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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Flip Side to the Glory of the Quarterback

Buddy Miley was a star quarterback in high school.

Until he took a hit that broke his neck and left him paralyzed.

Here is his story, its sad ending, and his enduring legacy.

We read about the heroes, the kids who win the games, in the papers every day. Families keep scrapbooks of their kids' exploits, and those are typically what you hear about. You don't always here about those who weren't so fortunate, who suffered awful injuries.

We like reading the "where are they now" stories about former heroes, and usually we read stories about those whose lives after their sports have been successful, or, who have agreed to be written about. We don't hear about the difficulties people have or the sad cases, because, to paraphrase a book on a famous football coach, "pride still matters." Or gets in the way.

We're now starting to hear about the post-career problems many NFL players have suffered -- bad orthopedic conditions, bad neurological conditions, etc., and how the players' union is struggling to cope with these issues (the answer is, because of the staggering cost, not well). It will be interesting, indeed, to see how the country's reaction to collision sports evolves over the next several decades, where our citizens will have to weigh the weekend rituals they enjoy versus the human cost.

Buddy Miley's situation, of course, was different. He never got to play in college, suffering his awful injury in high school. The article teaches us many things -- about the spirit of a boy whose world changed forever with one hit, about a family that rallied around him, and about the last important decision Buddy Miley made.

It's a chilling reminder that everyone who plays the game isn't as fortunate as the players who get all of the headlines for their on-field exploits.


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