With age comes wisdom


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Jan 22, 2006
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With age comes wisdom
Jun 15, 2006, 3:14:28 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ

It should’ve become pretty clear this week that there are certain advantages to having a quarterback who will turn 36 next month – mainly that he won’t take any unnecessary risks that could get him hospitalized in the off season.

The Chiefs need not worry that Trent Green getting seriously injured while bungee jumping, skydiving or riding a motorcycle. There probably isn’t a quarterback who can better appreciate the opportunity to start in the NFL, or how quickly that opportunity can be extinguished, on or off the field.

Green, the starter of a St. Louis Rams team that would win the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner, suffered a catastrophic knee injury late in the 1999 preseason. Green did not fully recover until 2002, his second year with the Chiefs.

Many pro athletes – and others with top-of-the-line jobs – don’t realize what they have until they lose it, or almost lose it. So maybe Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 24, will figure out now that riding a motorcycle, especially without a helmet, isn’t the brightest sideline for a guy who has an entire franchise counting on him.

I initially caught just the end of a blurb on the bottom of the TV screen that reported Roethlisberger was in serious but stable condition. I correctly assumed he’d been in a motorcycle accident because he’d made it clear he wouldn’t stop riding, nor even wear a helmet — even after Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. missed last season after wrecking his new bike and himself.

Folks under 25 tend to think they’re bulletproof. Professional athletes, who are accustomed to taking calculated risks in competition, tend to think they’re bombproof. It seldom occurs to them how much they have at stake.

It was startling to read that Tiger Woods, who’s no tour rookie anymore, went bungee jumping overseas with his caddy. Why would you put perhaps the best pro golf career of all time on the line, no matter how modest the risk? I guess people with enormous athletic skills and boundless self-confidence don’t ask themselves that question.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, they haven’t had a higher-risk activity among their key players lately than Tony Gonzalez playing professional summer league and pickup basketball. And while athletes, notably major leaguer Aaron Boone, have been seriously injured in pickup basketball games, that’s a far cry from riding a motorcycle.

Roethlisberger already is involved in a hazardous activity. You would think that any NFL player who can complete a season with his body parts in the same places they were during training camp would not want to push his luck. And certainly any NFL player should be able to appreciate the protection of a helmet. Roethlisberger’s worst injuries are to his head – his jaw, nose and teeth.

It’s not as if the Steelers had their heads in the sand. They warned him in writing last season that a motorcycle injury could jeopardize his contract. Coach Bill Cowher told Roethlisberger he was concerned about him not wearing a helmet.

The Steelers did almost everything to discourage Big Ben’s hobby except give him an ultimatum to stop riding or be released – not something you do with your first top-notch quarterback in more than two decades. Especially not after he’s helped win a Super Bowl.

Pro athletes often aren’t good listeners. It would be hard to find another star athlete who considered himself more indestructible than former Royals outfielder Bo Jackson.

When Jackson decided to moonlight as a running back for the Raiders, he described his football career as a “hobby.” Bo’s hobby lasted from 1987 to 1990, until a hip injury from a routine tackle signaled the beginning of the end for his athletic career.

News reports indicate the woman who made a left turn in front of Roethlisberger was at fault. I would never apologize for such a driver, but I’m perplexed that bikers don’t understand how much trouble some of us have seeing them on the road.

I know that my brain often needs an extra second to identify that skinny vehicle with just one headlight. Fortunately, my brain didn’t need that second a couple of years ago when I was starting to pass a car on an interstate and in my rear view mirror I spotted a biker flying up in the right hand lane going at least 90 miles an hour.

Clearly, he was going to try to pass me from the right, even though my front bumper was almost even with the rear fender of the car I was about to pass. So I took my foot off the accelerator and watched with amazement as the biker shot through the narrow opening I’d managed to leave him. But even that suicidal biker, at least, was wearing a helmet.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.

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