Category Archives: Football

The Man Who Wouldn’t Let Them Take His Leg

Alex Smith started playing football from a young age and turned down recruitment offers from Harvard and Princeton and instead attended the University of Utah as a quarterback.  He began his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, then went to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, and later on Washington.  Two years ago in a game against the Houston Texans, Smith sustained a compound spiral fracture to his right leg (from his ankle through his knee) after he was tackled by two Texans defensive linemen.  Although doctors successfully treated the bone fractures, a bacterial infection soon developed and led to sepsis.  The most “obvious” course of action at that point would have been an amputation, but Smith insisted that the doctors do whatever they could to save his leg.

Part of his inspiring recovery includes not just sheer will and determination to endure and recuperate from several more surgeries to cut away a lot of muscle and tissue from his right calf (and a procedure to cover his bones with muscle from his left thigh), but also getting permission from the Pentagon to be seen by specialists at the Center for the Intrepid, which was built to treat soldiers with serious injuries.  Many of the service members sustained trauma to their legs that were very similar anatomically to Smith, so it was the best place to receive expert assessment for rehabilitation.

If I had followed the NFL with any amount of regularity in the last few years, Alex Smith’s name and story would’ve been familiar.  Alas, I did not, so I’d only learned of his existence tonight on 60 Minutes.

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Norah O’Donnell spoke with Alex about his experiences coming back from an injury that would’ve diverted, if not ended, most athletes’ game-playing careers.  Read the segment transcript and watch video clips here.

ESPN also made a special piece about him.

Here’s an interview:

Here’s the first play Alex Smith made after rejoining Washington:

That he got to keep his leg, that he perservered through thousands of hours of physical therapy, that he was able to play for the NFL again surely means that he’s already spent a lifetime allotment of good fortune and second chances, right?  As much as he’s realized how much he took for granted his corporeal health and integrity, it doesn’t seem like Alex Smith is going to stop playing professional football any time soon.  He’s just a few years younger than I am; by the end of this month, I’ll have been alive for four decades.  Quoi?! Je ne me sens pas comme une personne qui aura quarante ans.  Mon dieu.

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Is it my imagination or does Alex Smith and Niall Matter look like doppelgangers of each other?

Pic cred: 60 Minutes

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When he laughed, finally, after an hour of expressions alternating between resting bored face and the detection of malodorous scents wafting through the air-conditioning vents in the front office, the new football coach convinced the leader of the booster club that he was human after all.  Rinalda, the most outspoken and energetic of the bunch, welcomed the new coach to the school like all the other parents, school administrators, teachers, and athletic personnel, but she was the last one to let her guard down in his presence.

There was something about his level-headedness (in the face of messy and smelly pranks pulled by the student-athletes) and relaxed movements (that came across as purposeful rather than lazy) that she found to be abnormal.  That he came highly recommended by the principal and a few financially influential of the alumni for turning around many lackluster high school football teams with that kind of stoic demeanor didn’t make sense to Rinalda.

You can’t win football games and be that emotionally non-responsive to irritating external stimuli. 

And yet, in the first few months he’d been overseeing the football team’s practices (including the brief summer session) and overhauling the broader points of their classroom curriculum in consultation with their teachers, he had demonstrated to many observers that he didn’t raise his voice or spit profanities when the boys fumbled plays, arrived late to practice, acted like fools, or forgot to complete homework assignments.  The players soon learned that their rowdy antics didn’t elicit the desired reaction from the new coach, and thus, decreased their frequency.  The parents were elated that they didn’t have to watch a grown man screaming at their kids at games.  The school administrators breathed sighs of relief not to have to deal with inappropriate behavior or language between coach and student.

Rinalda understood why the coach’s lack of tantrums or hot-headedness was to be commended, especially if he was to serve as a role model to the teenaged boys, but she thought it strange that as much as he didn’t scowl or frown, he didn’t smile or grin either.  A week before the homecoming game, she joked to herself that maybe the new coach was a robot…like the ones that the University across the lake had developed and put into beta testing in luxury customer service environments (the rationale was that if they could survive and even score well among the most entitled and hard-to-please customers on the market, then they’d be ready for the masses).  Robots didn’t smile or laugh, and they were very calm under pressure.

So, in that moment when the new coach laughed, after watching the assistant principal attempt to catch the 9th grade biology class’s chinchilla, which had escaped its enclosure, Rinalda let that silly thought of him being non-human to rest.  The coach had a full laugh too, one that sounded like it came from deep inside his soul and not the surface of his nose hairs.  He looked at her as he regained his composure and she returned his frivolity with a nod and a smile.  Fortunately, she never told anyone of what she thought about his excessively relaxed disposition…otherwise, the head of the athletic department would probably insist that she step down as leader of the booster club.  And she had become much too accustomed to the discount at the local coffee shop, which was one of the perks of her position.

Right as Rinalda was about to put all of her reservations behind her, though, her gaze fell upon the coach as he returned to his default mode, and rather than resting bored face or unpleasant aroma detected face, he wore the look of someone concentrating very hard to move matter with his mind.  You know… clenched jaw, swelling blood vessel at the epidermis.  What started out as strange but eventually accepted abruptly shifted into stranger territory.  Rinalda had to get to the bottom of it.  Was the coach or wasn’t he actually a robot?

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I have no idea why the above piece of flash fiction came to me while listening to Chris Tomlin’s “Sovereign.”  It has nothing to do with sports, schools, or robots.

Brawling and Eating Cheez-Its on the gridiron and the Most Wholesome YouTube Video sans chats, chiens ou bébés

I learned about the existence of the YouTube channel Jomboy Media the other day courtesy of this Reddit post.  I would like to bring you some laughter and cheer as 2021 commences.  Even if you don’t like football or college football, I think the commentary that accompanies this video of a brawl that took place between Mississippi State and Tulsa after the Armed Forces Bowl will bring a whimsical eyeroll if not a chuckle to your countenance.

If you did indeed get a laugh out of that one, may I recommend this video featuring Cheez-Its and football-gloved hands?

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If neither of the above inspired any emotional response or intellectual stirring within you, perhaps this video by YouTuber Mito about a day in her life as a Taiwanese exchange student in Colville, Washington will leave you wrapped with a cape of wholesomeness (and without the participation of cats, dogs, or babies.*)

The video is a year-old and has over a million views.  What stood out to me the most about it isn’t how friendly everybody who was on camera was to Mito, but rather how much she, her peers, and the teachers appeared to enjoy being at school. After watching a few of her videos of Taiwan, I hypothesize that she attracts or seeks out people who radiate a similarly thoughtful disposition.  Who needs the Hallmark Channel for feel-good imagery when you’ve got minimalistically talktative vlogs like this one?  N’est-ce pas?

Maybe precisely because she’s capturing moments as an outsider, there’s a stronger observational component to the content, and it doesn’t make the viewer pessimistic or dismiss the wholesomeness as ignoring the ugly sides of living in America (a very big country where aspects of the geographic, societal, and human environment can differ substantially between not only regions and states but also between counties, zip codes, intersections, and railroad tracks).

These comments made good points about school experiences and the perceptions of what “everyone” is like has a lot to do with the people you spend time with when you’re in school (also factoring in the demographics of the student body).  Such is life.  Reality is perception.  Perception is what you sense with your eyes and ears — or nose and ears (for the vision-impaired?) or nose and eyes (for the hard of hearing?) or hands (for the vision-impaired and hard of hearing…and even olfactory-impaired?).

*There is a cat in this video but its presence is fleeting.

Gallaudet University – Why is there no biopic?

Tonight I learned about the existence of a university in Washington, DC, the only university in the world where American Sign Language and English are foundational components to the curriculum.  One doesn’t even need to know either language to attend because you will learn both.  How did I know about this school?  YouTube, mais bien sur.

Video should be time-stamped to the specific segment.

And so I spent a chunk of time looking at the university’s website and various YT videos.

I’m not surprised that there are schools with dedicated staff, curriculum, or even entire schools primarily (if not solely) for deaf or hard of hearing students.  What gives me pause is that it took me this long to know they’re out there.

One of the hearing players in the Gallaudet video mentioned football as his escape from what would have been certain incarceration, death, or drugs.  The coach in the MS School for the Deaf video had a very similar view of basketball.  As criticisms or calls for reassessments of how young people from bad neighborhoods can transcend those conditions and propel their lives into something lawful and, dare I say it, socially preferred that has nothing to do with sports, I can understand why sports + college or sports-as-career resonates.  Whether you cannot hear anything at a heavy metal concert or whether you can hear the teacher just fine (mostly fine, adequately fine), physical activities forge a bond between everyone who willingly and enthusiastically participates in them.  The benefits of dance, exercise, competitive sports are obvious.  It would be pretty awesome to see CBS News interview deaf calligraphers, sculptors, magicians, zoologists, animal vets, and the like.

I know there’s a Netflix show about students who go to Gallaudet, but why is there no sports inspirational?  There’s got to be based-on-a-true-story potential, and if not, someone should make a sports film featuring a deaf senior months away from graduation and tragedy or absurdity strikes and they have to team up with some motley crew of characters to seek or destroy something or else there will be consequences.

Here’s another fascinating tidbit that is applicable to the philosophical goings-on dans les etas unis.

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The Interception for a Touchdown that Wasn’t

Cause it didn’t happen. 

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The Arizona Cardinals still won against the Seattle Seahawks, 37 to 34, but out of all the potential touchdown plays that one could stop, an interception for a TD would be it.  The satisfaction of keeping your opponent from scoring, especially when your team was so close to their end zone, could even be more intense than executing a hail mary pass to score.  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.