Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
DARPA, the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is currently at work designing the perfect soldier. Eventually, when they master their creation, this perfect soldier won’t need to eat, sleep and, get this, because it might prove to be true, he’ll have the ability to just look at his wound and heal it1. Once the perfect soldier is in place, how long do you think it’s going to take for the formula to crossover to the public sector? – and you just know professional sports teams will be the first to jump on the bandwagon.
Photo: EAS Sports
Steroids? Amphetamines? McDonald’s French fries? Nothing compared to the gray areas we’ll be crossing into, which will prove both remarkably bizarre and ethically challenging. But until our scientists catch up with our sci-fi writers (not too far off though), league commissioners can rest easy, and sports teams will continue to train their asses off in the name of victory.
Speaking of training, in football, it’s no longer sufficient just to have training camp. Now they have training camp for training camp, though they call it a minicamp.
“We had a minicamp a few weeks ago, and that was pretty tough,” says Miami Dolphin’s second-year running back, out of Auburn, Ronnie Brown.
As a rookie, the amiable 24-year-old Brown gained 907 yards on the ground. Now, with Ricky Williams puffing his way to exile in the CFL, there’s no doubt that Brown will have to carry even more of the load. “Unfortunately, Ricky had to go through some things,” Brown says. “But I’m excited about being the premiere guy in the running back position in Miami.”
Now that he is the main man, Brown is going to have to take care of his body in a big way. “In college, fortunately, I was a bigger guy, as far as the running back position. So I didn’t really use supplements. In the NFL, I had more time to implement nutrition products. And they’ve really helped. I teamed up with the EAS.” (FYI: The only nutrition brand certified by the NFL.)
When asked about the difference in competition between college and the pros, Brown says: “I like to think competition is a little bit harder than it was in college. In college, you have a few guys that kind of stick out. In the NFL, most all those guys that were sticking out in college, they fill up the teams now.”
And unfortunately, or fortunately, if they want to stay in the game and earn phat paychecks, football players can’t carry on and live the life of a rock star. Their top priority comes down to keeping their instrument, themselves, tuned to a fine perfection. “If I take care of my body, then I have the opportunity to be on the field more. That’s the main thing when you talk about the NFL,” Brown says, “being healthy and participating in all the games.”
And don’t think that’s so easy in a league of gladiators. (You think Russell Crowe could handle it for more than one snap?) Asked if he thinks about injury, Brown says he doesn’t like to even consider getting crushed. “I think, one of the main things that can hurt someone on this level is when you start thinking about being injured, and trying to take those precautions to make sure you’re not. When you start focusing your energy on trying not to get hurt, you start doing everything lackadaisical and that’s when, unfortunately, you do get hurt.”
And no matter how many supplements or how hard they train, they do get hurt, a lot! More than half of all NFL players get injured annually. (That number spiked in the 2003-04 season when 68% were tweaked.) According to the NFL injury reports, defenders get hurt more than players on offense, with a defensive back taking the brunt of the pain: they’re 30% more likely to get hurt than a pretty-boy quarterback, even though the QB handles the ball, and the center’s sphincter, on every possession. More stats on DBs: two out of three cornerbacks or safeties will suffer an injury this season. And half of those will suffer a second, unrelated injury before the Super Bowl.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the NFL injury rate is eight times higher than that of any other commercial league, and that includes hockey and being Naomi Campbell’s personal assistant.
The number one suspect in terms of injuries is the knee. Of course the knee bone’s connected to the ankle bone, and that’s next on the list, followed by hamstring and groin tears, and a mix of head, spine and neck trauma. And that’s where things get really frightening: the possibility of being paralyzed.
In that respect, it’s the same problem the army has: soldiers becoming paralyzed under intense conditions. Not necessarily frozen with physical pain, sometimes it’s just plain mental: fear. And playing with a fear-based soldier, or footballer, means putting the rest of the team in jeopardy. With football, that means losing out on big-time riches. With war, that could be the difference between “life or death.”
Either way, when DARPA (who helped invent the Internet, btw) perfects their main man, it could be just a matter of time until even you or I are able to line up across from Ronnie Brown. May the biotechnology be with you.
With biotech enhancements, the only person writer Rick Cipes would want to line up across from is Salma Hayek. She’d be walking all funny 24/7, and loving it. Check out the wannabe’s website at www.theguyreport.com
1. Read about it in the book Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau.