Tuesday, December 29, 2015

We pay them in gold, for their pain, for their bodies...

Not prostitutes, no, but professional athletes get paid, and often, become injured and pay the cost for years, with their bodies, long after the gold has run out.  They are stars of culture, until their value is used up.  Some become legends we love, some lose everything, including wealth, family and memory.  Some spend the rest of their lives walking with canes or crutches.

I experienced 12 months of intense short term memory loss due to trauma following surgery for cancer.  Losing my memory was gravely worrisome for me, as I had watched my mother lose her mind to Alzheimer's and worried for my own future.  After taking dozens of tests, the diagnosis was that I had suffered PTSD during the surgeries and staph infection, and the trauma of the events basically erased my mind's ability to hold memories.  I mention this not saying I am a great athlete nor a great or famous person. I am simply say, I understand how traumatizing it is to lose parts of the life we have lived, because of our memory.

As a culture we lift up athletes as heroes, abandon them when they are finished, or we are finished with them, and the athletes are often left with minds that seem shattered.

We've celebrated boxing and fighting.  It is a sport that goes back thousands of years.  Every culture seems to do so.  I am not suggesting anything about the world or culture.  Boxing, UFC, Martial arts, Wrestling are all about combat in a ring.  But I want to point out, in the modern era, where people are so very sensitive and kind, and gentle and worried, we've begun to celebrate the UFC, or Mixed Martial Arts where almost anything goes, and shed blood is not thought to be unusual, it is rather part of the process.  We have begun to celebrate openly the blood sport.

In the past gladiatorial combat was almost certainly ended with death, if not grave injuries.  The consequences for the gladiators was not that he was well paid and retired, but often, he was a slave who made money for his master, and when he reached his last battles, retirement was simply an acknowledgement of truth, any further combat would end in death.  It wasn't kindness, it was that few wished to view a beloved figure of the arena die.

A movie has been released called Concussion featuring Will Smith, and it covers the discovery of the cycle of repeated injury to the brain and future loss of mental acuity.  The NFL has a stake in the concussion lawsuits, and information.  Will the NFL be seen as the beneficiary of athletes and their limited time on the field while creating a whole community and health concerns, or exploiters of people, and cold hearted assholes when the bright lights no longer shine on the athletes?

For our entertainment we watch men and now women collide at high speeds.  Their bodies are the canvas upon which the painting of tragedy and pain is told.  Should you care, as a spectator, how the figures upon the chess board are treated?  Are you exploiting others by paying to watch the display?

For the record I am very conflicted over this.  I love football, and am amazed by boxing and UFC for the sheer athleticism.  Hockey is great, fast and bloody.  Sports are moving, exciting, wild.  But when the battles are over, are we responsible for the consequences that the athletes pay?

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