Everett Injury Recalls Sports Disasters

Kevin Everett's injury recalls ghosts of sports disasters past

Third-year NFL player and Buffalo Bills Tight End Kevin Everett sustained life-threatening cervical spine injuries during a game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. While jumping in to make a tackle during a kick return by Domenik Hixon in the second half, Everett hit Hixon high on the left shoulder / side of the helmet with his own helmet, and dropped face-first to the ground. Recent evaluations by team doctors have given Everett little chance of a full recovery:

“A best-case scenario is full recovery, but not likely,” orthopedic surgeon Andrew Cappuccino said. “I believe there will be some permanent neurologic deficit.”

This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach, not least because the coverage of the event was a mixed bag of sentimentality. While watching NFL broadcasts on Sunday and Monday, I noticed that both NBC and ESPN tried to do Everett justice by presenting grave reports of the player’s deteriorating condition, bookended by usual schoolboy giggling and over-enthusiastic analysis. Chris Berman delivered his straight-mouthed report on Everett less than a couple of minutes after a trademark “HE, COULD, GO, ALL, THE, WAY!” during his highlight clips. The NFL is trying to put a good face on it all, with brave statements from the team and league commissioner pretty much saying, ‘yeah, it sucks he’s hurt, but let’s go get shit-faced and watch some football!’ [paraphrased].

Even more ridiculous was the AP’s insistence on drudging out poor Mike Utley — who suffered a spinal chord injury of his own in 1991 — to give the requisite ‘that’s too bad’ talk from the hard-up sympathizer. I can just imagine the reporter’s discussion with Utley:

Reporter: What do you think of the situation that Kevin Everett is going through?
Utley: IT’S BAD!

This whole situation should serve as a reminder that shit happens on a daily basis, and in professional sports in particular. People die in the field of play. I know we think of our sportsmen as modern day gladiators, but we should all insist on the most stringent of safety guidelines. Even though hockey helmets had been in existence for years, Bill Masterton of the Minnesota North Stars was killed during an on-ice NHL incident in 1968:

Only a few watched his skates slip out from under him as he toppled backward. His head hit the ice, and blood gushed from his nose and ears. A teammate who rushed to his aid heard Masterton murmur, “Never again. Never again.” Then he lost consciousness. Thirty hours later, Bill Masterton died from what doctors described as a “massive brain injury.”

The NHL honours Masterton with an annual trophy given out in his name to the player exemplifying the most dedication, sportsmanship, and perseverance in the name of hockey. Sounds pretty sweet, but I’m sure good ol’ Bill would rather have worn a helmet and lived that day than be one of 87 trophies given out during the NHL Awards Night. No one has died in the NHL since, though players have sustained career ending injuries, been blinded by on-ice play, and been concussed into oblivion. Yes, the NHL has moved on from killing its players, to extinguishing the lives of 14 year old girls watching in the stands.

This situation is the worst kind possible: everyone is completely powerless to change anything. What’s done is done, and Everett may still die or never walk again. This forces a sobering set of filters through which to watch and enjoy pro sports these days. It’s the thrill, excitement, and the very chance of something cataclysmic happening (see: NASCAR) that keeps some people entertained. We all get to feel bad for a moment to reflect on the fragility of life. And then we get to go back to shotgunning a few beers and complaining about the refs. Guys like Kevin, Bill, and Mike get to wear their scars for the rest of their lives.

And oh yeah, the Bills lost on Sunday on a last second field goal. Shitty!

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One Response to “Everett Injury Recalls Sports Disasters”

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