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Aug 03

The Silver Lining of Paul George's injury

Paul George suffered a compound fracture in his leg during the USA Basketball scrimmage last night. After an attempt to block a shot, George ran into the basketball goal support. The collision knocked George down and to the side, unfortunately his leg remained stuck under the base resulting in the awful injury.

If you have been watching or playing sports for any length of time this is most likely not the first cringe worthy injury you have been witness too. I am sure many of us immediately remembered the last devastating injury we witnessed or experienced ourselves. I remembered colliding with a teammate during a high school basketball game and having my head split open. That was over fifteen years ago and I could still recall the people cringing at the site of me! It seems no matter how often we witness or experience these horrific injuries they never get easier to watch. If anything it just adds to the sympathy or empathy we feel for the victim.

I saw the injury and watched the aftermath of the scrimmage being cancelled with the news conference and the media coverage and I wondered if perhaps there was not a silver lining to the injury. Certainly, I do not mean that there is any positives to George being injured, my heart goes out to George as he faces the long road of recovery. I mean only that we witnessed a new level of respect and support amongst athletes.

It should go without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with George as he recovers but the way in which his peers and employers responded, along with the fans was very eye opening. Of course, some people would respond with rude jests and jeers (and ESPN would look to sensationalize the story to garner higher ratings) but for the most part the reaction was uplifting.

George’s USA teammates looked more devastated than George did. Kevin Durant looked completely lost sitting on the sideline. Steph Curry looked on the brink of tears hiding under his towel. Lebron James and Chris Bosh both tweeted their support for George. Remember these are George’s rivals.

Even the management of USA basketball and the Indiana Pacers, who are used to disassociating from personal feelings to run the teams, handled themselves with class. Neither would address any questions regarding replacing George when asked by the media. Instead they would only offer their sympathy and concern for George’s well-being.

I could not help but think of the way the stars of the NBA are always being criticized by the media for being too friendly with each other. How story after story would run during the year about how the stars of yesteryear would never have trained with each other or verbalize their admiration the way the players of today do. How nearly every story coming from the media is about a future without George for the Pacers and Team USA or what impact his should have on the future of stars playing in FIBA tournaments, yet nearly every tweet from fans and teammates is about supporting George in his recovery.

That is the silver lining to me. Without the comradery developed through competitions like this how much support would George have received? (check out Jory’s article http://marylandsportsblog.com/the-fiba-world-cup-should-matter/) Without the breakdown of the “us versus them” “me versus you” mentality that was ingrained into the sport during the 80’s and 90’s, would the fans have taken to social media to lend their support or would there just have been more of the despicable jeers?

We can often be critical of these athletes for being out of touch and unwilling role-models, but here they are responding in a positive manner. In a manner that we would point to as the right way, and the fans are responding in kind.

Maybe it is a small thing, but with all the negative stories that dominate the headlines these days, something like this can stand out as an example. Something as small as this can remind us of the physical sacrifice that these athletes go through for our entertainment as well as show that they (the athletes) are not always too self absorbed to feel empathy for their comrades. That is a good lesson for all of us.

George has suffered the painful part, the injury. George has gone through the repair of a successful surgery. Now comes the most difficult part. Finding the strength and drive to get through rehabbing the leg. It is clear that George will not have to do that alone. That is something at least.

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