Athletes return for love of the game



With the passing of yet another NFL season, we once again see multiple teams riddled with injuries. Time and time again rule changes arise that are supposed to fix the game and create a safer environment for the players, yet time and time again we see players carted off the field and missing significant time. Popular players in the NFL, such as Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, have suffered multiple major injuries and yet still return as soon as they can, excited to compete and play.
The question I ask is, “Why do these players continue to return, fully aware of the fact that a major, painful injury is just one snap away?” Is it for the money? Do the multi-million dollar contracts and bonuses push players to return over and over? This is a great possibility. I know if I had millions of dollars at stake I would rehab and return. So I had to look somewhere else, somewhere where money is not a factor and the only thing to play for is the joy of the game. As it turns out, I am a perfect example.

After seven years as a quarterback, my injuries got to a point where I was unable to return to the field as a senior. For instance, in the eighth grade I broke my humerus, which was not a pleasant experience, then returned as a freshman for an injury-free year, but as a sophomore, I suffered a back injury. At the time it did not seem like a big deal, but the injury progressively got worse and I was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae during my junior year. This cut my season short and did not allow me to come back as a senior. But still, after all that, my desire to return to the field was greater than it had ever been. Watching my friends compete under the lights and have an extremely successful season without me was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Looking back, it all seems silly: the jealousy I felt over each touchdown that was scored and the pain I had over each article that was written in the paper. I most likely would have sustained yet another injury had I been able to return, but I would have given anything to do so.

This desire is universal in sports and not unique to me. Tom Coughlin recently stepped down from his head coaching job with the New York Giants. In his last press conference at the Giants facility he tried to explain why he was struggling so much with his decision and his love for the game.

“In professional football, the goal is to win. We all know that. It is a bottom line profession. We understand that completely,” Coughlin said. “But my contention is . . .  there is a higher ground. There’s a greater purpose. That purpose is team.”

Sports were created as a fun activity for young people in particular, to invest their energies and remain fit and healthy. However, like Coughlin said, there is a greater power which pushes me and millions of others to return to the field, injury after injury. That is the power of friendship; the bonds created through years of playing sports together with friends and coaches alike is something special, something that is not easily replaced.