Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

Wilbon: As Fans, String of Injuries Has Left Us Hurting


Recommended Posts

As Fans, String of Injuries Has Left Us Hurting

By Michael Wilbon

Tuesday, August 19, 2003; Page D01


There's one date I've had circled ever since the Washington Redskins' schedule was announced: Sept. 14, Week 2. I was going to see Michael Vick, baby. At Atlanta, 1 p.m. Redskins at Vick. You can't top that in the NFL.

Twenty years ago it was Joe Montana, then John Elway. Then it was Randall Cunningham and for a little while Barry Sanders. Getting to see Brett Favre play in Lambeau gives a bit of a rush, too. Those were the men you wanted to see no matter who you rooted for or against, no matter where you live.

And now, Vick, on turf, in Atlanta. There has been plenty of great football recently, and plenty of talented football players the last few years, but what's been missing is that single electrifying player, the rock star, the stunner, a player so delicious you just want to watch him every week.

Enter Michael Vick. He had become, for those of us old enough to remember, Gale Sayers, only touching the ball every down. The NBA may churn these guys out every day, Iverson and Kobe and T-Mac, but not the NFL. So this was going to be the Year of Vick. And I know I'm not alone in this feeling. Seeing him in person, even for a sportswriter who has covered, oh, more than 400 pro football games the last 20 years, was going to be the highlight of the season.

So Friday night, when Vick broke his leg in a meaningless preseason game against the Ravens, it was like my -- make that our -- Christmas had been taken away. Vick certainly won't be playing against the Redskins on Sept. 14. As badly as the Redskins want to win, I imagine even a few of them are disappointed Vick won't play that game. Much worse, though, is this news that when the swelling goes down in a week or so, ligament damage might be visible. That would require surgery and almost certainly put him down for the season. A bellman at a Los Angeles hotel I visited over the weekend said to me: "I'm from Buffalo. I've never liked anything about Atlanta or the Falcons. I usually hate when they're on TV. But all I wanted to see this season was the Bills and Michael Vick. I feel sick." So do I.

It has been one bad piece of news after another in the world of fun and games lately. It started back in May when Chris Webber, then Dirk Nowitzki suffered leg injuries that dumped them and their teams out of the NBA playoffs, perhaps prematurely. It wasn't that they're transcendent players, like Vick, it's just that the whole NBA finale felt so incomplete with them out.

The U.S. Open already feels incomplete. No Serena Williams, no Pete Sampras, no Monica Seles. Williams is the biggest star in tennis, period, probably the biggest star in women's sports and that includes Annika. Seles is near the end, but she's still bankable, one of the seven or eight biggest stars in tennis, women's or men's. And they're all out of the U.S. Open.

The Open without Serena is as disappointing as the NFL opening the season without Vick. There are no packages under the tree. There's no tree. The three biggest stories in last year's U.S. Open were Serena, Serena's cat-suit and Pete. We were all set up to watch Serena whip up on some Belgian girls New York-style, and now I'd like to cancel the Open telecasts and switch back to "Law and Order" reruns.

There's nothing we can count on anymore, not even Tiger on Sunday in the majors. We get guys in Hawaiian shirts, guys who can barely hang on to their tour cards, but no Tiger. (No, I won't use the word "slump." You can't make me say it. Tiger is -- he's struggling. That's it, "struggling" is the word I'm looking for. Sadly, he's "struggling" to put the ball in the fairway even with his old driver. Can't blame Nike anymore, not after spraying tee shots all over the yard with the trusty old Titleist. Maybe he needs to rehire Butch Harmon full time. Maybe it's just about playing a little more frequently, like perhaps more than the four majors and the requisite Buick events.) Anyway, it seems that as soon as somebody good comes along, he or she is hurt or sick.

How about Albert Pujols of the Cardinals? He's chasing the Triple Crown. Nobody has led the National League in hitting, home runs and runs batted in since Joe Medwick about two hundred years ago. Don't tell me Barry Bonds has to be the NL MVP when Pujols is the primary reason a Cardinals team with no pitching is hanging around first place. Pujols is a wonder to watch -- except you couldn't watch him on Sunday because he was sick. Guy has a 30-game hitting streak going and, poof, he's gone.

While gymnastics isn't on most folks' radar yet with the Olympic Games in Athens a little less than a year away, the biggest U.S. stars are getting hurt. Annia Hatch, a bronze medalist in 2002, just became a U.S. citizen 18 months ago, tore two ligaments in her left knee and now faces surgery and a four-month rehab. Here we are struggling through the 2003 sports calendar and the injury gods already are taking a bite out of 2004.

And the most frustrating thing is that there's nothing we can do. There's nobody to write or e-mail or petition. There's nobody to blame for stealing our joy. There's nobody to hold responsible for Vick getting hurt. Don't tell me, "Well Vick should stay in the pocket and not run." If he did that, Vick would be Rob Johnson and lines aren't exactly forming for Rob Johnson replica jerseys. Vick taking off on those dashes is what compels us in the first place. But it can also make him the next Sayers or Bo Jackson. Being gifted doesn't ensure anything in the NFL, which in this context seems to stand for Not For Long.

The best we can hope for regarding Vick is that his ligaments survived the otherwise clean break and that he'll be back by the first of October, which would still give him -- and us -- 10 games. The first thing sports fans want is to see their own team win. Absent that, we just want to see the best in the world healthy and doing what they do, and the results to some degree are a secondary consideration.

Folks who didn't care whether the Raiders won or lost still wanted to see Bo Jackson run. Vick, more than any player in the NFL, created that kind of anticipation. But suddenly the Redskins-Falcons game of Week 2 in Atlanta looks like a particularly gloomy Sunday, one on which everybody in the house will feel not just disappointed over Vick's absence, but probably downright cheated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that Wilbon has an agenda.

I have been reading him for too long not to notice that :)

He is the first guy on the bandwagon of ANY young African-American athlete in ANY sport.

He was on Kobe the minute the Lakers emerged. He was on the Williams sisters the moment they emerged. He was on Tiger Woods the minute he emerged.

Funny, we have other sports stories of great athletes who overcome odds such as Lance Armstrong and Wilbon is deaf, dumb and blind regarding them.

What's really funny is how Wilbon then feels he has to defend these same athletes when they fall into a slump like Tiger.

Tiger Woods doesn't need Michael Wilbon, an all-rec indoor player at Northwestern, to run interference for him :laugh: :laugh:

When is Wilbon going to get it?

Did I cheer for Woods when he won August the first time and set a course record?

Of course. Nothing defeats racism better than demonstrated performance. Putting that Green Jacket on Tiger was the ultimate humiliation for the folks at August National :D

But we don't need Wilbon out there acting as a favored 'uncle' looking out for his charges against the big 'conspiracy' Wilbon is convinced is out there to crush them because they are indeed, AFRICAN-AMERICAN :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He is right though. I had that skins vs falcons circled since day one. I was also going to try to watch as many falcon games as I could. I know football is a team sport, but when you have an amazing athlete like Vick, it is hard not to be amazed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bulldog, great post; I thought it was only me who thought that about Wilbon. I also find it interesting that he's in his world of hurt about Serena missing the US Open, especially since the only time he writes about tennis is when that tournament rolls around - I think he thinks that tennis has a two-week season.

I'm not necessarily a Sally Jenkins groupie, but I like how she's not afraid to directly disagree with him. She did it over the Michael Jordan firing, and she did it the other day in response to his "Tiger's not in a slump" column. Then today Wilbon actually admitted that Tiger was indeed in a slump.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was disappointed for Vick b/c that injury was so pointless. You knew he had been licking his lips about this season since January, and then it's thrown out the window for something that was totally unnecessary.

Unfortunately, this may be a sign of things to come for Vick. With as many hits as he takes, plus playing on that turf, his career may not be as long as everyone hopes. But, maybe this will be a lesson learned in that he needs to take care of himself on the field and can't just go running around and taking lots of hits, especially in a preseason game.

Having Vick out is bad for the NFL and I'll always be rooting for him just b/c there's no one else on the planet who comes close to his abilities, but to be completely honest I did breathe a slight sigh of relief when I figured out the Skins would not have to face him b/c he would have torn that D a new one. Now a definite loss becomes a potential win.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...