by Patrick ‘Rey’ Reynell
To play or not to play? Not quite the same philosophical pondering of Hamlet, but a question many players, coaches, and now-a-days, doctors, face on a weekly basis.
When a BYU defender planted Heisman winner Sam Bradford’s shoulder into the turf against Oklahoma on the opening weekend of 2009, many thought the Sooner’s hopes of a national championship were planted with it.
Even scarier, however, was when Tim Tebow suffered a concussion during defending champion Florida’s SEC opener at Kentucky. Though Urban Meyer’s postgame address dealt with the severity of the injury after the game, the rest of the nation couldn’t help but think ahead to two weeks against national powerhouse LSU and whether Tebow would play.
Here the college football world sits almost two weeks later still wondering if Tebow will take the field in what could be a pivotal game in the national championship picture. But a head or spinal cord injury is not something to rush. A tweaked ankle or sprained knee might be detrimental to one’s career, but a head injury could be detrimental to one’s life.
Last year in North Carolina, a public high school varsity football team conducted practice as it usually does before Friday night lights. A running back for the team took a jarring hit. Because it was a suspected head or spinal cord injury, the player was evaluated by the team trainer and later that night, a medical doctor. Both cleared him to play the following night.
On the team’s first offensive possession, the same young man who staggered off the field the day before carried the ball for a short gain before being taken down by what was called a textbook tackle. He rose to his feet and walked to the sideline, much as he did the day before. Showing symptoms of a concussion, he was sent to the hospital where he later died.
The nation has seen the severity of Tebow’s injury; only a fool would force a young man back so quickly from a terrifying snapping of the head.
But this is college football, and this is the BCS. The BCS has created a yearlong playoff system. Lose a game at the wrong time, and title hopes are dashed. Lose a player at the wrong time, and a team is sentenced to the same fate.
A playoff system would allow for a clean slate for some competitive teams. A slip up late in the season against Oklahoma after a big win versus Texas? Texas Tech, your new season is upon you to prove your worth.
Run the table in what is ominously dubbed a “mid-major” conference? Utah, you may dance with the big boys to prove your merit.
Best player goes down with an injury at the most inopportune time? Then, Oklahoma and Florida should be granted the same rebirth come playoff time.
The problem is they won’t and a freak injury such as Tebow’s might hamper Florida’s plans at repeating.
All eleven defensive starters returned for Florida this year, and now their prophetic placement in the BCS bowl system lies in the Apollo-like equations of a computer. Heck – just have the priestess tell the public that the BCS computer is located at Delphi.
Like anything else, the BCS has its advantages and disadvantages. But Tebow’s injury may have highlighted another problem with the lack of a playoff system. With such a big game on the horizon, will doctor’s feel pressured to allow Tebow to return to play too quickly?
That’s not to say that doctors won’t have Tebow’s best interests in mind. The point is though that doctors are human, too, and may feel pressured to a make a decision that they normally wouldn’t due to a player and his team’s status.
Meyer and Tebow have too much of an invested interest, but can anyone tell the nation’s best player that two weeks isn’t enough with such a serious injury?
Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. Sounds a little like Hamlet’s musings. Nevertheless, Hamlet and Tebow weren’t and aren’t worrying about something minuscule. The question here, however, is whether or not the BCS supersedes a player’s well-being. Hopefully not, but it also can’t be making such vital decisions any easier.