subdued—and safer—fist bump. When a ballplayer fist-bumps his teammates after hitting a home run, I think that looks kind of cool. (If I think it’s cool, then that’s a sure sign it is no longer fashionable.)
However, I know a couple of enthusiastic young guys, who shall remain nameless, who insist on fist-bumping everyone in the office whenever they get a purchase order from a customer. I go along with it, even though it strikes me as silly, mostly because I’m thankful they don’t want to do a jumping chest-bump with me. I wouldn’t know what to write down as the “cause of injury” while filling out the worker’s compensation forms.
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