Why is “quitting” a bad thing?
People quit smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. That is when quitting is celebrated. Yet, Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler quits playing in the NFC Championship Game and that type of quitting is ridiculed.
Let’s me clear — Cutler quit. And Maurice Jones-Drew, among others, are accurate in accessing that Cutler quit. But MJD also quit. That does not make it a bad thing.
Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the regular season, a point that Bears fans and Cutler supporters are quick to point out. This is crucial because the Jaguars were still in the playoff hunt. But Pocket Hercules played all season with an injury and eventually the pain was too much. Yes, MJD quit. But he quit because of injury and there is no shame in that.
There is this mythical belief that football players are supposed to play through injury. As though they are impervious to pain. But think about how often you have skipped work or school simply because you have a slight headache. Some people tap out at the slightest pain, but in reality it is more of an “excuse” to get out of doing something. The headache becomes the excuse where you cannot go on, even if it is a slight headache.
Now, magnify that pain. Imagine having something like rheumatoid arthritis and trying to get through the pain. Certainly some days you feel okay, but other days it is not easy. In fact, you can hardly get out of bed. Perhaps your facial expression suggests that you are fine, but you know that you are hurting. Some people have higher tolerances to pain and get past those bad R.A. days; but many cannot.
Humans can only take so much pain. But somehow, we expect athletes to overcome that threshold and “fight through it.” Stories of fingers being chopped off and shoulders popped back into place and players with bum ankles and knees hobbling down field adorn football mythology. It is somehow “manly” to fight through pain. That is how the “old school” players did it.
Yeah…and what is the level of brain damage among football players? Brain damage is real manly! Or how many athletes walk with a limp because of bad knees? Limping is quite manly! Hell, read the book Open and discover how much pain Andre Aggasi suffers in his back…and that’s from fucking tennis; not football!!! Back pains — the true measure of a man!
Point is that we do not know how much pain Cutler was really in. Doctors can diagnose a sprained knee, but the individual is the one that knows how much pain s/he is in. Given the position that Cutler plays, stability and flexibility in the knee is crucial. Sure, he could stand on the sideline. Speaking from experience, I could stand with a sprained knee; I could stand with an injured hamstring. But could I run? No.
It is not like Cutler was hiding on the bench sulking in his own misery (a la LaDainian Tomlinson). He was at least supporting his team.
Jones-Drew is right; Cutler did quit. But he quit because of an injury; not because he was saying “no mas.” It was not because of his performance (remember, this cat was sacked nine times in one game…and only a concussion forced him out of the game; not performance). He is not Roberto Duran.
Quitting because of injury is not cowardly. It is smart. Yes, we celebrate players who play through injury. Those players are also stupid because they risk long-term injury. The lifespan of football players is short, and players must protect themselves first and foremost. Football is a violent sport, an element that we as fans celebrate. The risk of injury is great and players know this. And while I doubt this thought had very little to do with Cutler not returning to the game, certainly it is something to consider.
People like to ponder “what ifs.” What if Cutler returned from the injury and led the Bears to victory and the Super Bowl? Everyone would have celebrated him as a “warrior” and a hero; just another line of hard-working Chicago athletes who overcome pain to help the collective. He is the man!!!
But what if Cutler entered the game and completely blew out his knee? What if, because of re-entering the game and attempting to be “the man” that he suffered a career-ending injury to that knee, never again playing for the Bears? How manly would that be?