It took 54 seconds in real time for Sunday’s Steelers-Ravens broadcast to shift from the image of a horrifically injured Mason Rudolph being shaken on the turf by his concerned teammates to a reminder that this action was brought to us by Colorguard, Progressive and Hyundai.
It took another four minutes and two seconds to resume play altogether.
In that span, some of the most surreal imagery I’ve ever seen on a football field: Juju Smith-Schuster wiping away tears. Ryan Shazier, himself still recovering from a life-altering hit he took on a football field two years ago, walking out ahead of his injured teammate. Rudolph, slowly regaining his faculties with a mask-less helmet on his head, having to be helped off the field because of a stalled-out medical cart. Scores of Steelers trying to balance what they had just seen, and the fact that they’ll need to do some version of that on the very next play.
And then, applause followed by football. In less than the amount of time it takes to listen to a medium-length Tom Petty song, we’ve completed the lifecycle of spectator grief. Because, he’s probably fine and what else are we supposed to do?
It’s in these moments that you think about the ethical tradeoff we make on Sundays. Deriving enjoyment from football is akin to letting someone else smoke the cigarettes and take the lung damage so we can get a nicotine high. We know it’s bad and gross, but it’s mostly alright until we’re confronted with the most extreme limits of our bargain.
This isn’t to advocate for anything in particular other than to let everyone know that it’s alright to be freaked out, or angry or sad or just generally alarmed. We should still feel that because that’s what a player is feeling and that’s what his family is feeling. That is, for sure, what his teammates are feeling. It’s important not to simply become passengers in the televised NFL amusement ride, which, in accordance with its corporate sponsors, ensures we’ll be shuffled off to the next shiny object in a timely manner.
For most of us, this game is an escape. Moments like what happened in Pittsburgh Sunday are some of the truest examples of the game’s hold on us—that we wouldn’t just see that, shake our head and turn off the television, that we stay along for the ride.
It’s probably too much to insist we all get off at this point. But, if it’s not too much to ask, don’t forget about what happened back there. It’s not just for your entertainment.
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1. Thank goodness Teddy Bridgewater didn’t go to the Dolphins. This was fun.
2. Jon Gruden appears to make fun of the Bears’ post-game dancing celebration in win over Chicago.
3. Who would have targeted Jason Garrett as the first coach this year to get an abusive language flag?
4. Arthur Blank isn’t ready to move on from the Dan Quinn regime after a puzzling, 1-4 start.
5. Jay Gruden plans to go to work Monday, should his key still get him into the building.
Good morning. Browns-49ers tonight.
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