Terrible playing arenas for modern pro athlete

October 19, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

At times it becomes almost unbearable to watch the pain and suffering of the modern professional athlete.

One day it is the baseball player facing the bleak prospect of starting to shave before making his first million.

Then the hockey player wonders why he isn't more lavishly rewarded for his willingness to cripple an adversary.

And they call this the land of opportunity? What kind of opportunity is it, when the take-home pay of a .240 hitter could dip below $1 million?

Or when a hockey player, with no front teeth or high school diploma, is expected to wait until he is 30 before he has the means to buy his own cattle empire?

Little wonder that so many young lads let their bodies grow soft. What incentive is there to become big and strong when the future holds nothing but a salary cap?

And now in Chicago we have what may be the most poignant sports story of the year.

One of the Bears' star linemen has been widely quoted as saying that in his entire life -- I believe it now stands at about 28 years -- he has never endured such horrible working conditions as he did on a recent Sunday.

It seems that the playing surface at Soldier Field was a bit moist and in some places it lacked sufficient grass. This caused some of the players to be less than nimble and quick and made them slip, slide and get glop on their uniforms.

This led to widespread moaning by the players and sports commentators that if the intolerable conditions continue, some player might get hurt. Which is shocking, since nobody has ever heard of a football player being injured before.

The imperfect turf has become one of our major civic issues. This just shows how blissful and near-perfect life in Chicago has become, when a gooey field becomes a major urban crisis.

So I was offended by the callousness of a friend who said:

"Who the hell cares if some big, overpaid palooka falls on his well-padded butt? The first time it snows this year, there will be little old ladies and creaky old men slipping and sliding and falling on their bony butts when they try to walk to the grocery store to spend their meager pension money on a bowl of gruel.

"Every year, with the first snow and ice, you can hear the crackling of old bones all over this town. But do we read about the broken hips, knees, wrists and other limbs of these geezers? Why, if my old gramps fell into a snowdrift and his frozen remains were not discovered until the spring thaw, it wouldn't make a squib in the papers."

I told him that was insensitive to athletes and illogical, since nobody would turn on their TV set and spend an entire Sunday afternoon watching a bunch of old coots slip and slide in snow or ice. Joe from Stickney, Ill., would never phone a sports call-in show on Monday morning and say: "Did you see that old Mister Fyacowski slide from his porch to the sidewalk and out in the middle of the street under that truck? What a move that was, you know?"

My friend said: "Maybe so. But I don't see why these football players are whining so much. Have any of them ever had a chicken bone stuck in their hind end?"

What kind of question is that? What do chicken bones in the hind end have to do with the suffering of Chicago's very own Bears?

"Well, I have. And believe me, it is not very pleasant."

You have what that is not very pleasant?

"I have had a chicken bone stuck in my hind end; that is what is not very pleasant."

What you choose to do with your chicken bones is a personal matter, and I'm surprised you'd discuss it.

"I'm discussing it because I want you to know that there are worse things than a slippery field if you use Chicago Park District facilities, which Soldier Field is.

"It happens that during my days as a softball player, we played on a diamond in Grant Park that was also used by a league of chicken-eaters. They were of an ethnic group that believed it appropriate to eat chicken and toss the bones onto the field. That is one of the joys and learning experiences of living in a multicultural society.

"So one day I was sliding boldly into second base when I felt a sharp pain in my backside. I had been impaled on a chicken bone, a drumstick, I believe.

"The emergency room doctor said he had never before seen someone stuck with a chicken bone. And because he considered it a stab wound, he called the police. The detective was convinced I was lying and that I had been stabbed by a tiny South American in a drug deal gone bad.

"But did anyone write about that? Were there editorial demands that the Park District provide bone-free base paths? Did anyone photograph my maimed rump and quote me as saying it was the worst chicken bone I ever slid on in my life?"

Maybe you have a point.

"Yes, I don't think the doctor removed it."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.