Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekend reading: UW grad "most dangerous man in football" (UPDATED WITH VIDEO)

This is an amazing read. It takes a while to get through, but I was engrossed the whole way through, partly because it involves former UW and San Francisco 49er linebacker Chris Borland, but mostly because of the depth of Borland's thoughts on why he walked away from the game, and what kind of sport football really is. I like the game, and I'm going on my 16th season as a Badger season ticket holder, but I admit there are really deep concerns I'm starting to get regarding concussions, CTE, and the gladiator-like nature of the sport.

What's grabbing to me about the article is that pretty much the only thing left in football that's not somewhat icky is what goes on between the lines. Yes, the hits can be brutal, but it's nothing compared to the "piece of meat" that it seems like far too many players are treated like, and the lengths that people go through to get back on the field. This passage about painkillers and former UW linebacker Mike Taylor is especially gripping to me.
Near the end of his freshman year, Borland discovered Toradol, the controversial painkiller used widely in college and the pros. "It was life-changing," he told the BU researchers, chuckling, when they took his medical history. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that Toradol should be used sparingly, for severe acute pain. Borland, who had shoulder surgery three times while at Wisconsin, said he would sometimes use the drug every other game.

Some of Borland's teammates were worse off, and that concerned him more. Taylor, his close friend, was also one of the best linebackers in the nation, twice all-conference, a future pro. But it became harder and harder for Taylor to stay on the field. In 2011, he tore his meniscus on a blitz against Minnesota. The Monday after the game, he had knee surgery to remove half of it.

The next Saturday, with Wisconsin fighting for the Big Ten title, Taylor played against Illinois. "I remember that morning I was thinking, 'This is f---ing stupid. What am I doing?' " he recalls. "They shot Toradol in my ass. And I remember covering up my knee with bandages, just so I couldn't see blood. The first half was shaky for me. If you watch the game film, it's like, 'This dude should not be playing football.' "...

The next season, Taylor developed a hernia but continued to play. Wisconsin faced Stanford in the Rose Bowl that year. "I'm just laying on the table before the game, buck naked, just taking shots of s--- I don't even know," he says. "Taking pills, putting straps on, putting Icy Hot on. People were coming in and looking at me like I'm a f---ing robot, like I'm dead."
There's also great stuff on how Borland decides to walk away from the game after 1 season in the NFL, and some of the influential books about sports and life that he read at UW that helped lead to his awareness, not just of CTE and concussions and the risks of football, but bigger issues in the world.

As a UW grad, I'm damned proud to have someone like Chris Borland be a rep of my school, and not just for the 4 years he kicked ass on the field. Read the article, and I think you'll agree with me.

EDIT- I found video relating to the blocked punt referenced in the story vs Wofford, where Borland jumps over 3 guys to block a punt that gets recovered for a UW TD. It's at around 2:05, and you see an interview with then-freshman Chris Borland afterwards. A lot of these pics seem to be from a long time ago, but it was only 6 years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. Love stuff like this.