Earlier this week, I read what I felt to be one of the most intriguing headlines in recent memory on ESPN: “It’s not delivery: Burleson getting free pizza!”
Intrigued, I immediately followed the link, revealing this sordid tale of late-night munchies and Pyrrhic victory: Nate Burleson, a receiver for the Detroit Lions, broke his left forearm while diving to save a falling pizza box, for which he was rewarded with a year’s supply of DiGiorno Pizza coupons to save him the trouble of “carrying out,” in the words of the marketing-savvy company.
Pushing aside the fact that this article instantly made me crave pizza, I proceeded to do a double take, then another double take (totaling a quadruple take), before the two-stroke scooter motor that runs my brain began purring. Sensing a column in the works, I proceeded to look up other patently absurd sports injuries. The results may leave you, the reader, in stitches — or at least in as many stitches as were dispensed to the poor victims of these injurious tales.
From the theater of the absurd comes the fantastic tale of Baltimore Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones, who was — according to reputable source TMZ — involved in an altercation with a stripper named “Sweet Pea” that ended with said saccharine spherule smashing a bottle of Ace of Spades over his head. This nutty event apparently occurred on a party bus rented by teammate Bryant McKinnie for his birthday celebration. It is worth noting that at the time of this incident, Jones was already recovering from a knee injury. Just a few weeks after this incident, McKinnie was traded away to the Miami Dolphins. Take this how you will.
Not sad enough for you? Try this tale of woe, courtesy of Joel Przybilla, who last played for the Milwaukee Bucks. In 2009, he was the backup center for the Portland Trail Blazers (which sports an injury history that probably deserves its own column) behind the durable (hardy-har) Greg Oden, who had gone down with knee injuries of his own.
Przybilla proceeded to rupture a patellar tendon in his knee, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. To quite literally add injury to injury, he later slipped in the shower and reinjured that same knee, knocking him out for the entire offseason, as well as the next NBA regular season. Przybilla went on to play limited minutes for other teams, but never with the same intensity that he once possessed.
My boss is now telling me that this column is taking an overly somber tone; to rectify this, I will present the funniest non-injury injury in history: Tim Duncan’s (in)famous DNP (did not play) from last year.
Coming off of a long road trip that culminated in a back-to-back-to-back against the Philadelphia 76ers, noted humorist Greg Popovich decided to rest many of his starters in what was essentially a meaningless regular season game. However, no one could fault the style with which Popovich pulled this off: On the scorer’s sheet, good old Pop listed Duncan as a “DNP – OLD.”
Having planted himself firmly on the bench, Duncan proceeded to make himself useful in other ways — namely, berating the refs and earning a technical foul on a Manu Ginobili drive. Ginobili commented after the game, “I appreciated it. I don’t think Pop did.”
The more I searched, the more crazy injuries I uncovered. Sammy Sosa once sneezed himself onto the disabled list (DL) with a back injury for three weeks. Roger Craig cut his hand while adjusting the strap of his wife’s bra. Chase Blackburn suffered an inner ear injury when he jammed a Q-tip too far into his head. Tony Allen tore his ACL after casually dunking the ball going into a TV timeout. Felix Pie suffered a twisted testicle in spring training (Lou Piniella, one of the most direct managers in history, could not bring himself to name this injury, calling it Pie’s “situation” instead). Drew Gooden contracted an infected hair follicle that sidelined him for weeks, requiring an IV drip and staph-killing antibiotics. Lionel Simmons, the reigning NBA Player of the Week back in 1991, missed a few games due to acute wrist tendonitis brought on by excessive use of that addictive machine known as a Game Boy Color. There is simply no way to make these things up. They actually happened.
We watch sports because the athletes involved perform superhuman feats that most of us could never even hope to emulate. Every once in a while, however, something crazy happens that deigns to bring those athletes down closer to our levels, often in ways that add high comedic value. As noted sports philosopher Dale Earnhardt once said, “You win some, lose some and wreck some.” Amen.
Vignesh Venkataraman is no stranger to embarrassing injuries. A paper cut suffered from playing finger football sidelined him from column writing for three months this summer. Ask him about his physical therapy at viggy ‘at’ stanford.edu.